Louis Vuitton The Place and why in-store experience needs some real innovation

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By Marco Passoni

Is there a better example of a brilliant physical retail experience than LV The Place from Louis Vuitton, which opened its doors in Bangkok last week? Not merely a restaurant, bar, or a run-of-the-mill luxury store, this stunning space breaks down and disregards traditional boundaries to embody elements of each in what Louis Vuitton calls a “new cultural destination”.

This is possibly the best example I have seen of what I, and many others, have been calling for: truly immersive experiences, which combine many different ideas to create an inhabitable brand space. Once you step past the stunning façade and into The Place, you can find Louis Vuitton’s first café in Thailand, an immersive and interactive exhibition of the brand’s history, a boutique with an exclusive retail offer, and Gaggan at Louis Vuitton, a fine-dining restaurant by chef Gaggan Anand. All of this is curated seamlessly into one space which can be explored and, most importantly, lived. With the era of perfunctory and transactional touchpoints waning, we are seeing demand today for spaces which captivate and stimulate – in that regard, LV The Place is an example of brilliance, it is that much discussed thing in retail: a true destination.

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It is also interesting that LV The Place opened in the same week as JCDecaux and Ipsos announced the details of a new study which showcase once again how important truly engaging touchpoints are, especially for travel retail. New figures from a report by Ipsos for JCDecaux show that 85% of airport travellers make a purchase during their journey and about 70% consider the airport both a special space (71%) and a part of their journey (68%). Most interestingly, however, 65% of travellers told Ipsos that they do not pre-plan their purchases and 77% reveal they have been influenced to act by a touchpoint or engagement they had with a brand or product during their journey.

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Source: JCDecaux, Ipsos

These are the sort of numbers the travel retail industry will be overjoyed to hear and they showcase that not only is there a hunger for travel retail, but that these shoppers can be – and are keen to be – influenced in their purchases. So, with that said, surely the industry must look at how we can make spaces which inspire and engage these potential consumers.

LV The Place is the ultimate example of how this is done, but it is what we should be aiming at. The space, flexibility and funds needed to crafts something like this are not available to every brand, or in every setting, and the power of LVMH means that they have set the bar very high. But this is a good thing. A high bar is what we should all be striving to. We should not be asking ‘Is that enough?’ we should be demanding of ourselves ‘how can I do something that impressive?’

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Louis Vuitton’s “cultural destination” should serve as a blueprint for not just our future plans, but our current ones. It is vital that we all begin to think anew about the spaces we have, how we use them and how we bring our brands to life in them with blended and inhabitable experiences.

In the travel retail setting, as we can see, shoppers are looking to be inspired, they want to be wowed – maybe it is time we began to think bigger and give the customer what they want.

Marco Passoni has decades of experience in the travel retail sector. He has spent the majority of his career in senior leader positions throughout the market, including a 12-year tenure as CEO of a leading international Duty Free distribution company and a further 8 years running a retail firm that operated fashion mono-brand stores in several international airports.
Today, as Senior Executive VP and founding partner of 2.0 & Partners, he leads the company’s efforts in developing and innovating services which create new opportunities and partnerships for all members of the travel retail Trinity. A former elite-level sailor, with a World Championship to his name, Marco now spends much of his time airside, experiencing the changing travel retail industry first-hand, to better guide partners and clients on the best way to do business in this vibrant and unique market.