Luxury retailer Burberry teams up with internet heavyweight Tencent to open the first luxury retail

Burberry teams up with Tencent to open the first luxury social retail store. Source: AFP

Burberry snags Tencent to power its first ‘social retail’ store

High-end fashion brand Burberry has teamed up with Chinese internet giant Tencent in an interactive shopping experiment that aims to blend the brick-and-mortar storefront with social media, to create a first-of-its-kind, immersive retail experience.

Their first collaborative effort was launched last Friday in the tech hub of Shenzhen, and is Burberry’s first “social retail store” with all in-store technology powered by Tencent. Burberry has decided to focus on its Asian stores as they rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic that saw luxury goods sales down by around 45% during the peak infestation months, but Burberry reported sales growth in mainland China and South Korea last month that is said to be higher than pre-COVID-19 levels.

BBC reports that Chinese customers account for around 40% of Burberry’s sales, and its first social retail store is being positioned as an explorable space, where luxury shoppers can browse and interact with the brand’s products, both in person and on social media.

Tencent is harnessing a dedicated WeChat mini program to bring social interactions from its popular WeChat platform and enmesh them into a physical retail environment. The in-store apparel will all feature QR codes labeled with the product information, that the consumer can scan to experience digitally as well. The customer’s journey through the store is guided by a digital point system called ‘Social Currency,’ which records a customer’s in-store activity and social interactions with the brand via the customized WeChat Mini Program. Users can share social content, but also interact with informative brand stories.

The WeChat Mini Program is also used to book the store’s different themed fitting rooms, and to unlock items that they can purchase at the in-store Thomas’ Café– named after the brand’s founder, Thomas Burberry.

“For us, this project is a process of exploration, learning, and innovation,” said president and country head of Burberry China, Josie Zhang about its first social retail store, and its 63rd overall in China. “We hope to roll out the social retail concept to other regions and networks with time.”

It is not immediately clear what other types of augmented reality (AR) applications might be visible to be experienced in the store, but Burberry is already drawing rave reviews from industry observers, who say the Tencent-enabled WeChat engagement and Burberry social currency featurette, along with the store’s bespoke layout lend themselves well to an immersive hybrid store experience– putting the brand firmly ahead in digitally complementing the luxury retail segment.

“Burberry has been savvy and ahead of the curve in understanding the importance of social media and e-commerce in targeting Chinese consumers,” said Shaun Rein, founder of the China Market Research Group.

“The retailer excels at using social media to engage with consumers, boosting loyalty among its young shoppers,” added Emily Salter, a retail analyst at research firm GlobalData. “Though the future of experiential retail remains in doubt due to the impacts of Covid-19, experience is likely to remain important among luxury shoppers, and will help cement brand identity and loyalty.”