Swarovski is undergoing a retail renaissance and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
To tell us what’s going on at the 126-year-old company, we reach out to its managing director for Southeast Asia and India – Lars Schmidt, who shares at great length Swarovski’s new brand identity that encompasses the reimagining of the 32-year-old Swarovski Swan and its stores.
“Swarovski has kicked off its greatest transformation in history leading towards ‘One Vision, One Strategy and One Team’. It’s a new business direction placed by our CEO Robert Buchbauer. We’re re-positioning our brand in a new, unified and culturally relevant attainable luxury space,” he says in an email interview.
The brand prides itself on a rich (and colourful) history going back over 100 years as well as its biggest assets – crystals and people. Guided by this shining clarity, CEO Robert believed it was necessary to architect a complete brand transformation during this downtime. Tasked to bring this new creative direction to life is Global Creative Director Giovanna Engelbert, who is a perfect fit for the brand’s first-of-its-kind role considering her fashion/editor background and impeccable style sense.
Lars applauds the new dawn. “To ensure the future success of Swarovski, we must evolve further and redefine what we want to stand for in the minds and hearts of the customers. Our new brand direction helps us ensure that we stay relevant to our audience and are differentiated from our competition, while truly making sure we are building on our core strengths as a company,” he adds.
Have you seen Swarovski’s redesigned stores in Milan, Manhattan, Shanghai or Dubai on social? The stores are magical, sculptural and bursting with colours; truly a wonderful place to escape these gloomy days and it’s the shape of things to come.
“The Swarovski Wonderlab comes alive with the unveiling of 28 Instant Wonder stores in key global markets. Beginning with Milan’s Galleria in February this year, further 27 store openings will follow across North America, Europe and APAC— including new locations in Paris and New York. In Southeast Asia, we recently opened our very first Instant Wonder Store at The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands in May,” shares Lars.
Imagine winning a ticket to a candy factory, he tells us. Think Alice in Wonderland landed in Willy Wonka. “The Instant Wonder stores are walls and walls of our magical world of jewellery. You can’t get enough of this space. You want more and more, there’s always more to discover,” explains Lars on the inspiration for the stores.
“Representations of facets were also important—many are octagons to reinforce our ownership of the octagon. In repetition, it looks like a beehive, which also is sweet. Jewellery, figurines, and loose components all exist in this environment.”
Swarovski has a strong brand perception, and a research done a few years ago showed that customers were willing to pay more for products with the Swarovski seal. To strengthen its formidable presence, this new strategic vision by Robert is seen as a move that will elevate the brand’s core DNA to become attainable luxury as it moves away from being perceived an over-commercialised brand.
The brand is also ambitious in terms of strengthening and extending brand equity beyond single product categories to become a social lifestyle symbol that inspires and drives engagement. Lars adds, “We also want to move away from draining culture to driving culture, develop brand supporting collaborations, partnership & experiences and tell stories that matter or narrative that imprint culture.”
Next on the agenda is inspiring customers with a sustainable customer experience by harnessing the power of science and magic to reshape reality for people and our planet. “We want to lead the jewellery industry in circular innovation by sourcing more conscious materials, reusing and repurposing the materials we already have, and reducing carbon emissions,” he explains.
More than that, by building a safe, inclusive workplace, protecting people in its supply chain, and educating customers to look after their world, Swarovski wants to be recognised as an empowering brand that gives people the courage to practice self-expression.
HIGH POINTS IN 2020
“This year, we have officially become One Swarovski. We acted, thought, and worked as ONE. We remained positive and optimistic against all difficulties,” he points out. Different companies have different approaches to survive the pandemic, but one thing is certain, like most companies, Swarovski has adapted and adjusted to new ways of working to ensure the safety of all stakeholders.
The successful launch of its Swarovski.com website in June 2020 in Malaysia is achieving positive results. The first results from the relaunch in key social channels look promising, with double digit increase in average impressions and reach on Instagram and Facebook posts as well as followers growth across all three platforms including Twitter. The customer experience across these channels is also visibly enhanced.
“We have significantly expanded our members database and expanded into new markets. We have also added lots of joy and wonder to our customers’ lives through impeccable customer service, passion, commitment and dedication in all our stores across the region and at the same time have provided a safe environment for them to enjoy and explore our wonderful brand and products.”
Despite the challenges they’ve faced and with the brand transformation journey in full swing, Lars is confident that they will ride the storm and scale new heights as one fully committed team. “Together we will ignite dreams!” He proclaims.
Igniting dreams and spreading the sparkle is the order of the day at Swarovski as Giovanna’s first collection and Wonderlab’s first expression comes to life. While exploring the fundamental geometry of crystal and its potential as materials, she also went into deep dives through the vaults to get inspired by Daniel Swarovski’s first drawings as well as discovering the magic of his early inventions and understanding the power of his dream to create something the world has never seen.
This short video beautifully captures the essence of Wonderlab.
“As if plucked from what Giovanna calls a ‘Mathemagical Garden’, the collection is an array of necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets and body jewellery that manifest the fundamental but magical properties of crystal. An inventive approach to scale, cut and color creates a hyper-chunky, hyper-expressive, and hyper-versatile collection that invites the world to tap into their creativity with a sense of grandeur and play,” Lars elaborates.
Keep your eyes peeled for the unveiling of Collection II which is happening this month!
SPREADING THE SPARKLE
“The strategic vision to elevate our ‘Brand’s Centre of Gravity’ for Southeast Asia and India is split into four key components – enhance the relationship with local consumers, increase omnichannel setup in the region, execution of key local & global events and always accomplishing excellence when shaping our future,” says the custodian of the brand in this part of the world.
Malaysia is one of the key markets in his Southeast Asia and India portfolio and notwithstanding the challenges the region and business is facing, there’s still high growth opportunities taking into account how Swarovski has embraced e-commerce in recent months. Digitalisation is essential for business growth and continuity, more so during the pandemic and it’s a strategy that will most likely stick around post-pandemic.
“Going forward, Swarovski will increase omnichannel setup in the region and enhance customer experience across all channels.”
Besides focusing on the craftsmanship and magical precision of Collection I in the next few months, fans of the brand can look forward to the Swarovski’s Winter Wonderlab & Holiday. “It’s the most ambitious and magical undertaking yet – underlined by enchanted Holiday – complete with dancing figurines, feasts of gingerbread, unexpected forests. All under the vast starry night of a most unusual Christmas,” he shares.
Just the panacea we need to keep our spirits up this year!
And to wrap up the chat, Lars shares 3 ways he has overcome the challenges he faced in this pandemic.
‣ “The global pandemic, combined with our current transformation, have presented multifaceted challenges and a large amount of uncertainty with unpredictable developments. In such a situation where uncertainty is amplified, from my perspective, the importance of adaptability and resilient leadership has become more evident than ever. It is crucial that leaders show confidence and express confidence in their organisation, their teams and the direction the company has decided to take.”
‣ “Furthermore, the impact of the coronavirus crisis requires leaders to be fundamentally empathetic, compassionate and understanding of the wide-ranging, diverse and difficult emotions that people are experiencing in response to such crisis. Keeping the teams informed about the situation and progress via townhalls, having 1:1 discussions, a (virtual) “open door” policy and giving people a platform to share their thoughts, ideas and emotions have certainly helped to maintain a stable and positive work environment and climate.”
‣ “When it comes to our business focus, our focal points for this year centres around the following key pillars, which will allow us to take our brand and business to new heights within the region: CRM, Digitalisation & Local Relevance.”
To see the full throttle glamour and sparkle of Swarovski, click here.