LVMH at Vivatech

PARIS — Vivatech opened Wednesday, marking the return of large, in-person events in Paris after last year’s cancellation of the show.

Visitors streamed into the vast trade show hall, while Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook patched in remotely — interviewed by advertising veteran Maurice Levy — and French President Emmanuel Macron lauded the growth of the country’s tech scene while making the case for regulating giant technology companies.

Data and artificial intelligence figured highly in discussions, with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton kicking off the day announcing a broad partnership with Google Cloud aimed at accelerating the development of cloud-based AI solutions to scale up the luxury group’s brands.

LVMH executives taking to the show’s stages and conference rooms included LVMH group managing director Toni Belloni and Frédéric Arnault, CEO of Tag Heuer. Happy to meet up again in person, many exchanges turned to people’s experiences during the lockdown periods.

“When the pandemic hit, we had to close stores and there was a great acceleration — certain projects that were in the pipeline for the next months or years, we found a way to do them in several weeks,” said Belloni, speaking to WWD on the sidelines of the conference.

“We opened new websites in regions where we didn’t have them, we incorporated new languages, drew up and offered new payment services that were faster and more agile, as well as faster deliveries for a more fluid experience,” he recalled.

“One very important thing happened, and that is we found ourselves with an army of client advisers in our stores that had nothing to do,” added the executive, describing how brands set up little studios in stores, and offered mini fashion shows, with models, or through a Zoom call helped them find products.

“As you can imagine, our client relations were reinforced,” he said. When it comes to omnichannel experiences, the executive stressed efforts being made to better present products online.

“It’s no longer a simple photo of the front and the back, they’re worn, they’re animated — we nearly have the touch and feel of the product,” he said. “We want the digital world to rise as much as the physical world in order to create this integrated experience.

One of the key areas the group will be working on with Google Cloud is sharpening and tailoring the offer of its brands to client, he explained.

“With our partnership with Google, we are kind of scratching the surface,” he said.

“We said we need to accelerate even more, let’s draw on a partnership — while we can put dozens of people on the topic, at Mountain View they have thousands of engineers that are working with a lot of industries, with a lot of companies, in a lot of markets,” said Belloni.

“They have know-how, and intelligence that can help us a lot, it’s just the beginning,” he added.

A centralized group is working with various brands that are well advanced on certain subjects to draw up use cases to show how to improve time, reliability or how to increase the relevance of an offer. Such test cases will grow from around 20 to more than 100 in the coming years, predicted the executive.

Not everything will be shared — brands can be protective of a successful development they have devised, and there are some cases that involve a “personal stamp of creativity that belongs to a brand,” explained Belloni.

But anonymous data could be shared, to help determine which of two clients, for example, purchasing the same product might be the type of customer who tends to splash out a lot on other luxury products.

“You can imagine LVMH one day, perhaps, could have the best data base — if it’s well-managed — of the luxury universe,” he said, noting the range of labels that include Sephora to wines and spirits brands.

“We will have a data link — if it’s well built — that will allow us to see certain characteristics that identify someone as a high potential client,” he explained.

Asked about what could be learned from the Chinese market, the executive noted that a considerable amount of sales are happening through livestreamed events. An early adopter of technology, the country is fast-moving, he remarked.

“Applications that we are still studying, well, China is already well advanced with them — they have had a hand in these subjects before anyone else,” noted Belloni.

Demand began picking up in the country a year ago already, and continues to do so, he added.

“You have to have local knowledge, a local cultural connection to understand what is going on, because things are happening at great speed — looking at this from Paris, it’s not always easy to understand,” he said.

The executive said he had a Zoom meeting that morning with LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, the group’s digital expert in Paris and its digital expert in China.

“I can tell you something — what was true in the fourth quarter of 2020, is becoming less true today,” said Belloni.