What Does Social Retail Mean for Luxury Brands?

Many of the world’s most coveted luxury brands are already exploring newer forms of digital retail, launching exciting social retail experiences to attract their discerning clientele. By combining physical retail with cutting edge digital technology, social retail offers something brand new. And customers are fully embracing it. 

Social Retail: What is it?

Social retail is inspired by a simple idea. It’s the concept of offering customers a reward for something that many of them already do quite regularly: sharing their opinions and recommendations on social channels. By incentivising this, brands can start to encourage more of this valuable social sharing, while also rewarding loyal customers and nurturing these relationships. 

One of the world’s earliest adopters of social retail is the fashion brand Burberry. The company launched its first social retail store in Shenzhen, China last year. Aimed at attracting young, tech-savvy customers, the store was created in partnership with Chinese tech giant Tencent Technology. It uses technology from WeChat to offer customers rewards for interacting with branded content. 


Social retail works so well because it makes full use of the power of video content. Video is still the most talked about and shared form of online content, and that’s why video shopping remains such a popular option amongst shoppers. Through video, brands are finding new ways to connect with their customers on a larger scale, outside of the confines of a physical store.

Social retail relies on social media, something which has already had a huge influence on the retail industry – a level of influence that we can safely assume will only grow stronger over time. Research published by Internet Retailer’s 2015 Social Media 500 study found that back in 2015, social media influenced purchases totalled $3.30 billion. That’s an increase of 26% on the previous year. 

We shouldn’t forget the increasing importance of social media itself in the decision-making processes of customers, either. The vast majority of customers (79% of people surveyed) confirmed that user-generated content on social media significantly impacts their decisions. Which means that social retail is undoubtedly here to stay. 

Why luxury brands are turning to social retail

Like many retail brands, those in the luxury sector have faced the challenge of declining footfall over recent years. These brands have of course built up a mystique based on experience-driven retail, using high-touch, personalized, one-on-one experiences in stores to differentiate their service from the rest. But such a service can be expensive and problematic to maintain, particularly as increasing numbers of buyers are now making the switch to eCommerce. 

Social retail bridges the gap between the convenience of eCommerce shopping and the interactive element of real-life retail experiences. It offers brands a new opportunity to connect with their customers. It’s also enabling store associates to become authentic content creators in their own right.

How are brands using social retail?

Luxury brands are using social retail to create customer-focused, interactive retail experiences. With social retail, brands are able to connect with their customers in new ways, and nurture more meaningful relationships. Here are just a few of the ways in which luxury brands are using the concept of social retail. 

To share expertise 

Social retail gives brands the chance to interact with their customers in an authentic way. Take Burberry, for example. The brand’s social retail store concept revolved around the use of WeChat, which offered shoppers exclusive content and product information. Burberry also connects online shoppers with its showroom by video or instant message from wherever they are.

Virtual shopping platforms such as HERO® offer brands the opportunity to explore social retail for themselves. Associates can interact with customers through video content, live chat and WhatsApp, and share product knowledge that improves online sales as well as in store foot traffic – one third of customers end up completing their purchases in store following online interactions with associates. 

To connect with shoppers on a larger scale 

Social retail is enabling brands to connect with shoppers on a larger scale than ever before. One of the key ways that they’re doing this is through the use of one-to-many video. Through short-form videos live on their eCommerce store, brands can showcase everything from product fit, color and sizing to usage tutorials.

This content is turning experts into influencers. Following a similar format to Instagram’s famed shoppable videos, the highly interactive videos allow customers to make purchases straight from stories as they watch.

To be creative and authentic 

Today’s top brands are always on the lookout for new ways to unleash their creativity and show off their originality. And social retail is the perfect tool with which to do this. New-age retail is empowering associates to flex their creativity, by sharing easily digestible multimedia content that’s made for their customers. 

Social retail reimagines the personal touches of luxury shopping in an online setting, and ultimately enables brands to nurture more authentic relationships. This results in the creation of highly meaningful interactions, turning shoppers into loyal brand advocates.

Ready to find out more about the world of social retail? Hero will help to set your online store apart from the crowd, bringing customers the personal touch of in-store shopping and empowering your store associates to create a first-class retail experience for every customer.

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About Hero®

Add the “IRL” experience to your online store, with the #1 virtual shopping platform. Headquarted in London and New York. Hero is trusted by brands including Levi’s, Nike, Herman Miller and LVMH.