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Strategy

Merchandising is Reinventing itself in the Covid era

The role of merchandising has been greatly affected by Covid-19 restrictions. New strategies are emerging to strengthen the interrelationship between a physical shop and digital platforms.

Elena Cozza

By Elena Cozza24 février 2021

From 8-31 January 2021, Louis Vuitton hosted a public temporary space erected by its headquarters on Rue du Pont Neuf. The first chapter of a series of events in Paris called Louis Vuitton: Walk in the Park (Stéphane Maratet-Chappaz)

Who does not remember the opening scene of the mythical film Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the power of attraction of the brand on Holly Golightly? Merchandising is at the heart of luxury boutiques strategies to determine consumer choices. Merchandisers create a dream. Consumers live it.

Merchandising at the time of Covid-19

Le film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" mettait en scène la boutique de l'enseigne prestigieuse (Shutterstock)

The world’s largest visual database of retail and e-commerce WindowsWear (@WindowsWear) shares with its community the best storefronts and luxury interiors, emphasizing the magic of the ambiance. Raul Tovar, Co-Founder and Creative Director at WindowsWear explains “The visual merchandising industry is evolving at a relentless pace. Window shopping used to be a family activity, today’s consumers prefer experiences that involve photo opportunities, a sense of personal commitment and the idea uniqueness and exclusivity. All this is changing along with economy, technology and sustainability.” Luxury professionals have been developing new strategies to enhance sensorial experiences for luxury consumers, aiming to break the physical barriers, proposing a phygital strategy.

Today’s consumers prefer experiences that involve photo opportunities, a sense of personal commitment and the idea uniqueness and exclusivity

Raul Tovar, Co-Founder and Creative Director at WindowsWear

Luxury shops, known for the “sensorial voyage” they offer consumers have been forced to reconsider and rush their creativity to align with anti-virus restrictions. This has forced brands to practice social distancing, hence sensory distancing. The limitation of high-touch services made consumers feel like they were visiting a “museum”, rather than a luxury boutique. New strategies have emerged, aimed at breaking down physical barriers, by proposing a phygital strategy.

The Jacquemus brand first emerged thanks to social networks (Shutterstock)

Brands such as Jacquemus, which first emerged through social media, are now moving from a genuine digital engagement with consumers - now fans- to attracting consumers to their shops. Jacquemus’ merchandising recreates the playful, light-hearted atmosphere of the Cote d’Azur, dear to Simon Porte Jacquemus, its founder and creator of the most established mini-bag, Le Chiquito. Jacquemus’ strategy aspires to know the consumer through social media, target his/her needs, to create a link with the community, and finally resonate the brand identity with the boutique.

Merchandising professionals develop and implement strategies to create spaces that allow consumers to experience a parallel universe. Pop-up stores have seen experienced a strong growth in recent times, worldwide. Louis Vuitton, one of the most visionary brands in this era, recently built a monogrammed red container in Beverly Hills, with no natural light or windows to sneak in. The interior of the container, completely black, allowed light-coloured clothes to become the stars of the happening.

In Beverly Hills, Louis Vuitton used red containers as pop-up stores where everyone could experience (Louis Vuitton)

Omnicanal and Phygital opportunities

Merchandisers now have to adapt the product category management, bearing in mind that consumers have fewer occasions to wear formal clothes than before, as a result of smart working. Segmenting consumers is no longer effective in reaching a target audience in the pandemic-era. However, knowing the customer on a personalized level has become a crucial issue today to increase brand’s loyalty, securing a returning customer.

Nowadays there is not physical versus digital in luxury, the fusion of phygital touchpoints between consumers and the brand is an opportunity for luxury Maisons. The physical selling ceremony should complement the online shopping experience, creating a seamless shopping experience. Brands should offer their consumers an organic shopping experience, throughout the entire buying process. On the brand’s platforms, each product should comprehend an accurate description, detailed pictures, providing the very first touchpoint for online consumers. The item can then be reserved in store and the in-store experience matches online expectations, it is in fact a continuum that strengthen the selling ceremony, enhancing the “slow shopping” experience. Slow shopping is a revolutionary retail trend that developed after the “buy-now” craze during Covid-19. The act of buying is thoughtful, matured over a long period of time.

Safety-first, personalization strategies and local sensations

For the brave enough to visit a store, “safety first” is a new imperative and luxury brands must provide the highest-standard experience, offering a touchless experience.

Dior-ID sneakers designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri reinvent themselves in two-colour versions (DR)

Experiencing the product beforehand through technological innovations, such as Augmented and Virtual reality, aims to reducing the physical risk of trying before buying and returning the product.

Snapchat filter allows users to virtually try on Dior-ID (DR) sneakers

The social network Snapchat is one of the pioneer of luxury virtual reality. Dior is partnering with the platform by launching the virtual Dior-ID virtual trainer trial filter, which allows users to try on Dior shoes thanks to the Snapchat filter. In this way, consumers can easily project the item to their feet, attracting the consumer towards the feeling of ownership of the newly-launched product.

Personalization tactics will increase the sense of “safety” and mutual respect among consumers, playing on the need of the consumer to feel understood, appreciated and part of an elite. In-store shopping could then be transformed into guided visits and tours, elevating merchandising to be considered a work of art to be admired.

Overall, who would not like to feel like Holly Golightly?

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