Parisian retail is increasingly adding a digital element to visual merchandising.
Along the Champs-Élysées stores are showing just how they are staying relevant to today’s digital consumer by creating engaging interiors using movement and interactivity.
Whether it’s the show-off Citroën showroom where you can insert yourself, instead of a long-dead French president, into a head of state’s open-topped car and wave at the crowds, or moving light boxes, much is being done. Repeat the same exercise on Regent Street at the moment and while you will certainly encounter light boxes, the chances are slim that you’ll see much to match the Parisian displays. Even Morgan, the fashion brand that boasted a UK retail presence in days gone by, has opted to use large-format video screens and “sharing mirrors” (which enable you to send images of yourself to your friends and to post the same on your Facebook page) in its Champs-Élysées store.
Interestingly, as a rule of thumb, the higher up the shopping scale you head, the less the impact of digital visual merchandising makes itself felt. Indeed, head into luxury perfume brand Guérlain’s pop-up store, or Merci, the boho chic shopper’s preferred haunt in the Marais district, and there is almost no evidence that the world is heading for any kind of digital future.
The other point worth noting is how many shoppers seem to be taking advantage of what retailers are offering in the digital arena. Young and old alike seem happy to play with touchscreens as part of the Parisian mid-market shopping experience.
H&M Champs Elysees
Designed by French ‘starchitect’ Jean Nouvel, the three-floor H&M takes the screen with moving images on it and adds a twist by making the screens themselves a mobile attraction. The outsize screens, dotted around the store, are on vertical rails. This enables them to ascend and descend from floor to floor, via wells on each level, not unlike an escalator. This ensures that even if the content they are showing doesn’t catch your eye, the screens’ movement through the store’s different floors means that you will.
Citroen Champs Elysees
The multi-floor Citroën experience shows what is possible for retailers, however, by combining digital displays and a deal of imagination.
As well enabling shoppers to become the star of a French presidential cavalcade, as already detailed, there are numerous touchscreens and video displays across each level and visitors are actually encouraged to take photos og the interior.
This is about brand-building, as well as providing an experience, and there are a number of retailers that might do well to look at what is being done here and consider whether allowing shoppers to take snaps in their stores might actually be a good idea.
The cars really are the stars of this interior, but the way in which visitors interact with them is also a major part of the appeal. This is a digital experience, rather than just a few screens with moving images.
M&S Champs Elysees
Nothing too remarkable about this perhaps, but the difference between this branch and the one on London’s Edgware Road is that shoppers are using the outsize iPhone-like terminals to check what might be available if they were in search of, say, meanswear. In London, the digital lounge has proved somewhat short of shoppers – perhaps suggesting that the ’boutique virtuelle’ is about shopping for what’s not in store.
Guérlain Champs Elysees
Of course, there are those who choose to eschew the siren call of digital, opting instead for good old-fashioned visual merchandising. Luxury scent brand Guérlain is among them and its pop-up shop, next door to the brand’s grande dame flagship, shows what can be achieved without recourse to the digital screen.
Taking as its theme ‘the little black dress’, scent bottles are displayed along the perimeter and on a narrow, mid-shop table. The latter has a line of funnels along its length, meaning a small piece of cloth you have impregnated with one of the smells can be used it to waft the scent up your nostrils without losing any of the precious high or low notes. And everywhere you look, there are graphics formed of black ribbon that depict a figure wearing that black dress. At the back of the shop, a little black dress is even put to work as a lightshade.