Fashion is often about juxtaposition. If you’re a brand marketer, this juxtaposition is synonymous with a series of tough decisions on how exactly to position these often competing and opposing aspects: craftsmanship versus innovation; fostering an experience versus driving sales; online versus offline; exclusivity versus raising awareness…etc. The luxury market has long believed that what happened off-line best captured the true essence of their brands. Premier storefront locations, exquisite design of environment, a superior product, and a heightened level of service have all helped to set luxury brands far above the mass-market retail approach. When it comes to online, the Holy Grail for most high-end brands is re-creating the in-store experience in such a way that a customer’s encounter online is the same caliber as if they were in the brick and mortar flagship.
Many brands decidedly assumed this feat was not possible; that no digital encounter could ever come close to the meticulously elaborate in-store experience. This assumption has fueled the role of Challenger brands, as previously covered on Fashion’s Collective.
Other brands gave it a shot, using the digital platform as somewhat of a replica of their storefronts, but many have missed the Marc.
However, the recently launched iPad application for Zegna, adequately titled in_STORE, is the closest rendition we’ve seen to a smart, well-designed, well-built and carefully constructed digital flagship.
Executed to a perfect Z by King and Partners and 3D visual consultant James Lima, the initiative marries a sleek and sophisticated store design with a user-friendly 3D digital interface. The two-floor store invites users to be true shoppers, navigating in the same ways as they might browse the racks, complete with the guidance of a virtual Milla Jovovich.
Though the store does not stock its shelves with every sku that might appear in the traditional ecommerce site or flagship, select sections of the in_STORE are tied directly to the inventory management systems, making for a more integrated, manageable and updated shopping experience.
Users of the iPad application use gestures (like sliding and swiping) and the arrow indicators to literally browse the virtual store. (A version for the iPhone will be launching this fall).
What is especially nice is the consideration for both sides of the paradigm, experience and function. Users are immediately immersed in the Zegna virtual world while also having the ability to cut directly to the items that they are most interested in exploring through a streamlined navigation. The fact that it is intended first and foremost as an iPad application (though there is also a microsite), takes advantage of the ways in which luxury users seek out brands on mobile devices. Entering a virtual world is part game-like, while exploring the environment is an interesting way to tap into users on the go who are using mobile devices to kill time. Providing the ability to purchase offers shoppers a service-based utility.
While virtual stores may not replace a brick and mortar, or even a traditional ecommerce site, when done well, they provide a useful, branded experience that delivers on product, lifestyle, service and utility.