Swarowski: a strategy for innovation success

With a rich history and culture of creativity, Swarovski has a clear definition of innovation – anything that is new to the prestigious crystal company’s consumer experience.

Over the last few years, the Swarovski brand has made a conscious decision to avoid trends, instead developing one of the most thorough testing models in the industry.

Faced with the task of leading the traditional Austrian retailer into the digital space, Antonia Jermendy, Head of Retail Innovation & Test at Swarovski, is passionate that her work must generate benefits for both consumers and staff.

She works with test stores across various markets to comprehensively develop a concept from idea to implementation. Speaking at Future Stores 2016, she revealed shared the Swarovski testing procedure, explaining how the family-owned company is exploiting digital content to create an interactive customer experience.

The process begins with the collection of all trends, looking closely at what other retailers are offering and new technology launching in the market. These are then tested against the company’s needs, and planning and feasibility issues are outlined. The third step brings in a sounding board, comprising team members representing department across the business. This group evaluates the Innovation & Test team’s findings, presents challenges and helps to prioritise which ideas are brought forward, rethought or abandoned.

Once an idea has made it through this thorough process, it is time for Jermendy and the team to put the metrics in place with which they will measure success, and the project is taken to the deciding board, made up of senior decision makers who approve the in-store test.

One of the in-store design features that has graduated from this process is ‘Lift and Learn’, which launched in Swarovski’s Stuttgart test store and will be rolled out across many markets. As Jermendy explained, this is a great example of how “digitalisation can increase interactivity for consumers”, while at the same time solves a problem than many high-end retailers face – how do you bring the product closer to the customer in a secure way?

Using existing screens, the jeweller was able to remove the glass on some products, creating touch and feel opportunities, alongside complementary live content that changes based on the consumer’s action. Attaching RFID technology to the selection of products acts as a sensor mechanism, allowing nearby screens to display relevant video imagery for the viewer, and the team is also able to introduce explanations and suggested complementary products all through existing in-store displays.

For Jermendy the “beauty of the testing process is the learnings that problems create”. The first challenge that Swarovski faced was connectivity, with the store frame and some metals in the products blocking signals, and the tagging system failing to meet the premium brand guidelines. However, the test situation created a strong case with its multiples uses of existing technology, as well as an opportunity for the additional exposure of marketing collateral. The biggest success of the campaign, other than the positive customer response, was the engagement of staff in the process -something Jermendy identifies as critical for the roll out of innovation.

Swarovski believes that this is just the beginning, with the team working on a number of other products, including an augmented reality app, which will allow ecommerce shoppers to try products on virtually.

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