Digital vital to Burberry's growth

2 January 2013

LONDON: Burberry, the luxury group, is ramping up its efforts to reach millennial consumers in their "mother tongue" of digital media, leveraging channels like social networks and online video.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Angela Ahrendts, Burberry's chief executive, stated it has continually moved away from being a “manual spreadsheet organisation” after she assumed her current role in 2006.

"We just kept evolving the structure," she added. "We always said if we were going to target a millennial consumer then we had to do it in their mother tongue, which is digital."

Among the main questions of ongoing importance, Ahrendts said, are: "How do we keep the brand so cool and so pure and so relevant so it cuts through that clutter? But, by the same token, how do we keep the marketing and the communication much more customized and personalised?"

To take just one example of its innovative strategy, Burberry's website has a product assortment ten times the size of that available in stores, reflecting a belief that the internet is “the world's store”, Ahrendts said.

Equally, the firm allows online visitors – who now outnumber the people entering its physical branches each week – to tailor designs for trenchcoat purchases using the "Burberry Bespoke" tool.

Its Art of the Trench campaign also asks customers to upload images of themselves wearing its trenchcoats, which have been manufactured since the First World War, to a dedicated microsite.

Internally, the organisation boasts an enterprise social network called Burberry Chat, a property developed in partnership with Salesforce, the software provider, and aiming to enhance in-house collaboration.

Mobile also has a key place in the firm's thinking, not least as devices like Apple's iPhone heighten opportunities to engage shoppers. “[Mobile] is the biggest flagship store in the world,” Ahrendts said.

Forming tie-ups with musicians is another central tactic, exemplified by the Burberry Acoustic platform, where it made custom online videos with several established and emerging acts.

"Digital is something that should never been an afterthought – it should never be a checklist that is something to do," Christopher Bailey, Burberry's chief creative officer, told ADOTAS.

"Digital for me is not a project; digital is a way that we live. If you deal with it as a project, it will always be superficial."

Data sourced from Associated Press, Business Week, ADOTAS; additional content by Warc staff