After the success of their first launch on London’s Oxford Street, the Austrian crystal producer Swarovski took its new augmented-reality store concept, which the company calls “forerunner,” to Chengdu just before the Chinese Lunar New Year, hoping to attract digital-savvy Chinese consumers who make up the Austrian-based crystal producer’s biggest market.

You can’t miss the Swarovski forerunner store located in Sino Ocean Taikoo Li shopping center in Chengdu, China. A twisted sculpture of gold and silver bracelets, each draped with sparkling lucky charms, hangs in the display window and greets all who enter. Once inside, multiple interactive screens, which at first look like mirrors, wait to be discovered.

Just stand in front of one, and virtually try on everything Swarovski, from earrings and necklaces to bracelets and rings, or snap a selfie with fun Swarovski stickers to share with friends. Afterward, there’s still the stairway, encrusted with over 10,000 Swarovski crystals, which makes heading up to the second level feel like you’re climbing into a sparkling Disneyland of crystals and light.

In attendance at the grand opening in Chengdu were (from left to right) CEO of Swarovski Consumer Goods Business Robert Buchbauer, Spokeswoman of Swarovski Asia Jiang Shuying, Executive Vice President of Marketing Joan Ng, and Managing Director of China Judith Sun. Courtesy photo.

While it’s common for beauty stores like Sephora to add augmented reality screens that use facial recognition to enable customers to virtually try on different products, it’s still rare in other industries. As the early adopter, Swarovski is eyeing for something bigger — by experimenting with how customers interact with products, the brand can understand their changing preferences and buying trends, as well as making checking out seamless.

In an exclusive interview with Jing Daily, Executive Vice-President of Marketing Joan Ng spoke about reaching Chinese consumers, who are a unique and important segment for the brand, and how Swarovski has had to adapt to achieve this. She also discussed why digital strategy is an integrated element of the brand’s identity.

Joan Ng, Executive Vice-President of Global Marketing at Swarovski. Courtesy Photo.

Joan Ng, Executive Vice-President of Global Marketing at Swarovski. Courtesy Photo.

China has always been the testing ground for the brand; it was one of the first markets that the brand chose to launch a fine jewelry line in 2012. In 2017, China surpassed the U.S. to become the biggest market. How important is this market?

China is Swarovski’s biggest and most important market. Given this, we will continue to launch more and more innovative products there to meet the consumers’ growing needs.

How has the brand adapted to this ever-changing market?

Swarovski was one of the earliest brands to proactively explore digital channels, including digital communication, social platforms communication, and e-commerce business. This has been reflected in our consumer profile — of which millennials are becoming a bigger proportion — so that our brand image stays rejuvenated and fresh in their minds.

How has the Chengdu store’s unique design played a roll in your customers’ experience?

The forerunner store in Chengdu differs greatly from all of our other Swarovski stores in China. We designed it to provide customers with the most intelligent shopping experience available. It not only provides a virtual jewelry try-on area but also an interactive selfie area, with the Chinese Year of the Pig as the main theme at this moment, where consumers may conveniently and instantly share their photos on social platforms. The services available, including an independent gift-wrapping area, are also unparalleled. Swarovski’s resident stylist has excellent taste and has received professional training to observe consumer preferences and give personalized styling service to everyone for a gorgeous look.

What are the most popular Swarovski products in China?

Since 2012, Swarovski Fine Jewelry has been a big hit with our loyal consumers.

How do you continue to market lower-priced goods without jeopardizing the high-end product line?

In Swarovski, both Fine Jewelry and Fashion Jewelry have a clear positioning and target different audiences to fulfill their needs. The differentiation is not coming from price, but the value we provide to consumers. Fine Jewelry uses high-end material with designs that adhere to the style as fashion jewelry. Fashion jewelry is the collection presenting every female that pursuit sparkling and styling on different occasions, it gives women confidence with inner and outer shine. We have great product stories to echo the emotional needs of women while our products catch their eyes once they see them.

Besides your “Be Swarovski” membership program, which offers exclusive gifts and rewards, insider-only events, what else are you doing to create a sense of loyalty among Chinese consumers?

Swarovski has a rich 124-year history. We started with crystal home products, and from there, we have continually developed new products for an ever-increasing global clientele. In China, fashion jewelry is a major business category. Our sparkling crystals and our extraordinary craftsmanship are Swarovski’s unique selling points and benefits we offer our target audience. All of our products complement each other, fulfilling Swarovski as a lifestyle brand and its consumer’s desire to sparkle in every occasion, that’s where the loyalty comes from.

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