Retail in Asia


Here’s what boutiques of the future could look like

In today’s retail landscape, boutique visits are no longer isolated experiences but rather integral parts of an omnichannel journey. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns disrupted the fashion retail landscape, keeping customers away from boutiques. But as restrictions ease and people return to physical stores, there is a growing need for meaningful interactions and connections. Boutiques are no longer just places to shop, they have become destinations for pleasure, discovery, and enchantment.

SEE ALSO: ‘Tis the season: Can businesses still capitalise on sales events in APAC?

A 2023 report by Bain & Company, ‘Luxury and Technology: Towards the Boutique of the Future’, highlights the innovations and opportunities emerging for brands in the premium to high-end sector.

Embracing technology is increasingly crucial

By leveraging technology in streamlining overall flow, brands can provide a more efficient and seamless journey for their customers. Source: Shutterstock

Boutique formats vary depending on their locations, such as residential areas, tourist zones, travel retail, pop-ups, or exclusive customer lounges. Visitor expectations differ greatly, and boutiques must adapt accordingly. In high-traffic areas, efficiency and technology play a crucial role in eliminating inconveniences. In tourist zones and flagship boutiques, technology enhances the overall experience and exploration. New technologies enable boutiques to deliver enriched storytelling experiences, surprising customers and strengthening emotional connections.

A significant majority of customers (75 percent) are willing to embrace these technological advancements, according to the Bain report. Today’s available technological tools, whether directly interacting with customers or operating in the background, shape the future of customer relationships. These tools make the relationship more experiential and practical.

In the luxury sector, tech adoption is accelerating with mature technologies like RFID and AI, along with experiments in customer engagement such as AR, VR, and NFTs. Generative AI replaces the metaverse trend, showing great potential.

Tech-powered opportunities for designing the store of the future

Sephora’s ‘Stores of the Future’ launched in Singapore and mainland China introduce a range of groundbreaking services and features. Offering an exclusive selection of carefully curated brands, the store combines cutting-edge technology and digital elements to provide customers with a truly unique and immersive retail experience. Source: Sephora

When it comes to enhancing the customer journey, technology can play an elevated role in improving the customer-sales associate relationship, which influences brand advocacy for up to 61 percent of luxury shoppers, according to Bain.

Clienteling tools can play a vital role in fostering intimacy by leveraging customer, product, and logistics data to provide accurate and personalised recommendations. Deepening this bond is a key focus for all surveyed maisons, recognising the importance of personalised interactions in driving customer loyalty and advocacy.

New technologies can also be applied to enhance the in-store journey by addressing existing bottlenecks, such as long waiting times that frustrate 58 percent of customers. Tests should be conducted to improve the payment process and enable quick product tracking within the boutique, streamlining the overall flow of the customer’s in-store experience. By leveraging technology in these areas, brands aim to provide a more efficient and seamless journey for their customers.

Enriching storytelling

LVMH’s Hennessy Hennessy has launched an immersive virtual reality experience that showcases the maison’s heritage. Source: ARR/LVMH

The convergence of physical boutique visits with online interactions has reshaped the customer’s path to purchase. Luxury customers understand the value of exploring a brand’s website to gather information, seek inspiration, and make informed decisions. The online platform serves as a gateway, allowing customers to delve into the brand’s story, browse collections, and gather insights, all while shaping their preferences and expectations.

The boutique visit, in turn, becomes an opportunity to solidify the connection established online. Customers arrive at the physical store with prior knowledge and a sense of purpose, ready to experience the brand’s offerings in person.

SEE ALSO: Super apps: From Asia to the world, the rising digital disruptors building brand loyalty

Storytelling is another area that lends well to new technologies, from augmented reality to virtual reality, which help infuse collections with added depth and immerse customers in the brand’s universe and rich heritage. These technologies can offer innovative ways to captivate customers, enabling them to explore and engage with the brand in interactive ways. By leveraging these tools, stores can craft compelling experiences that resonate with customers.