Inside Burberry's trailblazing "social retail" store
British luxury house Burberry has taken the wraps off a trailblazing social retail store in the heart of China's technology hub Shenzhen as it makes a play to attract the country's affluent young consumers and redefine the future of luxury retail.
The digitally immersive store is powered by Tencent technology, is a "space of exploration", designed to inspire and entertain luxury customers, where they can interact with the Burberry brand and product in "new and exciting ways", in person and on social media.
In what is described as the first step in an exclusive partnership with Tencent, the concept store takes interactions from social media and brings them into a physical retail environment. Through a dedicated WeChat mini program, customers can unlock exclusive content and personalised experiences and share them with their communities.
The store is made up of a series of spaces for customers to explore, each of which has its own concept and personality and its own interactive experience. The store also celebrates the historic house codes as reinterpreted by chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci, including the Trench Coat, the Thomas Burberry Monogram, Nature and the Burberry Animal Kingdom.
"I am fascinated by the balance between nature and technology, and the energy that connects the two. This store explores this relationship, blending the digital and the physical realms in an exciting new concept. I wanted to bring this love of the outdoors to life through all the elements of the store, which can be seen in the Burberry Animal Kingdom prints in the café as well as in the fully immersive Trench Experience and even in the small details of the design materials. I really wanted to draw upon these familiar house codes to bring our community together in an interactive journey of discovery," Tisci said.
Key aspects of the experience are:
THE WECHAT MINI PROGRAM
In partnership with Tencent, Burberry has developed a custom mini program, which brings the store to life through exclusive content and personalised experiences that can be unlocked on WeChat. The mini program is described as "a bespoke digital companion, tailored to enhance the way customers experience the store, whether they are there physically or virtually".
Through it, customers can access features such as store tours and learn about products. It also provides a platform for dedicated client services, in-store appointment bookings, events and table reservations in Thomas’s Cafe, the in-store café and community space.
The more the customer engages with Burberry, the richer their experience becomes. Within the mini program, customers can earn rewards through the Burberry social currency feature, unlocking exclusive content and personalised experiences. Each customer is given a playful animal character that evolves as they engage in-store and social, with new characters and outfits to discover. Rewards range from exclusive café menu items to mini program content.
The new store features fixtures and plinths constructed in a variety of materials and textures, from plywood to mirror and high-gloss finishes. The store features a colour palette of beige, pistachio, pink and blue, as well as references to the Thomas Burberry Monogram and the fawn print. The 539 sqm store features 10 rooms and offers a truly interactive experience, such as:
Upon entering the store, customers encounter an interactive window, where they discover the first digital experience. A living sculpture, inspired by the mirrored runway from the Burberry Autumn/Winter 2020 runway show Memories, the window reflects the viewer’s shape and responds to body movement, creating a unique moment that can be captured and shared with friends. The window evolves through the seasons to reflect the latest collections and house codes.
Customers can find Burberry’s latest collections, seasonal products and discover exclusive pieces only available to buy in the Shenzhen store. All products are labelled with QR codes that connect to digital screens, further enhancing the in-store experience. Scanning the QR code unlocks additional content and product storytelling within the mini program and contributes towards building social currency. This is the first Burberry store to include scannable QR codes on product swing tags, adding a digital layer of discovery.
Thomas’s Cafe is a dedicated space for the Burberry community to connect. Named after the fashion house's founder, Thomas Burberry, it takes inspiration from the creative codes introduced by Tisci, including high-gloss tones of beige, layered curtains and chamfered mirroring. Nature and Burberry’s Animal Kingdom are also referenced throughout the space and can be seen in the prints on the wall, taken from the brand’s archives by Tisci, as well as in the bespoke tableware that is exclusive to the Thomas’s Cafe.
The menu celebrates English and Chinese tea culture with playful and modern fusion elements. The café menu can also evolve as customers engage with the WeChat mini program and their social currency advances, unlocking new menu items. The café is designed as a dynamic space, which can be converted into a community space for activities including talks, workshops, exhibitions and live performances, with bookings made through the mini program.
The store houses three fittings rooms, each with its own creative concept, drawing on Burberry’s house codes: the Burberry Animal Kingdom, Reflections and the Thomas Burberry Monogram. The fitting rooms are designed to celebrate the experience of trying on Burberry product and each has a dedicated library of playlists to listen to. Customers can pre-book their preferred room through the mini program.
The Trench Experience
As a celebration of the signature Burberry trench coat, the Trench Experience is an exclusive space that customers can unlock as they build their social currency. A homage to Thomas’s Burberry’s vision to create a breathable weatherproof fabric to protect against the elements, the room is designed as a digitally immersive journey through nature, bringing Burberry’s heritage of exploration to life and creating unique and personal content for the customer to share on social media.
The house's CEO Marco Gobbetti said the store marked a shift in the way it would communicate with consumers. “Burberry has always been a brand of firsts, built on a belief that creativity has the power to open spaces. We test new ideas and push the boundaries of what’s possible. When it came to innovating around social and retail, China was the obvious place to go as home to some of the most digitally savvy luxury customers.
"Together with Tencent, we have pioneered a new concept that will redefine expectations of luxury retail. The first step in an exclusive partnership between our companies, Burberry’s social retail store in Shenzhen is a place of discovery that connects and rewards customers as they explore online and in store. It marks a shift in how we engage with our customers and we can’t wait to share this innovative experience with the world.”