Can Happiness Science Help Save the Mall Experience?

    One Chinese mega-mall turned to the hard science behind consumer 'happiness' to help boost their global business — and it seems to be working.
    Immersive architectural arts play a central role inside the newly opened Galeries Lafayette store in Shanghai. Photo: Galeries Lafayette
    Tanguy LaurentAuthor
      Published   in Retail

    Galeries Lafayette is making sweeping changes aimed at younger consumers’ needs for entertainment and experiences. One of the groups' new Paris ventures is GL ANTICIPATION: a contemporary art foundation designed by OMA architects to support new actions in contemporary art. These activations will be implemented at the ambitious new Galeries Lafayette Champs Elysées and Shanghai stores this summer.

    Galeries Lafayette’s China Chief Digital Officer, Wael Benkerrour, opened up about the group’s strategic ambitions to create a seamless retail bridge between France (the Haussmann store, the Champs-Elysées store, and others) and China (Shanghai, Beijing). “We are currently working on [the program] and it is one of our focuses in the coming months,” says Mr. Benkerrour. “The most important thing is to improve the customer journey.” For Galeries Lafayette, this means when Chinese customers are in HSM/Champs Elysées, they will also be aware of the brand’s existing Chinese business and can follow them on our Chinese social networks.

    “It allows them, when they return to China, to be aware of the brand lifestyle trends from the Galeries Lafayette point of view, the events and the commercial offers in our Chinese stores, and in our e-commerce platform,” Benkerrour adds, At the same time... they have to be aware of our Parisian stores and their news. If they plan to come to Paris, they have to know why they should come to our Parisian stores at this moment, [for] exclusive products, events, arts, services, commercial offers, etc. In the future, it will be the same for other French stores located in cities where Chinese customers love to go.”

    It is a rigorous science, and science tells us that everyone is entitled to be happy. The only thing needed is to find the right way.

    An example of this can be seen in Galeries Lafayette’s new Chinese loyalty program, which will allow top VIP customers in China (roughly 2 percent of their active members) to have access to VIP services when they come to Haussmann, including a VIP lounge, drinks & catering, a personal shopper, and more (the group is still working on special advantages at its Champs-Elysées store.)

    The recent opening of Galeries Lafayette’s Shanghai store offers a clear picture of how storytelling and retail can be implemented at a global level to modernize the mall concept. It uses behavioral science to elevate the client experience, ultimately leading to better sales. “Happiness is more than an emotion,” explains professor of psychology Kaiping Peng of Tsinghua University. “It is a rigorous science, and science tells us that everyone is entitled to be happy. The only thing needed is to find the right way.”

    The retail experience as a ‘Happiness Shaker’#

    The Luxury Practice of PRS IN VIVO, a consulting group specializing in behavioral research, is assisting Galeries Lafayette in its quest to bring their clients greater satisfaction. They say there are five happiness drivers that helps define the behavioral data we need to measure. They include experience over ownership, altruism, managing your point of reference, gratitude and kindness, and savoring.

    Elevating experience is particularly important for department stores that want to attract luxury brands to their retail space. Galeries Lafayette is on this path by utilizing the store’s one-of-a-kind architecture (experience over ownership), engaging with spend-for-good programs (altruism), pushing a unique selection of fashion items in China (managing point of reference), and displaying artworks (savoring the moment).

    Artwork, Danse D’Ellipses, by Felice Varini offers can only be seen fully composed from a unique standpoint. Photo: Galeries Lafayette
    Artwork, Danse D’Ellipses, by Felice Varini offers can only be seen fully composed from a unique standpoint. Photo: Galeries Lafayette

    Anne-Laure de Broissia, the Global Head of PRS IN VIVO group, explains further, saying, “Luxury brands must create a highly emotional connection with customers in order to influence their behavior. Luxury customers don’t just settle for being satisfied, and traditional customer satisfaction metrics fall short of capturing the end-goal of a luxury experience around happiness. We have learned that creating memorable moments that literally evoke happiness is key to driving long term loyalty.”

    Brands that empower consumers to find happiness will be embraced because Millennials value experience over ownership, De Broissia explains. Their value system shows a clear shift from previous generations in that they value doing over having, unique over exclusive, and personalized over universal.

    “Build peak moments” with new ways of thinking to achieve retail excellence#

    By leveraging the most recent learning in behavioral sciences, Galeries Lafayette has focused on understanding customer decision processes in retail environments. Based on the belief that we’re irrational but predictable, the brand chose to focus on studying the customer's brain in-depth, which lead to a golden rule in retail experience: The Peak and End rule.

    Introduced by psychologist and Nobel prize winner in economic science Daniel Kahneman, the Peak & End rule focuses on the drivers of happiness peaks that make experiences memorable. A peak is a memorable moment along the customer journey, writes Stanford University professors of organizational science Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and brands should build peak moments to imprint memories of their brand’s luxury experience.

    According to Kahneman, “We do not choose between experiences, we choose memories of experiences.” By creating peak moments, we thrive at transforming our space into what Benkerrour calls a “seamless boutique.” So what’s the best way to start building a peak? Create a good story.

    If peak moments increase the ROI of your designed experience, they can also lead to further measurable. “While Behavioral Sciences is a prerequisite to actually being client-centric,” says de Broissia, “Happiness Science is a way to reconcile the need for measurement tools and the luxury core mission.” The practice consists of two approaches: the IVS Intelligence Video System and the Emolive. The Emolive approach consists of using innovative technologies with new behavioral techniques, like a bracelet that measures your body temperature, sweat, heartbeat, and movements during a store visit, combined with qualitative interviews to help unlock the consumer’s implied desires.

    Emolive also helps define when and where peaks happen during the experience. At the Galeries Lafayette Shanghai store, for instance, a very particular art piece is aimed at creating a strong peak moment. The graphic installation is only completed from a single viewpoint, creating a surprise for the viewer who also acts as co-creator.

    The Emolive approach also shows why peak moments happen by collecting behavioral data. A strong influence from the sales staff versus the impact of the store’s design can be measured via interviews that note “attentive, thoughtful staff service” as opposed to a heightened experience that fosters “a one-on-one relationship.”

    Tanguy Laurent is a Managing Partner of Creative Capital, Altavia Group Leading US Chinese retail branding agency Follow us for more insights on Linkedin.

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