(service) - strategy
(year) - 2021
The Lounge is a digital experience that facilitates interaction driven community within the boutique fashion industry. By leveraging manufactured scarcity in a virtual environment, users are brought into a digital waiting room while they wait their turn into a limited user count shopping website. This speculative project aims to recreate ephemeral store experiences in an industry that’s struggling to maintain digital engagement.
Context - In the digital age COVID-19 has forced us into, a larger percentage of experiences that provide us with emotional value are coming through digital mediums rather than physical. How do we identify with others through technologies when meeting face to face is no longer an option? The closure of physical experiences has forced innovation within the digital sphere. In a life of lockdown, companies are trying everything they can to maintain a sense of connectedness through online platforms.
The high-end fashion industry has always relied on personalized in-person shopping treatments to make the customer feel valued. Their shopping experience is equally as important to the product. Now that brick+mortar personalization has been limited, customers are now faced with digital platforms to access these experiences. But what's missing? With this framing, I surveyed 3 local fashion boutiques in Salt Lake City to compare their in shop and online experiences.
Individual experience maps were then processed to dissect how brands reach, market, and interact with customers through various platforms. Streetwear brands utilize affiliation and validation to connect with users eventually leading to an identity opportunity space, where the customer feels a brand represents them on a deeper level. This process helps facilitate brand loyalty.
A full industry scope provided insight in addition to the local experience maps. Businesses are spending the majority of their time and attention on their physical retail spaces, making each shopping experience unique. Why isn't this approach applied in the online sphere?
↓ absent consumer touchpoints on digital experiences ↓
Focusing on the high priced, low volume streetwear market provides a foundational of flexibility - the luxury brands have the capital to experiment while low volume ensures that brands have the loyal fan base that’s willing to go the extra mile for purchasing produce and accessing community.
Manufactured Scarcity - People crave an experience that cannot be replicated because they care about the way a product makes them feel and the way it represents their own identity. Brands utilize manufactured scarcity to leverage this consumer behavior, limited production to drive hype, demand, and prices.
Release Lines - Exclusivity draws an audience that is unlike standard consumers. Enthusiasts are willing to literally camp out in front of stores for product releases. There is an entire resale market where people sell items after its release for a steep markup, which showcases the lengths at which people are willing to in order to access product.
The Cult of the Line - The line is more than just a method of buying sneakers, it’s a place that facilitates community, conversation, and a near-public realm for cultural discussion.
“The line is the new community. When 200 to 300 kids are lining up outside of a store, it’s because they want to be part of something.”
- The New York Times
“There’s a sort of sense of community or camaraderie. It’s the same people every single time. Every single person knows every other person.” - Esquire Magazine
Multiple studies have shown that the problem with lines isn’t waiting, it’s the boredom. A building manager in NYC in 1950 had complanits about long elevator wait times. Unable to shorten the time, they installed mirrors on the wall so people could look at themselves and others while waiting. After this intervention, complaints dropped to zero.
The Lounge revives the cultural discourse and community discussion within a virtual environment by limiting the number of users on a brand's website. The platform provides a space for users to explore while waiting on their turn for entry into the site, a unique waiting room. The Lounge translates in store experiences in an industry that’s struggling to maintain digital engagement.
- Acronym is the proposed client for The Lounge. The delivery of the virtual environment aligns with the brands style and experimental ethos. Their community is no stranger to waiting in lines and is driven by exclusivity and limited access, making Acronym a perfect partner for the project.