MILIBOO goes Phygital in Paris

MILIBOO goes Phygital in Paris

MILIBOO is a French brand that sells contemporary and “easy living” furnitures online since 2007. Their website features 2,500 items that help the brand to reach around € 15M  in sales in 2015, mainly on the French Market. Miliboo went public last year and raised € 5 M to finance its development on the very competitive furniture market.

At the end of the year 2014, Miliboo has decided to open its first brick and mortar store to allow its clients to see, feel and try some of the products before purchasing them. This Sqm 600 showroom/store is located in the heart of Paris where urban and young customers (the prime target of Miliboo) are prominent. Back in late 2014, the opening of the store was seen as a test. 18 months later, I assume that the test is positive. Miliboo has even recently announced a second store in Lyon (the second largest city in France) by the end of the year 2016.

The Parisian store has been positioned as a connected one, a truly phygital store. The new retail graal according the experts. Let’s head for a guided tour.

  • The two-story store is located in an ancient and cosy building. Unfortunately, the entrance is quite narrow and so is the storefront. People in the street cannot really figure out the size of the store from the  outside. Moreover, I think that it would have been wise to express the brand positioning directly on the storefront to stimulate curiosity from people passing by.

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  • At first sight, the store looks like any other furniture one. The products are displayed in thematic areas and we can find a lot of Scandinavian style furnitures like everywhere else.

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  • The digital dimension of the store is embodied by several screens displayed throughout the store.

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  • At the entrance, visitors are invited to create their personal store card. It will help them to get the most out of the screens by swiping the card through the machines. If you don’t fancy a card, you can download the Miliboo app instead.

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  • The digital kiosks allow you to browse the Miliboo website with some interesting extra features. For example, you can see if the items you are interested in are available in the store. Another screen is there to encourage you to personalize your product via changing color patterns and fixtures.
  • Some screens are also installed to give you some extra details about the furnitures displayed in the area in front of you.

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  • Thanks to QR codes, you can also get some more information about the products.

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  • Upon request, Miliboo provides their customers with 3D virtual renderings of their future interior. Thanks to VR glasses, you can enjoy seeing how your flat would look like with some Miliboo furnitures in there. Valuable service indeed.

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  • A “connected sofa” is showcased in the store too. It is a Miliboo innovation that makes it easy to charge your personal digital devices (smartphone, tablets) by placing them on the armrest or change TV channels with a built-in universal remote control. This prototype has helped Miliboo to be under the radar of the media.

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  • The bottom line of this embedded experience in a phygital store leaves me with mixed feelings.
    • A physical store, connected or not, is a valuable asset for an online company like Miliboo. No doubt about it. People have the opportunity to discover both the brand and the quality of its product range. When it comes to expensive furnitures, it makes absolutely sense to help customers facilitate their choice. Plus, it does make sense economically. I would bet that the store should be making around € 1,5 M a year, which would already account for 10% of the brand total turnover.
    • The phygital dimension of the store undoubtedly brings an interesting added value. It delivers extra information about the products and truly helps visitors in their purchasing process.
    • Anyway, I cannot say that the store provides customers with a superior retail experience. And here is the rub. You can display all the screens you want, it doesn’t make your store fun and easy to shop in. In  my  opinion, a phygital store is not a store with digital devices and services. It’s a store where experience and customer relationships are made seamlessly easier thanks to technology.
    • To my mind, the main point is that the store lacks a strong and clear retail concept that would have been able to engage visitors in a frictionless and superior customer journey. I suggest you take look at what Miliboo competitor Made.com (one of the global leading brand in online design furniture market) has done in its London showroom to see what I am talking about. Made.com has created a truly immersive and experiential store where personalization service and product quality are brilliantly showcased. See the 3 following pictures to get it right.

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  • Let’s bet that Miliboo will take advantage of this 18-month Parisian experience to optimize the “phygital”  concept of the second store to come. A retail issue worth following.