Most Influential Projects 2021

27 Burberry Open Spaces

Burberry Social Retail Store Image 2

For creating a tech-forward retail space, complete with social currency

Converting digital native shoppers into brick-and-mortar visitors has been an elusive quest for retailers. But U.K. luxe fashion brand Burberry and Chinese tech giant Tencent may have slain the dragon, turning the in-store experience into an app-driven interactive playground.

Burberry’s first so-called social retail store, Open Spaces, opened last year in Shenzhen with 10 spaces that merge consumers’ online and offline brand experience. Customers use a bespoke WeChat program by Tencent to book appointments, try on items, learn about products, get customer service, share content, and even customize in-store playlists and lighting in the 5,800-square-foot (539-square-meter) store. Actions earn them social currency, which they can use to unlock insider exclusives.

The push to pivot came after Burberry discovered 80 percent of its customers have a digital touchpoint before making a purchase. With 40 percent of the company’s revenue coming from China, the iconic U.K. brand turned the Shenzhen shop into an incubator, testing cutting-edge concepts and experiences to potentially scale across other stores.

Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti says the store was designed to “push the boundaries of what’s possible” and “marks a shift in how we engage with our customers.”

Here are a few snapshots into how Burberry and Tencent reimagined retail.

Burberry Social Retail Store Image 1

Chat Strategy
Instead of making users download another app, the team strategically chose to have the store’s app exist within WeChat—a decision driven by data. There are 1.2 billion monthly active users of the popular messaging, social media and mobile payments app in China.

Burberry Social Retail Store Image 2

Incentivized Interaction
Developers loaded the app with activities meant to get shoppers sharing. Take the interactive window at the store’s entrance: Patterned after a mirrored catwalk from a past runway show, it responds to body movement to create the kind of immersive moment that users will want to share. And as a reward for doing so, they earn social currency that provides entrée to exclusive store experiences. That includes the Trench Experience, a hidden room with interactive elements that tell the history of the brand’s iconic trench coat.

The incentivized approach creates a virtual marketing cycle. As customers share their store interactions via the Burberry app, they unlock even more share-worthy moments—and entice more people to visit the boutique.

Burberry Social Retail Store Image

Let the Games Begin
Burberry had already created an online game called B Bounce to promote a new line of puffer jackets. But by working with Tencent—which owns 40 percent of Fortnite maker Epic Games—the company leveled up on its gamification. When customers log in, an animal character inside an egg pops up and eventually hatches as they use the app for in-store interactions or social media sharing. As app use increases, new characters emerge, along with digital clothes to style them in.

Burberry Social Retail Store Image

Tea Time
To foster community (and extend visit times), the team created Thomas’s Café. The space is billed as “unique celebration of English and Chinese tea culture,” though it’s not just a place for customers to nosh and recharge as shoppers hunt for the perfect trench. The brand sees it as a nod to company founder Thomas Burberry’s legacy of bringing communities together: It offers workshops, lectures, exhibitions and live performances. But Burberry hasn’t neglected the social retail piece. Along with creating infinitely snappable surroundings, it gives customers who accumulate social currency access to secret menu items.

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Social Meets Sustainability
Burberry took all its stores in China carbon neutral this year. And as customers and investors alike demand more sustainable approaches from the fashion industry, the Shenzhen location helps drive awareness for Burberry’s efforts.

Every item in the store includes a tag with a QR code that, when scanned, provides customers with additional product information, including its eco-friendly bona fides. That info could cover how production facilities are working to meet carbon emissions standards or the amount of recycled fibers used in materials.