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Tapping into tech solutions, Gucci enhances in-store accessibility

August 7, 2023

CEO and founder of inclusion consultancy Tilting the Lens, and member of the Gucci Global Equity Board, Sinéad Burke is at the forefront of the brand's latest socially-minded effort. Image credit: Gucci Disability activist Sinéad Burke fronts the brand's equitable effort. Image credit: Gucci


Italian fashion house Gucci is expanding a standing partnership rooted in equity for all.

The brand is setting its sights on elevated levels of inclusion, bringing live, human-to-human interpretation service Aira — the app offers assistance to blind and visually impaired individuals — to new retail locations across the United States and Canada. Alongside the update, Gucci is documenting the importance of making the in-store experience engaging to all types of consumers in light of Disability Pride Month.

“What’s unique about Gucci’s partnership with Aira is it provides accessibility in luxury retail spaces, which has traditionally been overlooked,” said Apryl Beverly, author of Shots Fired: How to Write Copy That Pierces Hearts and Opens Wallets and president of BAAB Writing and Marketing Services, Atlanta.

“The advanced technology enables blind and low-vision people to independently experience Gucci’s environment and products, not just view ads or e-commerce,” Ms. Beverly said. “This level of in-person inclusivity is rare in the luxury and fashion world.

“Gucci making their physical stores and events accessible demonstrates a real commitment beyond just marketing, and is an exciting move that puts values into practice in their core business.”

Ms. Beverly is not affiliated with Gucci, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Importance of inclusion
Using the consumer’s smartphone for visuals, Aira provides shoppers with a description of their surroundings, as well as the products and people that may also inhabit the boutique during a given in-store session.

Free of charge, the app will come to more places across the nation, plus Canada, after the company learns more about consumer needs when it comes to accessibility in retail. After a pilot rollout of Aira in Gucci’s Beverly Hills and Miami Bal Harbour shops, the brand reveals that new North American installations are on the docket, starting with an additional 22 U.S. stores.

For now, clients are able to use Aira where available, as blind and low-vision customers are guided through physical spaces, allowing them to enjoy a bricks-and-mortar shopping session a bit more easily.

Starring Gucci Global Equity Board member Sinéad Burke, an asset showcases examples of Aira's services

Upon entering a participating Gucci location, Aira is able to begin assisting on-demand. With this support, and the participation of on-site client advisors, low-vision and blind shoppers are given the chance to independently navigate Gucci.

Sinéad Burke, founder of CEO of accessibility consultancy Tilting the Lens and member of the Global Equity Board at Gucci, was charged with testing during the program's pilot stages. Using her experience and expertise, Ms. Burke’s involvement in the project exemplifies the value of making room for diversity as various audiences are considered.

Thanks in large part to Ms. Burke's contributions, Gucci staffers are all getting upskilled in this area, in order to ensure that every customer is catered, regardless of physical limitations.

When pulling up the app, Aira agents assist those who are blind or low-visioned, describing products, guiding them to what they say they like and navigating them around the store. Image credit: Gucci Accessible via mobile device, Aira agents describe products, working in tandem with store associates to guide the user toward preferred styles. Image credit: Gucci

Altogether, the effort builds on the luxury fashion giant’s current conscious commitments (see story), specifically those that focus on bolstering representation worldwide (see story).

“Embracing diversity and accessibility puts luxury brands in a great position to authentically connect with more consumers who want to see themselves represented,” Ms. Beverly said.

“It also amplifies a clear message that the brand is progressive and in touch with societal values, qualities that are vital for luxury brands today,” she said. “Studies continue to show that inclusive marketing boosts consumer appeal, while marketing that excludes large demographics is outdated and often turns off many contemporary luxury consumers.

“An inclusive approach simply makes good business sense in our current landscape.”

Luxury commits
As consumers continually express a desire for conscious products and services, a greater volume of luxury brands are finding new ways to oblige. As a result, high-end automakers are fronting wheelchair development (see story), fashion conglomerates are making commitments to inclusion (see story) and publishers are transcribing their words into Braille (see story), offering just a few examples of the storytelling measures that surround these instances.

“Inclusivity is smart marketing for luxury brands because it expands their audience, refreshes their image, and it lets all of their consumers feel seen, heard, recognized and valued,” Ms. Beverly said.

Gucci's 2022 Equilibrium Impact Report outlines tangible actions taken towards change

Despite the leaps and bounds made lately, many suggest that there is still a long way to go, as blind spots largely due to a lack of representation in decision-making spaces persist. However, leaders should remain aware of existing, and invest in developing, solutions, both of which can work to greatly boost accessibility.

“For in-store experiences, brands can implement accommodations, like what Gucci is doing with Aira, and train staff on providing respectful, equitable service to all,” BAAB Writing and Marketing Services's Ms. Beverly said.

“They can also design, modify or retrofit spaces to improve physical accessibility, and share values publicly,” she said. “For products, they should consider needs and make adaptive clothing, and adjustable or alternative options with universal designs that benefit everyone.

“The luxury industry still has work to do but partnerships like Gucci x Aira are a fantastic step, and if brands share accessibility values publicly, consult with experts and communities, set goals to drive progress and keep inclusivity top-of-mind across all touchpoints, positive change will continue to be brought.”