You walk into a chic clothing store and you are immediately greeted with two grand, black-lacquer staircases curling from left and right to the center of the second-floor; a stark contrast to the eggshell walls. From there, a massive TV screen cascades down in front as it plays floor-to-ceiling length music videos and the 500 speakers and lighting effects blast around you. And it does not stop there. You turn left and pick up a brand new handbag of the Fall 2012 collection, hold it up to a small screen, and a video plays where it walks you through the creation process of that handbag and tells you exactly what clothes and colors compliment it. A man in the store drifts over to a table with an endless array of ties, where he holds one up to a similar screen and gets a full summary on the color shirts to match with that tie. It is quite the surreal shopping experience; some would barely even call it shopping anymore. But this is now reality, and it is happening at Burberry on 121 Regent Street in London.
The Economist recently published an article that explains Burberry’s technology boom. Burberry’s sales are slipping and their share price has decreased by 18%, so the firm’s CEO since 2006, Angela Ahrendts, believes technology is the way to go. The luxury clothes are fitted with interactive screens and RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification tags to show details of the clothing, catwalk presentations, and any other videos to benefit the customer. The company explains that the RFID tags are sometimes found in the swing ticket or “embedded in the product via a textile RFID label” (Burberry). Burberry even talks of a plan called “Customer 360” in which customers can allow Burberry to “record their buying history, shopping preferences, and fashion phobias a digital profile” (Economist). Ahrendts even has plans to use the RFID tags to find out what Burberry products people are wearing as they walk into a Burberry store.
Using the RFID technology will allow for better customer satisfaction, and the luxury shopping experience will definitely compliment the luxury fashion brand. Burberry will be able to advertise and sell products for the individual. Using the Customer 360, Burberry will know exactly what each customer wants and will most likely purchase when advertised. Burberry most definitely takes pride on customer intimacy, in which money is no object and they want to provide the best service for their customers at any price. Technology builds loyalty, which in turn gives them a competitive advantage over the other major fashion businesses.
Burberry is an innovator for jumping on the technology bandwagon so aggressively, as they realize that for businesses to keep thriving in this day in age, going digital is necessary. With Burberry’s strength, power, and wealth, they can do so in an extraordinary manner and become technological icons for the fashion industry. The RFID tags will increase productivity substantially and conserve time. Inventory work is no longer an aggravating task, and only takes a mere 20 minutes a month with a “customized mobile reading station” (RFID). Antennas at this station are used to collect data from each item’s RFID tag. The entire process is so much more efficient and accurate, and allows for a better peace of mind for the company.
Of course there is speculation and critics for this dramatic technology increase. Critics worry that the Customer 360 plan will become too personal and too aggressive for critical customers. Situations may become uncomfortable and proper distance between sellers and customers may cease to exist. Also, if the technology increases, will the prices increase as well? Burberry is already experiencing a shortage in sales and so prices may need to decrease just to compensate for that factor let alone a new technology boom. If the prices remain high, they will have to “keep attracting new generations of well-off luxury-lovers” (Economist). As of right now, the Burberry website has stated that the RFID tags are currently only for “product specific information” and do not “carry or store any personal data” (Burberry). The RFID tags can even be removed when requested by the customer.
Although there is speculation, Ahrendts has the right idea: she wants to increase the strategic positioning of Burberry and the operational excellence to gain the dual focus as a thriving business. Going digital is the best way for retail businesses to expand. If anything, Burberry is right on track with the technology ladder, taking one efficient step at a time.