One of the underlying core tenets of my philosophy of Mobile 2.0 is that mobile has the unique ability to extend and accentuate the in-store experience of luxury brands and to galvanize the multi-channel clienteling experience delivered to shoppers. As discussed in previous posts, the unique inherent ability for the mobile medium to positively impact the boutique experience should be at the root of any thoughtful mobile strategy:
Blurring the lines between the true attraction of luxury brands – the opulence of the in-store experience – and the augmentative engagement capabilities possible with mobile rich applications is at the core of Mobile 2.0. Making it difficult to comprehend where one experience ends and another begins in a seamlessly interconnected clienteling effort is the most clear and present opportunity for mobile to make a positive impact on the luxury shopper’s experience with the brand.
In early February, Elaine Misonzhnik, published a fascinating article in Retail Traffic Magazine, entitled Mall of the Future, where she adeptly portrayed a “day in the life” of a mall shopper a decade from now and offers this accurate assessment of the future of retail properties as they morph into a collection of branded showrooms:
Enhanced mobile devices could become the primary channel for locating retail properties, browsing retail inventories, pre-ordering store and mall services and making payments. When coupled with other emerging technologies, including video-streaming, face and voice recognition and augmented reality applications, the transition will change the role of the mall from the traditional retail marketplace into something resembling a collection of showrooms. The primary function of retail properties will no longer be to facilitate sales transactions—it will be to promote unique experiences and social interaction.
The image Ms. Misonzhnik paints for the reader is one of a futuristic shopping experience similar to the mall concourse scene in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. While an immensely entertaining read outlining the “art of possible” in regards to mobile technologies, many of the functions described already exist to be leveraged by brands today to augment the boutique clienteling experience. Functions such as bar code/QR code scanning, augmented reality and location-based check-in services currently exist within mobile rich applications (although in their infancy stages of development) and provide unique, differentiated potential for engaging luxury shoppers while in the boutique. However, two of the functions she portrays are of particular interest and deserve further discussion. The first involves the concept of profile-based “shopping channels,” where groups of individuals can subscribe to their favorite brands, include their style preferences and sizing as well as a silhouette of themselves to virtually try-on pieces. The second focuses on the ability for shoppers to communicate a wish list, or virtual dressing room (in an apparel example), to store associates based on the nearest boutique location, leveraging GPS as a location mechanism.
The ability to synchronize, via mobile devices, a virtual dressing room with a physical dressing room space strikes at the essence of my contention in a previous post discussing Tiffany & Co.’s Engagement Ring Finder iPhone App (see post that luxury + utility = brand loyalty:
In this world of consumer NOWISM, retailers that provide utility with luxury will be those who continue to lead in this new C2B retail world. In the case of Tiffany & Co., this progressive branding mentality of luxury + utility = brand loyalty, should serve to solidify their position as one of the world’s most sought after brands for many years to come.
Imagine a “day in the life” scenario of a time-starved luxury shopper frantically searching for a cocktail dress for a party that evening. She pulls out her mobile device and scrolls through her personal shopping channel app for retailers she loves, peruses her virtual closet associated with her shopper profile, “tries on” three dresses by imposing it on her virtual mannequin to see how it looks, checks item inventory availability at the nearest stores to her office, and syncs her virtual dressing room with the nearest store that has all three dresses in size four. When she arrives at the boutique, she is greeted by name by the sales associate and led to her dressing room where the three dresses are hanging for her to try on with a complimentary glass of Veuve Clicquot. Wow, now that is, in its truest sense, luxury + utility = brand loyalty.
Paco Underhill, in his seminal work Why We Buy: the Science of Shopping, addresses the often undervalued importance of the dressing room in the shopping experience:
… the dressing room may be more important than the floor of the store. It’s a truism that improving the quality of the dressing room increases sales. It never fails. A dressing room isn’t just a convenience – it’s a selling tool, like a display or a window or advertising … Not only does shopper conversion rate increase by half when there is staff-initiated contact, it jumps by 100 percent when there is staff-initiated contact and use of the dressing room.
Imagine the increased conversion rates when combining mobile-initiated contact, staff-initiated contact, and dressing room. Much of the functionality necessary to facilitate this sync between the virtual and physical dressing rooms currently exists and, given that the dressing room experience at luxury boutiques significantly increases purchasing, providing the ultimate in utility for shoppers to pre-assemble virtual dressing rooms with items they are interesting in trying on equates to luxury + utility = brand loyalty.