Why did I choose to focus on this particular brand? Back in the 2000’s, Burberry’s brand image was falling apart. In a decade, CCO Christopher Bailey and CEO Angela Ahrendts (who has now left Burberry to join Apple) have turned the ageing brand into a cautionary tale. One of their key successes was to understand before any other luxury brand the tremendous impact of digital on the overall strategy. Let me walk you through the changes they’ve made to reach such an impressive digital breakthrough, before explaining how they keep engaging in digital in a successful way.
From square one: how to digitally build a fashion brand?
Why making this digital shift?
When deciding to renew Burberry’s brand image, Bailey and Ahrendts felt that Burberry needed to be rejuvenated, which induces to build their strategy in the digital sphere, as it has become the preferred media for young, but also for wealthy people.
Source: Screenshot from CapGemini’s study: The Vision Thing: Developing a transformative digital vision
Burberry is what CapGemini calls a “Digirati”, the brand has managed to deeply transform its structure to take into account the shift towards a digital-integrated company. This bet was a bold one back in the 00’s, but figures show how well this strategy has worked : in less than ten years, Burberry has more than tripled its revenues (from £740 million in 2006 to £2 billion in 2013).
How have they accomplished their digital transformation?
– Make retail evolve: The main point was here to deliver a consistent customer experience through every channel. Indeed, omni-channel management allows brands to offer a seamless experience between digital and physical world. Burberry was one of the first luxury brands to give tablets to its employees to check inventory in real-time when people purchase in-store. They also have put chips on every products displayed in their stores: thanks to them, when customers take a product and put it in front of “magic mirrors”, they can directly access all product information.
– Go social and bet on creative content: Burberry launched its Facebook page in 2009, becoming one of the first luxury brands to dive into social networks. Still in 2009, they created Art of The Trench, a website dedicated to their iconic product on which users can submit their own photos. Then, trench lovers can scroll hundreds of pages to see anonymous people wearing trenches. This website pioneered this type of user-generated content sites.
Source : Screenshot from Artofthetrench.burberry.com
Last year, they have launched on twitter their account @Burberryservice, allowing their consumers to access a 24/7 customer service. Since efficient customer and after-sales services are essential for brands – and even more for luxury brands -, you can easily picture why it was a huge success.
Regarding their Youtube channel, it is frequently fed with diverse content: they broadcast products features, campaign shows, but they also focus on special events like music showcases or backstage scenes. For instance, in 2013, they released on Youtube a music gig which occurred in their London flagship for those who had not the chance to be there, while streaming the show performance thanks to their big in-store screens.
Click on the screenshot to see the full video. Source : Burberry Youtube channel.
What is clever is to go social with a flawless content strategy. Burberry has succeeded in doing this, plus being one step ahead of other luxury brands.
How Burberry keeps being ahead of competition thanks to digital?
What we may assume is that it was a bold move to engage in digital back then, but now, other – and more powerful – brands may have made up for lost time and take the lead in digital. It is all wrong: Burberry keeps disrupting fashion and luxury through new unexpected moves.
Indeed, Christopher Bailey is now even threatening the fashion calendar: high-fashion brands are used to making four collections per year (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections for women and men). On the contrary, in February, Bailey has decided that he will not obey this rule anymore. Instead, he is to release two collections per year, one entitled “February” and another “September”. The aim is to make clothes available to purchase in-store or online instantaneously. He deems that, because of the emergence of the digital era and the relentless speed of communication, fashion brands can no longer afford to release collection on runaways 6 months before being available to purchase. He also takes a step forward as some creative directors, like Raf Simons, were already complaining about the speed of fashion and the insane number of collections to release each year to keep up the pace of the industry.
Moreover, Bailey does not hesitate to take advantage of new social medias: in September, he premiered its 2016 Spring/Summer collection on Snapchat, one day before revealing it during London’s fashion week! Not to be outdone on Asian market, Burberry has even created a special experience on WeChat for Lunar New Year: customers were able to create digital Lunar New Year envelopes (as Chinese people enjoy offering envelopes to celebrate new year) to send wishes to their friends and family.
I deem that Burberry is a true case in point when talking about digital transformation of fashion brands. They have managed to turn their brand into a digital one in every aspect: advertising, customer service, retail … All we have to do is wait and see when Bailey will be out of creativity, if it ever happens.