Instagram to reality: How Olivia Burton is bringing the brand to life on the high street

Last updated: 11-03-2018

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Instagram to reality: How Olivia Burton is bringing the brand to life on the high street

From photo booths and dream walls, to a basement coffee bar, Olivia Burton wants to do more than just “sell sell sell” to customers in its new flagship store.

Step inside Olivia Burton’s new flagship store in the centre of Covent Garden and you’re probably going to want to take a photo. It has been designed that way deliberately, of course: to be immersive, engaging, and perhaps most importantly, “Instagrammable”.

But the fashion accessory brand, known for its nature-themed watches, doesn’t just want people to come in-store, browse and leave. It wants people to stay there and “experience” the brand. And there are numerous things to keep them there: from a coffee bar and photo booth, to a place where they can make their own personalised earrings.

“We wanted people to come into store and have something to engage with,” marketing manager Natalie Egan tells Marketing Week. “We really see it as a place for customers to hang out so the focus isn’t always sell sell sell.”

There’s a dream wall too where people can (as the name suggests) write their dreams on a post-it note, inspired by Olivia Burton’s founders who “followed their dreams”. “I just want to be happy,” reads one. Another: “I just want to be genuinely, entirely, completely happy”.

Until September, Olivia Burton sold all its products online and through concessions stores. But as the seven-year-old brand looks to become more international and move beyond just watches, it felt that having a physical store was a necessary next step.

“We’ve got it to that place where the brand is established and we’re just trying to take it that one step further,” Egan says.

“Part of our main strategy is to engage people in the brand and do experimental events and get people to experience the brand. We are a brand that we want people to have fun with and feel happy with.”

Split over two floors, products are sold up top while the experiential activities happen in the basement. This is where Olivia Burton is looking to put on events and workshops, likely in line with the launch of new collections, which happen every couple of months.

“Having [events] in the store really immerses you in the brand. To have that bricks-and-mortar location to do stuff in is really good for us,” Egan says. “There’s lots of stuff in the pipeline that we can really take the brand up another level since we’ve now got the store.”

Making stores more experiential is happening across the high street as retailers acknowledge they need to do much more than sell products to attract people in-store. Offering a unique and differentiated customer experience has never been more important as retailers fight to get people through the doors.

Olivia Burton has another point of difference though: it launches a new collection every two months, which means it can react quickly to fashion trends and customer feedback.

Its vegan collection was in response to feedback they received on Instagram and Egan believes the store will allow them to be even more responsive to what customers say.

And to fuel that extra demand, Olivia Burton only buys a limited number of each product so items sell out and it has a “get it now or miss out” mentality.

Over the last three years, Olivia Burton’s international business has grown from zero to half of sales. The business now operates in 30 countries and that is expected to riseto at least 35 by the end of the year, with China, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan leading the way for global sales.

Despite this global growth, Egan says Olivia Burton has managed to “keep that startup feeling so we’re still all in cahoots together”.

There are 50 people in the team, up from just over 30 this time last year, so it is growing fast internally as well. Marketing has only started to play a role more recently as Olivia Burton becomes “more pro-active in the approach with what [we’re] doing and to bring that strategy element to it”.

And with customers, it wants to continue to have a “personal touch and feel really intimate”. Part of its strategy for 2019 is developing the brand so “everyone is involved”.

Influencers, both well-known and more “relatable girls”, will play a key role in favour of more traditional forms of advertising, where Olivia Burton says it is less likely to see an uplift, although it is gauging opportunities with out-of-home.

“It depends what we’re trying to achieve,” Egan says. “A static advert in a magazine you probably wouldn’t see us in because we don’t necessarily see the uplift of it as such. As print’s dying off, you’re trying to find the next thing. So influencers are a big thing for us. That’s almost like advertising.”


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