The two brands that I have selected are Burberry and Sephora. A New York-based think-tank named Burberry the “most digitally-competent luxury brand,” a reflection of its efforts in social media in particular. The group cited Burberry as an example of how “digital investments translate to shareholder value” (Bergin, 2011). Burberry has a formal plan for digital media, and its 10-platform digital launch of the autumn/winter 2012 collection highlights its digital excellence. The embrace of all forms of social media has made Burberry a leader in its field.
Burberry leverages multiple channels, especially in social media, to reach its consumers. It provides information, videos, and other content via its vast social media platform as a means of educating its customers and encouraging them to buy. By deliberate choice, however, Burberry does not engage in direct conversation with its online fans and followers, an approach that stands in contrast to conventional social media wisdom. Martin (2010) points out that brands utilize digital platforms as marketing tools. As the lives of consumers become more digital, companies like Burberry are maintaining or extending their access to these consumers by embracing the digital sphere. The all-inclusive approach that Burberry takes to social media not only allows it to reach all consumers — it operates on at least four Chinese social media sites in addition to the popular Western ones (L2, 2012). By focusing strictly on providing information, Burberry remains in control of the narrative surrounding its brand.
The approach that Burberry has adopted is designed to maximize its reach to consumers, but social media is merely a tool for exposure for Burberry. By having this broad reach, the company is seeking to build a stronger brand relationship with customers (Martin, 2010). Key elements of the brand relationship, such as interaction, are not part of Burberry’s digital platform strategy. For interaction, as well as for purchases, Burberry’s market must still go through the company’s website or stores.
Burberry provides a sophisticated web experience. As an example, the company allows customers to custom-design their own signature trench coat. Runway shows are available for viewing on the site and these can be personalized for viewing through Facebook. There is also a lifestyle component to the website, with video from featured musicians. This content does not directly sell the Burberry clothes, but it does sell the brand by building a lifestyle component around the brand. Such content enhances the relationship with the customer because it gives the customer something besides the clothing to relate to, creating a much stronger impression of the role that Burberry can play in the consumers’ lives.
Among retailers, Sephora has developed a comprehensive digital media strategy. Sephora’s strategy combines product information with e-commerce, and has built both a solid social media platform and an iPad app that facilitates the mix of information and interaction. Sephora has catalogs available online and encourages the use of these platforms with exclusive digital offers.
The Sephora website experience is primarily sales oriented, much like the home page of Amazon or other e-commerce entity. There are some sections that highlight interactivity, such as the “advice” section, and some embedded videos that help to promote different products. The site is much more geared to e-commerce than Burberrys’ site, but it also lacks the stylish design — Sephora’s site is cluttered and basic.
Where the company shines is with its apps, as the e-commerce site has been effectively translate to an iPhone/iPad app. There is also an app for iPhone/iPod Touch that allows the user to add her beauty insider card, allowing for greater integration of the offline/online shopping experiences. The app also remembers past visits in a way that allows the company to tailor the customer’s experience to her specific needs. The drawback to Sephora’s approach, is that these apps are only for Apple products. Given Android’s 72% global market share (Schroeder, 2012), a more comprehensive digital platform strategy might be more effective.
Burberry ensures that its fans and followers receive frequent updates, and that these updates are also timely. Its multi-platform seasonal collection launch was simultaneous across platforms. The company posted videos of the fashions in its runway shows even before those shows had taken place. This approach creates goodwill with customers, and gives them reasons to continue paying attention to the company’s communications. In contrast, Sephora’s approach is less proactive. The content is not as engaging — there is simply les salesmanship. However, the company does keep its communications frequent, and these updates can also be channeled through the app (Kats, 2011). At least with frequent updates there is some opportunity to build brand loyalty, but the communications reflect an e-commerce perspective rather than a lifestyle and brand relationship perspective.
One measure of success for a digital platform strategy is how much interest from external parties the platform can generate. In this regard, Burberry dramatically outperforms Sephora. Burberry has received an award for having the best digital platform in its industry, and there has been a healthy amount of media coverage as well. When the company created a “Tweetwalk” for its London Fashion week catwalk show, effectively streaming the show with tweets, the strategy drew the attention of the mainstream media. There was some backlash from non-fans because the event created traffic problems on Twitter but the event was well-received in general. Working directly with Twitter on the event was considered groundbreaking as well, not just for the industry for business in general (Warburton, 2011).
In contrast, Sephora has not received much coverage for its digital platform. The iPad/iPhone app received some press because of its comprehensive nature, but overall Sephora’s digital platform receives little media play. There is good reason for this — the company’s digital platform communicates basic information, is not particularly engaging, sells products more than it sells the brand and seems dated. The experience of toggling between the Burberry site and the Sephora site alone highlights the gulf between the two companies — Sephora’s site is a standard e-commerce site that lacks differentiation. One gets the sense that the company has a reactionary digital platform rather than a progressive one.
Luxury footwear and accessory brand Miu opened a flagship store in the famous Dubai Mall last night. The brand, part of the Prada house, made its debut in the fashion hub of the Middle East with a gala event, bringing out a who’s who of Emirate society.
Architect Roberto Baciocchi designed the store, dripping it in marble and gold. The opulent surroundings serve as a frame for the brand’s innovative footwear and classic handbags and accessories. The display cases are crystal and gold, showcasing the wares within. The splashy look and feel is designed to compete for shoppers’ attention in a Shoe Level that already features the likes of Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo.
The event did not feature champagne — even in relatively Westernized Dubai that would have been a faux pas — but it managed to attract a strong showing from the city’s fashion scene. The lucky guests to have received an invitation were able to have preferential access to the store’s wares, which included a number of unique items created just for the Dubai market.
At first glance, the conservative Arab world may not seem a natural choice for high end fashion, but the reality could not be more different. Wives of sheiks may be covered from head to toe in black while walking through the mall’s wide corridors, but in private gatherings the covers come off. Shoes and handbags in particular are seen as a means to showcase one’s wealth and style, since they are not covered under traditional Islamic dress. As a result, the luxury goods market in Dubai is one of the strongest in the world, and has attracted just about every fashion house of note in recent years (Basit, 2012). To cater to the unique needs of this audience, Miu has adopted a unique strategy. The front of the store is an open area for browsing, but the back area of the store features a special section that is secluded from the prying eyes outside. Here, the Muslim women will be able to take off their coverings and see how the shows and bags match their wardrobes underneath. The staff are all female, up to and including management, something that allows the customers to say and do things they would not normally be able to do in the company of men. Because Dubai attracts a diverse group of shoppers, the staff members are international, and speak eight different languages between them, including Arabic, Farsi, English, French, Mandarin, Malay, and of course Italian.
The layout of the store featured shoes in the back of the store, with a striking display of handbags in the front. Crystal cases in the center of the store featured leather handbags in bright colors. The brightly-lit interior allowed the gold trim on the stores cases to shine, putting the shoes in an exceptional light. Lively and splashy, the new Miu store is a stunning arrival onto the Dubai fashion scene.
A spokesperson for Miu worked the room, introducing herself to the customers. Afterwards, she talked a little bit about the company’s arrival in Dubai. “We felt that our coming to Dubai was long overdue,” she noted, “but we wanted to have a strategy for entering the Middle East market overall. We see a lot of growth potential in this part of the world — one-third of the customers at our Kuala Lumpur store are Arabs — so we took the time necessary to make this market entry right. We had to be in Dubai Mall, but we are also excited about our other plans in the region.” She detailed plans to expand into other regional hubs — Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Kuwait, and raised the possibility of another store in Dubai. “The market is growing so quickly here. The ladies have great taste. When you see them in a social setting when it’s just the women, sometimes you think you’re back in Milan.”
The Miu brand was founded in 1993 and is headquarterd in Milan. In recent years it has begun expanding beyond Europe, and now boasts stores across Asia. The Dubai store is its first in the Middle East, and its arrival means that customers in the region will no longer need to make shopping trips abroad in order to buy the goods. Shopping is a national pastime among the region’s wealthy, and the Dubai Mall is the city’s flagship shopping destination. The mall is positioned as one of the homes of luxury shopping in the world, and the Miu store is one more attraction for the fashion world.
A return visit the next day found the store busy, with a mix of serious shoppers and curious onlookers. A quick survey showed that they were impressed with the offerings. Many were familiar with the Miu brand and wondered aloud why the company had not come to Dubai sooner. Certainly, if market response is as positive as the initial impressions, that is a very reasonable question.
photo courtesy Khaleejesque, Â©2012
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Kats, R. (2011). Sephora boosts e-commerce strategy via integrated digital beauty experience. Mobile Commerce Daily. Retrieved November 16, 2012 from http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/sephora-boosts-mcommerce-strategy-via-integrated-digital-beauty-experience
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L2 (2012). Burberry launches AW12 campaign on 10 social media platforms. L2 Blog. Retrieved November 16, 2012 from http://www.l2thinktank.com/burberry-launches-aw12-campaign-on-10-social-media-platforms/2012/
Martin, K. (2010). How CMOs will harness digital platforms in 2010 to forever change the way consumers interact with brands. CMO Magazine. Retrieved November 16, 2012 from http://www.cmo.com/innovation/how-cmos-will-harness-digital-platforms-2010-forever-change-way-consumers-interact-brands
Schroeder, S. (2012). Android market share jumps to 72%. Mashable. Retrieved November 16, 2012 from http://mashable.com/2012/11/14/android-72-percent/
Sephora.com (2012). Retrieved November 16, 2012 from http://www.sephora.com/
Warburton, S. (2011). Burberry’s Twitter takeover. The Guadian. Retrieved November 16, 2012 from http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG8793974/Burberrys-Twitter-takeover.html