The e-commerce sector has undergone remarkable transformations in recent years, driven by the increasing importance of digital technologies and shifts in consumer behavior. COVID-19, for instance, prompted a significant inclination towards online shopping. Therefore, in response to the growing dominance of e-commerce, brands have been driven to innovate their business models and progressively adopt omnichannel strategies. However, this progressive shift was not meeting the crucial customer demands for firsthand product appraisal through visual and tactile engagement. At the same time, it was creating a less personal experience, which could potentially harm real human connections. In contrast, traditional brick-and-mortar establishments adeptly cater to both dimensions. Consequently, the notion of ‘phygital’ experiences has emerged as an imperative for retailers dedicated to crafting seamless, integrated customer journeys.
With the digital boom disrupting traditional retail paradigms, Sunglass Hut, the world leader in specialty sunglasses and part of the Italian-based Luxottica Group, recognized the imperative to adapt to the new trend asking the Alta Scuola Politecnica team to develop a strategy that could seamlessly merge the attributes of both virtual and physical realms, fulfilling the customers’ desires for an encompassing user experiences.
Hence, exploiting the potential of cutting-edge digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence, and the widespread use of social media, emerged from the trend forecasting conducted in the first phase of the process the team focused on developing new interaction opportunities, such as personalization and immersivity. This vision was shaped by the changing preferences of consumers, moving away from simple transactions toward more immersive and enriching shopping experiences, as revealed by the team’s in-depth analysis. Indeed, this phase first involved the examination of the current landscape before the implementation of any strategic changes (analysis of the brand’s positioning, core values, and a comprehensive study of competitors through which the team recognized the need for an enhanced online customer experience with a strong community-oriented dimension) to then shift towards a multifaceted endeavor, leading to the development of detailed customer personas and their unique needs, which were then synthesized into a comprehensive driver matrix. To achieve this, a variety of design tools and methodologies were employed, including interviews, storytelling diaries, and trend forecasting. Ultimately, these efforts culminated in the formulation of the new strategy which focuses on improving the customer journey in two distinct ways, setting the brand apart from competitors.
The first implementation, Sunny Stylist, consists of a virtual stylist service that aims to radically innovate the way people interact and navigate within an e-commerce website, providing a highly personalized experience through the integration of a conversational AI based on Large Language Model which, through textual input, dynamically generates a in real-time custom assortment of products, according to what was asked to the application.
The second one, House of Sun, builds its foundation on the significant changes in how brands and consumers relate to each other. Indeed, this connection now goes beyond just buying a product, involving a complex system of values and emotions intrinsic to the brand’s identity. The House of Sun aims to offer, upon registration as a part of the brand community, a series of additional elements to the Sunglass Hut website, such as the implementation of a sunglass exchange service, the organization of online and in-person events and workshops, and a selection of exclusive content to be enjoyed while browsing the website, aimed at both enriching the shopping experience and engaging the customer in the stages following the purchase itself. The House of Sun embodies a comprehensive strategy that resonates with the growing emphasis on community-centric brand strategies, aiming to expand the actual community program of the brand.
Undertaking a comprehensive dissection of the process, the report goes beyond the chronological delineation of each step involved and explores the reasons behind why particular solutions were being considered. Therefore, a pronounced emphasis is directed toward the scrutiny of the methodological underpinnings that lead to the formulation and evolution of the proposal. Hence, situated within the context of Alta Scuola Politecnica, it becomes imperative to underscore the project’s departure from a rigorously engineering-centric modus operandi: indeed, rather than solely concentrating on creating a working prototype, the project aimed at exploration and future-oriented innovation. This involved a systematic exploration of a wide range of solutions and the cultivation of a perspective that seamlessly integrated emerging trends with the rich history of Sunglass Hut’s brand. This approach resonates with the project’s inherently heuristic orientation, further underscoring its exploratory and innovative character.