[Investigation] What’s new in Luxury Retail? (Part 4/4)

As seen in the first part, department stores and luxury boutiques compete in ingenuity to capture the attention of their customers and arouse their desire. More than a scenographic design, it is about knowing and serving the customer better. In this field, they can make the difference with e-commerce platforms unable to provide a wide range of emotions born of a unique, memorable, and fundamentally human customer experience.


Dive into the heart of retail, the historical model of luxury distribution, in the light of the post-Covid era and the extended virtual worlds of Web 3.


Virtual Commerce and borderless customer experience


With channels that go far beyond the physical store, e-commerce site, and social networks, luxury brands need to ensure a consistent experience wherever the customer is. Yet, according to MAD’s latest white paper, “Processing Emotions,” 66% of customers who perceive some form of failure in the omnichannel brand experience would be far more likely to turn away from the brand.


While technology is becoming rare in luxury stores, it is becoming much more visible outside the store. Temporary exhibitions, events, and trade shows are all becoming pretexts for transporting customers into immersive 3D worlds. New experiential spaces, propelled by the surge of this decentralized internet called Web3. An approach that contributes as much to a personalized and community-based extension of the in-store experience as to democratization via the blockchain of the use of crypto-currencies and rare digital objects known as NFT (Non-Fungible Token).


Web 3 and virtual stores


With Web 3, the remote store experience takes on a new community and immersive dimension. After having experienced the data consultation phase at the beginning of the Internet (web1), the data consultation and creation phase via the blogosphere and social networks, it’s time for the next step. A synthesis of the two previous periods, Web 3 adds ownership. In other words, Internet users can finally regain control over their creations and monetize them.


The best-known expression of this new “Far Web” has long been the “metaverse.” However, since Mark Zuckerberg preempted the word meta last year to rename the parent company of his Facebook and Instagram companies, we now speak more readily of “decentralized virtual universes.” Virtual universes that appeared around the year 2000 (1997 in France with the Second World by Canal +, then 2007 with Second Life) were never known as much craze as during these last two years.


Thus, the concept of the Second World, which allowed one to wander through the streets of a pixelated Paris, was revived in 2023 with the Love In Paris project by Metaverse Studio x Sandbox. An experience allows visiting emblematic places and meeting iconic characters like Edith Piaf, Jules Vernes or Victor Hugo.


© Metaverse Studio x Sandbox – Love In Paris


Stéphane Gallieni, the founder of the luxury creative agency Balistik Art, is also a pioneer of Web 3, a field to which he has just dedicated a didactic book. His agency was behind the first brand activations on what was the very first international metaverse: Second Life. In 2007, he accompanied such prestigious companies as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Lancôme (at the time owned by the Courtin Clarins family), and Thierry Mugler.


A proto-metaverse whose success was as dazzling as it was furtive since this virtual world fell into disuse one year later. It was not until 2021 that the metaverse was back in the news, generating more than 150 different virtual worlds worldwide, such as Roblox or Decentraland.


© Thierry Mugler – The island of Doctor Muglerstein on Second Life, by Balistik Art, 2007

Boutique virtuelle


For Stéphane Gallieni, despite the extreme diversity of metaverse, the model has its invariants: “They are virtual universes, immersive, interwoven and above all persistent (updated in real-time even when the user is not connected). An experience lived in the skin of his avatar, halfway between the interaction of social networks and the playful universe of video games.”


The virtual store appears to be the most widespread use case among retailers wishing to enter these new worlds. This model can resolve a real sticking point in the digital luxury experience: distancing the luxury product by 2D. On the other hand, 3D allows the customer to observe the luxury product from all angles. With the technological advances in augmented reality and 4K ultra high definition, the customer can even try on a product with a confounding degree of realism in subjective view, as if he were the one wearing the ring or the watch in question. A digital twin that his avatar can freely wear as such or just try on for physical purchase. He can then pay with his credit card or other payment solutions. The result isa memorable experience halfway between what the customer would have experienced in a store and the facility commerce (open 24/7)”.


This retail 3.0 or V commerce (Virtual Commerce) is made up of physical spaces mixing in-store and digital experiences. Stéphane Galienni (Balistik Art) highlights two points of extension that respond to this emerging V commerce in the luxury experience. On the one hand, augmented reality devices on mobile applications or in-store where the customer can receive reward points according to their engagement and actions. On the other hand, V commerce can take the form of a virtual duplicate of the physical store – even in a fancy form – with an e-commerce function in virtual shopping, as at Lacoste with its UNDW3 project.




“Some companies took the lead. Not everything was perfect, but this communication effect around interesting initiatives allowed us to see the fundamentals of tomorrow’s point of the sale taking shape,” notes Stéphane Gallieni (Balistik Art).


© EEVARIA Berlin virtual store by Rave.Space


Present at Vivatech 2022, Dior unveiled a preview of its augmented reality experience, allowing Internet and mobile users to walk through the Dior 30 Montaigne boutique in its virtual version. Since then, other initiatives have been launched. The German leather goods brand EEVARIA. Ria designed its virtual store with the agency Rave. Space, presenting its products in 3D, while the Parisian antique dealer Gismondo & Darmo, with the startup Societhy, proposed a virtual gallery where furniture, paintings, and sculptures were sold in the form of ultra-high-definition NFTs that also gave access to the physical work.


© Gismondo & Darmo Virtual Gallery by Societhy


However, the founder of the Balistik Art agency warns professionals about most recent web3 initiatives that are still too much executed from a web2 angle, in particular by referring to simple 2D e-commerce product sheets:Often there is a lack of understanding of the audiences, of the tools as well as of the field of possibilities. In addition, too many people remain convinced that these virtual worlds are only accessible via an expensive Oculus headset. However, it is perfectly possible to access such immersive experiences via a simple smartphone or laptop.”


Gucci: a good student of retail 3.0




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Featured photo : © Fortnite

Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin is a journalist specializing in luxury, HR, tech, retail, and editorial consulting. A graduate of EIML Paris, he has been working in the luxury industry for 9 years. Fond of fashion, Asia, history, and long format, this ex-Welcome To The Jungle and Time To Disrupt likes to analyze the news from a sociological and cultural angle.

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