These Global Brands Are Conquering The Virtual World

   Key Takeaways:

  • Brands that master the singular characteristics of the virtual world can even engage with passive followers while developing positive consumer perceptions.

  • Louis Vuitton and Burberry immerse the shopper in an alternative reality, where the most pleasurable experiences are enhanced, and shopping becomes an extension of themselves.

  • Christian Dior used VR headsets to offer luxury shoppers a peek into the Paris fashion shows.

Not long ago, the virtual world was a go-to setting for dystopian science fiction films. But in today’s post-pandemic reality, where consumers demand physically-disconnected & emotionally-connected interactions with brands, the virtual world offers limitless possibilities to luxury houses.

For now, there is a tremendous opportunity for luxury brands to define what a luxury experience should look like in the virtual world. And brands that master the characteristics of the virtual world will engage even passive followers and develop positive consumer perceptions.

Luxury powerhouses Louis Vuitton and Burberry are already designing memorable experiential interactions. These brands immerse the shopper in an alternative reality, where the most pleasurable experiences are enhanced, and shopping becomes an extension of themselves.

Another example is Christian Dior. The French Maison used VR headsets to offer luxury customers a “behind-the-scenes peek into exclusive fashion shows.” And according to Certona, selected shoppers were invited to test the company’s VR headsets and view the haute couture collection in Paris from a Christian Dior boutique on a different continent.

But luxury powerhouses aren’t the only ones building individualized experiences through VR and AR. China’s automotive industry is using VR to create safer and more enjoyable experiences. Toyota has designed the TeenDrive 365 VR simulator, which helps teenage drivers stay safe on the roads, while Jaguar Land Rover has equipped some of its dealerships with VR headsets.

Fo its A Walk in Their Shoes campaign, the ethical brand TOMS Shoes used VR headsets to take fans on an emotional journey. The adventure follows a TOMS customer to Colombia, where he interacts with a child who benefits directly from his shoe purchase.

The IKEA Immerse app empowers consumers to design and experience their furniture configurations via virtual living and kitchen room sets. Likewise, the Taobao Buy app creates an “AR-infused shopping experience” where real-world images are blended with 3D images, according to VR Scout.

According to Vice and Alibaba’s official figures, an hour after its first launch day, 30,000 people tried its AR shopping program, Buy+. And while Alibaba’s triumph in this realm is remarkable, the success some luxury brands have found with similar initiatives is even more impressive.

Burberry has become the model for in-store brand VR experiences. Its concept store, opened in partnership with Tencent in Shenzhen, shows the incredible potential virtual reality holds in retail. “Thanks to the exclusive partnership with Tencent, Burberry takes interactions from social media and introduces them into the physical retail environment,” says Marketing to China.

Burberry also partnered with Tencent Games for the online game “Honor of Kings.” The British luxury Maison agreed to create elements of Burberry’s house code for use in the game’s virtual world. “Adding virtual products into existing online game environments offers a bespoke experience that aligns with the consumer’s existing lifestyle,” says a Burberry press release.

But this collaboration is not the first time Burberry used gamification to connect with younger demographics. In October of 2019, the British retailer released its own game called B Bounce, followed by Ratberry in December of 2019 and B Surf in July of 2020.

Burberry has also worked with virtual idols and virtual influencers and even released a hip-hop single called “Runway 2.0” with Nylon China.

L’Oréal Group has also gotten into the virtual idol hype. The French beauty conglomerate launched a two-dimensional character named Mr. Ou: “a 24-year-old, Chinese-French entrepreneur who cares for the environment and works within the beauty industry,” according to BoF.

L’Oreal’s first virtual idol will contribute content on the brand’s social media channels related to beauty trends, ingredients, and sustainability initiatives. Photo: Courtesy of L’Oreal

Meanwhile, The South China Morning Post explained how SuperElle launched two virtual fashion models: the edgy Sam and the feminine Liz. Elle readers can use their mobile cameras to interact with AR versions of the virtual models.

On the other hand, Louis Vuitton has been busy designing virtual clothes for the game “League of Legends,” as well as its digital trophy case for the League’s annual esports finals.

Along these lines, there are other notable entries in the virtual world. For example, Unmatereality has been working with luxury brands to create gamified experiences. Unmatereality is currently working with ADA — a 3D, interactive gamified fashion and social media platform designed by Alexia Niedzielski, Elizabeth von Guttman, and Andy Ku, a Korean gaming guru.

ADA lets gamers select luxury interiors and their avatar’s style, and they can dress their idols in high-end garments and share their shots on social media. They can even buy the selected designer outfits for themselves.

Drest is another new luxury gaming platform designed by the former editor-in-chief of Porter & Harper’s Bazaar, Lucy Yeomans. “In Drest, you play a professional stylist, compete in challenges by dressing up human avatars, and receive feedback from a digital community,” says Orian Bar, a contributor to The Psychology of Fashion. “As you play, you can level up your title from wardrobe intern to Nano influencer. Also, the app features real-life designs [to] users through a one-click shop from Farfetch.”

Since luxury brands are always looking for novel ways to connect with consumers, the virtual world simply cannot be ignored any longer. As such, we foresee additional luxury players entering the virtual arena and coming up with personalized offers that entertain and speak to consumers.