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Digital Luxury, Featured, Pandemic Plush

How XR can transform the digital luxury purchase

The luxury industry was among the first to adopt the innovation of augmented and virtual reality. The technology has been leveraged excellently in marketing by several luxury brands.

Brands such as BMW, De Beers, Dior, Tissot, Gucci, etc. are just among the few to fantastically exploit AR and VR for their marketing. These technologies make for fantastic brand experiences too. Experiences which anybody with the required peripherals can indulge in.

Read: Experiential Marketing – Why it Matters

However, the global pandemic has also revealed an opportunity to bolster the digital luxury purchase experience. But first, luxury brands must overcome certain obstacles.

A few of which are:

  • Safeguarding the experiential nature of luxury. The in-store purchase experience is a trademark of established luxury brands.
  • Maintaining the timelessness and heritage of the brand. Entrenching the brand in digital technology opens up the brand identity to contamination. How can the brand be protected?
  • Delivering the trademark ‘human touch’. How can digital luxury convey humanness?
  • Luxury has long leveraged a strategy of being different and standing on its own. How can they transpose this digitally?

It is imperative for the luxury brands of tomorrow to adopt and manipulate modern technology to suit their brands. And the reason is two-fold.

First, to penetrate newer markets at relative ease compared to setting up retail outlets.

Second, to garner a greater appeal for the brand. Luxury thrives by the masses dreaming about it. Digital provides splendid platforms to take dreaming to heights unimagined.

Although challenging, it certainly isn’t impossible. Leading luxury brands possess the resources (financial & skill) to thoroughly exploit digital innovations.

Both existing and emerging technologies can be harnessed to create a holistic and signature digital experience.

One such way?

XR

XR or Extended Reality works by blending real and virtual environments where physical and digital elements can interact in real time. It combines Augmented Reality (AR), rendering synthetic content in a real environment and Virtual Reality (VR), allowing the users to manipulate these digital objects.

XR can enable experiences and environments never before possible. The sheer permutations by which the luxury industry could use this technology is unimaginable.  

Here are a couple of ways XR can be implemented to improve the digital luxury experience.

Solving the lacklustre digital purchase experience with XR

The biggest issue with shopping luxury products online is that the purchase experience doesn’t offer anything different from that of buying ordinary products.

Granted, almost every major luxury brand has a digital shop on their website. The experience though is starkly similar to buying something off of the gazillion fast fashion websites out there.

Exploiting AR alone has shown to result in a much more immersive experience. A few luxury brands have already tried their hands at creating this.

Gucci partnered with Belarus based AR start-up Wannaby allowing users to try out sneakers from their signature Ace line-up on their feet through the Gucci app.

Several other brands are doing something similar.

Combining AR with VR could ensure a digital shopping experience nearly identical (and much more exciting) to that of physically purchasing from a store.

Using alternate realities in marketing is an excellent strategy in itself. But the question remains, if these brands are experimenting with such tech to generate buzz, what’s preventing them from exploiting these platforms to provide a richer digital shopping experience?

Perhaps it is the lack of a human touch in digital experiences that’s holding them back.

But digital luxury can feature human elements

All the major luxury houses have loyal client followings. XR can be combined with AI to cater to this base, creating the human element that brands consider so essential. Start-ups such as HoloMe exclusively specialise in creating digital human holograms.

Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) commissioned HoloMe to provide a personalised shopping experience to a HNW client in London during the Viva Technology Show held in Paris in May 2019.

The future is here, today

Digital technology has evolved to the point where recreating a physical shopping experience is possible. The technology and the resulting experience will further improve by leaps once luxury brands actively start to leverage it.

At the same time, brands mustn’t forget that the customer never gets to physically explore the product during an online purchase. While this can be solved partially with the help of 3D technologies, nothing beats the real thing.

An indulging unboxing experience can culminate the digital luxury purchase experience

At the end of the day, the customer’s first point of interaction with an online purchase is when she/he receives it. An average unboxing experience will spoil the mood despite a thoroughly immersive purchase experience.

To create a lasting memory of the purchase, the unboxing is the trump card. An intuitive, opulent unboxing of the product is sure to leave an imprint in the customer’s mind.

Moreover, unboxing can be leveraged to compensate for the lack of a proper physical purchase experience. Luxury product designers of the future will have to pay more attention to the packaging of their products.

I believe such videos to be among the most valuable forms of marketing.

Unboxing alone has amazing potential to offset the shortcomings of digital shopping. Recordings of the unboxing can be used in several parts of the marketing and sales funnels to create a more engaging and dreamy experience for the end user.

All of which will pay off big time in today’s age of social media. Not many industries have jumped the bandwagon to AR/VR/3D yet.

Luxury has the opportunity to revolutionise digital shopping and begin a trickle-down phenomenon. That of creating an experience very akin to physically buying from a store.

With about 2.4 billion people predicted to use AR by 2023, the opportunity here is immense.

Benchmarks will be set sooner or later and the luxury industry must have a significant part of that pie due to the inherent experiential nature of this technology.

Luxury has held its own ever since inception. In the times to come, it is of the essence to continue doing so.

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