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Guerlain: customer experience in the historic store on Paris’ Champs Elysées

Guerlain just opened a pop-up store on the Champs-Elysées avenue (number 68), next to its historic store. I’ll deal with the pop-up store in a separate post but for the time being let’s see what’s up in the “old” store.

The store was re-designed completely by Andrée Putman a few years ago and offers a unique customer experience that deserves a detailed marketing analysis.
The ground floor is very classical and cannot be considered very special. The experience is actually upstairs.
A spiral staircase will bring you to the first floor and the tone will be set after the first steps. The walls are covered with tiny bright golden tiles which are also embedded in the last steps of the wooden staircase. When you arrive on the first floor, you are welcomed by a shiny golden atmosphere which is created by the tiny tiles.

This almost unreal atmosphere is an invitation to the further discovery of the store and, first of all, to the discovery of all Guerlain’s creations which are exhibited around a chandelier going through the ceiling of the ground floor.
Music stands with black fans are lined up in front of the windows to the Champs Elysees avenue.  The fans are scented with perfume which is a distinguished and original way to test a fragrance. In front of each must stand the visitor will find the perfume the fans are scented with as well as a transparent box containing the main “component” of the fragrance (a rose,  a vanilla bean, …).
On the other side of the room, four little niches in the wall represent the sensitive universe of a particular fragrance. Open the transparent door and just can get into this universe and have your visual and olfactory senses stimulated. This is once again a superb invention to translate an olfactory stimulus into a visual stimulus.
In the next room Guerlain has set up what they called a “perfume organ” the purpose of which was to refill the clients’ perfume bottles. It is now out of order because of recurrent technical problems but yet very interesting to notice. It is a very technical element of the decor and it certainly aims at contrasting the very traditional brand image (somewhat “old style”) with a more modern and futurist touch.
While exiting this room and going to the lift to go to the spa, you can catch a glimpse of the room where demanding clients meet with the Guerlain teams when they want a made-to-measure fragrance.

One floor below, the doors of the spa open up. The building is a registered historic monument and the construction team as well as the designer had to cope with white marble walls and a tapestry.

The Guerlain spa provides 10 treatment rooms (one of them with view on the Champs Elysees): 8 rooms are brand new, and two have been recreated (per request of the Historic Monument authorities) as to depict the original design of the 30’s.
When creating the spa Guerlain thought about how to create a customer experience, and more specifically how to make the transition from the outside world to the spa. The foot bath was used to symbolize this transition and ritualized as to be the first step of any treatment provided. It is also interesting to notice that all treatment rooms are different and that it is made on purpose. As part of the customer experience Guerlain wanted to provide its customers with different atmospheres within the Champs Elysees spa but also between the different spas around the world. Although heterogeneous in the design, the spas are however aimed at providing the same quality. This search for top notch quality is made possible by in-house training which Guerlain claims to be a competitive advantage (and a barrier to entry).
Although good financial results could be reached during the first 6 months of the year (contrasting with a downturn the years before), the Guerlain spa remains a cost center rather than a profit center. It aims primarily at reinforcing the positioning of Guerlain in the luxury sector.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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