Luxury retail’s differentiator has always been world-class customer service and in-store experiences that truly resonate. But today, luxury brands can no longer rest solely on that. They need to adapt in order to keep pace with the enumerate new technologies that promise to solve the ever-evolving customer journey.
Luxury online experiences start with data; Data that can be harnessed and used in a positive way that improves the relevance and consistency of an engagement with a brand, whether offline, online or combined across different channels. Through the collection of inferred in-session browsing data, purchase data, and data explicitly collected through surveys, luxury brands can understand the needs and wants of individuals and personalize the experience accordingly.
Intelligent use of data underpins everything brands should be doing online today and personalization means luxury ecommerce teams can meet the demands of their expectant customers better than ever before.
In this blog, we’ll outline the ways in which personalization technology is impacting the luxury retail ecommerce sector and how brands are adapting to these changes.
1 - Removing the boundaries between the online and in-store experience
Customers of high-end products are looking for exclusivity. In fact, a customer's attachment to a luxury brand has traditionally been tied to the personal connection and experience.
Shopping in-store is still a prevalent channel for luxury retailers as it enables customers to see and feel the quality of the products, and to interact with store assistants; this experience brings with it the confidence to spend at a higher price point.
Shopping online is often focused on convenience and variety but, with personalization, the exclusive in-store experience can also start to be provided online, therefore combining the best elements of both worlds.
Combining these into a complementary experience was long considered a daunting task. However, with the right technology, brands can now import offline (in-store) data and target the same individuals on site with experiences and information that will really add to the luxury experience. Similarly, other data sources such as email marketing engagement data can add another dimension to the understanding and targeting of customers.
2 - Adapting to new buying habits
Some luxury brands were for a long time apprehensive about having an ecommerce presence, but the opportunity that digital affords is now too large not to fully embrace it. In 2018 alone, ecommerce sales in the luxury sector increased by 22%. Additionally, McKinsey have reported that as much as 80% of luxury sales are influenced by digital, be that through social media or brand-owned websites.
Product discovery has always been an essential part of the online user journey and with the plethora of brands and products available, being able to deliver a seamless and relevant luxury experience is paramount. For example, mobile product discovery, made possible by AI, understands behavioral data and patterns and displays the most relevant products for each visitor.
3 - Catering to new consumers
The luxury industry can no longer ignore the influence of millennials and gen Z customers. In 2018, this group made 32% of high-end purchases. Millennials are also expected to account for nearly 50% of the market by 2025. Since this demographic favors digital, with 60% making a purchase online, ensuring the customer journey is engaging and easy to navigate is a priority.
By remembering previous purchases, retailers can recommend the appropriate size and price point for millennial customers. Product listing pages can also be ordered appropriately, moving products that are lower than their average price to the bottom of the scroll. In this way, the in-store sales assistant experience can be emulated.
4 - Inspiring visitors with exclusive trends, styles and designers
Exclusivity is the operative word when it comes to luxury. Customers and visitors don’t want to know that 100s or even 1000s of other people have bought the product they may be considering. This is in complete contrast to the fast-fashion world where understanding that a product is popular can be the assurance that a customer needs to convert in that same session before their attention switches elsewhere to the next campaign, flash sale or influencer-driven trend.
Inspiration and exclusivity are factors commonly associated with luxury ecommerce personalization and brands can boost interest and conversion by focusing on experiences that do both. For example, customers want to know that they are wearing items from the latest Tom Ford collection - let them know by deploying timely and bespoke messaging on those relevant and exclusive products.
5- Increasing conversion rates online
McKinsey estimates that online sales in the luxury sector will triple by 2025, representing €74 billion in revenue worldwide. Already today, luxury brands are innovating to increase conversion rates and average order values.
Luxury brands can utilize proven personalization tactics, such as social proof, in order to acquire customers and maintain their luxury status without discounting; by badging certain products as trending in fashion capitals ahead of global fashion weeks, retailers can confirm a customer’s decision to purchase a high-end item.
6 - Boosting customer retention
Every year, luxury brands lose half of their customers. As a result, retention strategies are essential and personalization can play a huge role in keeping the luxury customer beyond the first purchase.
With a large proportion of customers only ever purchasing once, customer loyalty can increase significantly after the second purchase, therefore, deploying experiences using the data points collected in a customer’s first visit can be the kernels of information required to get them back. For example, personalized recommendations based on their browsing intent can increase the likelihood of moving from first-to-second purchase - boosting customer lifetime value.
7 - To create a unique relationship between the brand and customer
Not all luxury customers are alike - they have different profiles and buying habits. Ceanne Fernandes-Wong, Marketing Director and EMEA Vice President of Vestiaire Collective, says: "We are constantly looking for more personal and deeper conversations with our customers to ensure we evolve to always meet their needs."
For luxury, especially, brands need to be able to segment and understand (often on a 1:1 basis) the preferences, intent and profiles of their visitors. This is difficult given the millions of people landing on site each year but with the right data and experiences delivered at the right time and in the right place, luxury brands have the ability to develop their relationship with their customers and build loyalty over time.
The challenge for any luxury brand that is focused on personalizing the ecommerce experience is bringing the in-store feeling and attention online. Data is key to any strategy that aims to elevate the customer experience to differentiate the brand, collections and products that are so unique and exclusive.
Luxury brands need to inspire their visitors through great content, imagery, collections and products - but those components also need to be highly relevant to the individual on the other side of the glass or screen. Only through the creation of appropriate strategies that dovetail from that can brands deliver luxury ecommerce experiences.