Burberry Shenzhen store

Since 2012, Burberry has been one of the pioneers in building phygital luxury stores: These boutiques meld the physical environment with digital experiences, using tech such as radio-frequency identification tags that are attached to products and trigger specific multimedia content on nearby screens. Eight years on, with more than three billion people on social networks around the world, the brand is leading the way in incorporating social media into its physical stores – this time with the help of Chinese tech giant Tencent.

On July 31, the brand inaugurated its new boutique in Shenzhen’s latest retail development, MixC Shenzhen Bay, marking the first step in its exclusive partnership with Tencent. Using a specially created mini programme within Tencent’s social media and messaging platform WeChat, customers can unlock exclusive content and experiences and of course, share them with their online communities. Here’s how the store is “taking interactions from social media and bringing them into a physical retail environment”:

1)  WeChat mini programme

Soft power never goes out of style. With luxury brands lining up to dress avatars on the Nintendo game Animal Crossing, it’s no wonder that cute characters are one of the draws of the dedicated WeChat mini programme. Each customer is given an animal character and the more they engage in-store and online with the brand, the more social currency (as Burberry aptly calls it) they gain – which can be used to unlock new characters and outfits. The programme is basically the key to accessing product information, client services, in-store appointments, even reservations at the in-house eatery Thomas’s Cafe.

2) Interactive store window

You only get one chance to make an impression, which is why the first digital experience is right at the entrance. Inspired by the mirrored runway from Burberry’s Autumn/Winter 2020 show, an interactive window responds to body movements and reflects the viewer’s silhouette, creating unique images that are –unsurprisingly – perfect backdrops for photos destined for social media.

Interactive store window.

3) The Trench Experience

More WeChat-able backdrops lie ahead at the Trench Experience, an exclusive space that can be unlocked as clients up their social currency. (We are guessing; it’s so exclusive we do not have any photos of it.) A tribute to founder Thomas Burberry’s vision of creating a breathable, waterproof and protective fabric, the room is “a digitally immersive joruney through nature”.

4) QR codes

The swing tags on the in-store collections, including store exclusives, feature QR codes. Scanning them unlocks additional content within the mini programme and yes, further increases your social currency.

5) Fitting rooms

There are three fitting rooms in the MixC boutique, each featuring a unique decorative concept: The Burberry Animal Kingdom, Reflections, and the Thomas Burberry Monogram. Customers can book their preferred room through the mini programme.

6) Thomas’s Cafe

At this in-house cafe, which offers a fusion of English and Chinese tea elements, the menu can change – not at the whims of some capricious chef, but according to how much time you’ve spent on the programme. As your social currency grows, you can unlock new menu items. Just try not to kick up a fuss if you see something at the next table that isn’t on your own digital menu.