Burberry’s reinvention as a tech-led luxury fashion brand



Having an engaging and authentic online presence while staying on-brand has long been a challenge for many luxury brands. The high-end experiences offered in-store are difficult to replicate online without the immersive experience of walking into a luxury storefront and being greeted by knowledgeable salespersons. Burberry stands out as a luxury brand that is seamlessly integrating the physical and digital worlds.


Burberry is a British luxury fashion brand and has a pioneering and adventurous past, including the invention of gabardine and the evolution of their signature trench coat. Balancing tradition with innovation, Burberry is again on the pioneering path advancing the concept of a tech-led luxury fashion brand by targeting wisely, embracing technology, and blending online with offline worlds. Customers moving between its online and offline experience always feel in touch with the same brand.


So how are they doing it and what can we learn from it?


1. Targeting wisely and finding sweet spots


Millennials

Burberry began to reinvigorate the brand in the early 2000’s, breaking away from tradition in the luxury sector to build a brand experience aimed at millennials. With millennials coming into adulthood to obtain an increasing level of disposable income, this strategy is likely to pay-off for Burberry in the years to come. Key to reaching millennials is providing an authentic and immersive digital experience because living a digital life is instinctive to them as they easily move between roles as influencers, tastemakers, critics and reviewers. Burberry knows millennials and plays right into their sweet spot.


Music

Recognising that music is an essential part of millennials’ lives, the luxury brand created Burberry Acoustic in 2010, a platform for up and coming British bands. In 2015, they were the first brand to launch a dedicated Apple Music channel. Burberry’s dedication to giving young British bands a chance to break through is on-brand but more importantly connects with millennials’ sweet spot of discovering music in unique ways.


Sharing, advocacy & authentic communities

Millennials are more influenced by their peers than what any brand might have to say. Sharing, advocacy and authentic online communities are part of daily life for the millennial. Burberry plays into this and over time has established a vibrant community across their social media channels. Customers proudly show off their individual styles on Instagram and Pinterest. In the 2016 launch for the Mr. Burberry men’s fragrance, Burberry used Snapchat’s Snapcode feature for customers to unlock full-length director’s cuts and behind-the-scenes clips for the newly launched fragrance.


2. Embracing technology to personalise relationships


Immersive personalisation

Burberry is an early adopter of new technology and innovative channels. Examples include Burberry Bespoke which allows customers to design customised coats choosing styling details like buttons and lining. Many products in stores have RFID tags that launch videos detailing the craftsmanship that went into that specific product. When taking a dress into the changing room, a runway video is triggered that shows styling tips and dress combinations worn by models.


Artificial Intelligence

The luxury brand is even working on an Artificial Intelligence strategy to increase business value by making better products and achieving more efficient supply chain processes. Senior VP of IT, David Harris, said this possibly includes pattern recognition, scenario modelling for logistics and increasing detection of counterfeit products to prevent fraud.


Chatbots

In 2016 during the London Fashion Week, Burberry used Facebook chatbots to share information about new products and even allow customers all over the world to order items straight from the runway. This is part of their “See now, buy now” strategy where they aim to build a closer connection between the runway experience and the moment customers can explore collections in stores.


3. Blending online with offline worlds


Conversational commerce

Customer service is a key element of the luxury in-store experience, and it can be challenging to provide the same experience on a website. To bridge that gap, Burberry has further evolved their chatbot offering expanding into conversational commerce to provide customer service, browsing options and even the possibility to book an Uber ride to the store. All through natural conversation with a chatbot.


Call-to-action driving in-store purchases

Digital brand initiatives could have the unintended effect of leading customers away from physical stores. However, Burberry is actually using online channels and digital technology to encourage in-store activities. On their website they feature two calls-to-action: place in cart and find in store. Both calls-to-action are given equal visibility, suggesting they are equally important. Many customers will conduct research online, but, especially with luxury products, customers usually prefer to visit a store to make the purchase.


Big Data

Burberry uses Big Data to offer personalised recommendations, online and in-store. When an identified customer enters a store, sales assistants use tablets to offer buying suggestions based on their customers’ purchase history as well as their social media activity. RFID tags communicating with customers’ phones provide styling tips on how items can be worn or combined based on “frequently bought together” data collected globally.


By targeting wisely, embracing technology and blending online with offline worlds, Burberry has successfully reinvented itself as a tech-led luxury fashion brand. Previous CEO Angela Ahrendts summed it up perfectly in a 2014 interview when she said, “walking through our doors is just like walking into our website.”


That’s the experience millennials seek, and luxury fashion brands should aim to deliver.

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