Modern consumers expect a consistent shopping experience across all channels. They want relevant, interactive and targeted experiences when, where, and how they choose. For luxury Multichannel retailers this means offering customers a variety of ways to buy: In-store (bricks & mortar), eCommerce, mobile, social, call centre (pre-sale and post-sale) customer service.
In the world of "luxury", brand experience and perception are more important than price. Today's luxury shoppers want superior craftsmanship, beautiful packaging and seamless delivery. They also expect a noticeable difference in customer experience, both online and in-store. This shift from "bricks-and-mortar" to online - means more channels - and more devices across which this high-quality service must be communicated. So, how do you provide high-end showrooms and professional advice through a screen?
Today's modern, connected consumers are doing a lot of things in a lot of places. Their path to purchase is anything but linear. So, whilst multichannel is full of opportunity, this transition is not without its challenges.
Many Prestige Luxury Brands 'Go Wrong' Online
Many prestige brands including PRADA, Rolex, Chanel, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana are geared towards the high end of the market and many offer an impeccable in-store experience that sets them apart from the high-street.
However, many premium brands are still uneasy about embracing online, as they see it as a threat to exclusivity. This exclusivity is something that is hard to replicate online, and in many instances causes luxury brands to ‘get it wrong’ when it comes to eCommerce.
Avoiding best practice conventions and placing a priority on visual appeal over functionality often leads to poor usability.
Many well-known luxury retailers create eCommerce sites with minimal ‘brand-led’ design, which may indeed look amazing, but causes confusion with mysterious navigation, poor user experience (UX), poor loading times, hidden eCommerce… or even worse no eCommerce functionality at all!
So, Which Luxury Retailers are Getting Multichannel Right and Why?
Personalisation & The Personal Shopper
So, how do you successfully convey luxury online?
It’s more understated than stunning design. Instead retailers should focus on emulating their in-store customer service and personalisation online: Balancing visual design, strong usability and brand values - whether they're price, or the ultimate luxury experience across all channels.
If you are to provide customers with a true, tailored Multichannel experience. These brand values and personalised experience need to be backed up easily accessible human customer service online and within the call centre.
Example: Net-a-Porter - Premier Service
Net-a-Porter offers one of the best customer experiences within the luxury sector. Their customer service, product guidance on size and fit, and fabulous curated content in, ‘The Edit’ are some ways they convey luxury online (see below right). Delivering topical content that’s inspiring on every page makes the site ‘stickier’, easier to browse and reinforces the 'look and feel’ associated with their brand.
If you live in London, Net-a-Porter’s 'Premier Service' delivers your order the very same day. Everything arrives beautifully wrapped in their gift boxes. This adds that special touch you expect with luxury goods.
In addition, they have personal shoppers and style advisors available 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
Bricks & Mortar Stores Should be a Shrine to Luxury
Many successful Luxury Retailers invest heavily in giving their flagship stores. The quality of the fixtures and furnishings tend to be a lot more expensive than that of the high-street.
For Luxury Retailers, interior design should be exquisite with meticulous attention-to-detail. The high-quality craftsmanship should permeate from the products to the store itself. All helping to create a memorable shopping experience.
Example: Burberry - Connecting Digital with Bricks & Mortar
In 2012, Burberry renovated their flagship store on London's Regent Street.
Rather than making the digital journey separate from the in-store experience. The emphasis was on integrating their digital technology with their premium 1920s store.
All the salespeople use iPads that show the customer purchase history and preferences. This empowers sales assistants to provide a more personalised shopping experience.
Mirrors double as audio-visual displays that show footage from run-way shows.
Within their fitting rooms these screens show specific product information. For example; a bag’s stitching detail or how a skirt was worn on the catwalk.
Microchips are attached before products leave manufacturing to help with inventory tracking and management.
Customers are encouraged to pay using portable checkout systems.
Luxury shopping will always need a destination where a customer can physically touch and feel their products. High-end retailers that are a success consider the 'experiential' needs of the customer. But also how to use online knowledge and data to help staff deliver a better customer experience in store.
Click & Collect
A few years ago Click & Collect wasn’t a huge priority for retailers. Now, for retailers to keep pace with the competition they need to think about delivery to where their customers are, not just to where they live.
A recent survey by eConsultancy found that in 2013, 63% of consumers used this service at least once. It’s also a huge hit for high street retailers – for example – Click & Collect makes up 86% of Halford’s sales.
With the percentage of sales delivered through Click & Collect rising year on year, it’s clear that Click & Collect is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’ within Omnichannel retail.
Example: Harvey Nichols - Click & Try
Burberry led with way as one of the first Luxury Omnichannel Retailers to offer Click & Collect. Other Luxury Retailers that are embracing the trend include Harvey Nichols. They offer a myriad of delivery services: Standard, Express, Click & Collect along with a new concept, “Click & Try”.
“Click & Try” is a free, time-saving service which allows you to reserve a product online and then try it on in store. When your chosen item/s are ready, one of their Style Advisors calls you to come in for a personal appointment at their Click & Collect Suite. When you’re there your fashion advisor will also have a range of other products for you to browse.
Exclusivity & The Importance of Stock Accuracy
Today’s demanding consumers care about accurate stock availability. Particularly in luxury shopping where stock by its very nature is exclusive.
With stock held across many channels, in multiple stores it’s vital to get this right. With a diverse target market and product ranging aimed at the shopper who can afford to spend say £750, to limited editions that cost thousands of pounds. There may only be 2 in stock for the entire season, and as the products become rarer, presenting unavailable stock could be disastrous for your brand’s reputation.
Whilst it’s obvious that retailers should aim for an accurate reflection of their inventory. For luxury brands it’s crucial.
In addition, it’s important to provide delivery options to suit the customer, not the retailer – click and collect – split deliveries – next day (and today) delivery – pre-order – foreign deliveries – order tracking – multiple delivery addresses, the list goes on…
Example: Fortnum & Mason - POS
Fortnum & Mason is a quintessential British Brand, trading for over 300 years from their store in Piccadilly, London. In recent years they have adapted to become multi-channel, with a multi-national eCommerce website, catalogue, call centre, new stores overseas and a B2B element to their business. They are known the world over for the quality of their products and their exceptional customer service.
More than POS, it’s ‘Point of Service’
Fortnum & Mason have a tight integration between their POS and eCommerce platform. This provides accurate stock data across all stores, sales channels and distribution centres. Giving shop assistants every opportunity to provide excellent customer service using the Point-of-Service solution. They are able to see a order histories in one system. Ensuring they have accurate, real-time information and understand the total value of each customer.
Fortnum & Mason do a wonderful job of making a wide selection of delivery options available to the customer. UK Standard Delivery, Named Day Delivery, Next day Delivery, Saturday Delivery, Sunday Delivery and a Local Delivery Service - for freshly made food, five-star sandwiches and other daily essentials right to your front door!
The art of a premier service is not to promise what you can't deliver. So, Fortnum & Mason turn off options within their delivery matrix depending on weather in Truro.
Also Fortnum & Mason have a brilliant checkout with the option to split deliveries to multiple addresses. This is pretty much unheard of in the luxury sector.
Their Click & Collect services allow you to order your gifts online and collect them in their flagship store, allowing customers to shop without queues or delays. And rather than sending valued customers to the basement sorting office, orders can be collected from a dedicated "Customer Collection" point on their first floor.
Example: Selfridges - Delivery Options
Selfridges’ eCommerce site balances visual design, strong navigation and tone of voice. The only potential criticism is that some may not think the ‘look’ isn't luxurious enough. I suggest a more editorial feel, such as Burberry, Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton. However, Selfridges do a good job of making it clear at every step which delivery options are available. They also have a free returns policy.
Content Driven Commerce
Successful luxury retailers understand that content and commerce must intertwine to deliver business results and help to deliver a friction-free customer experience.
MR PORTER, Marc Jacobs and Burberry are considered to be leaders in the luxury end of the market. Offering a more editorial feel with inspirational content, excellent customer service and fulfilment options.
Example: MR PORTER, The Journal
Pure-play e-tailer, MR PORTER have reimagined the luxury eCommerce experience for men in the form of their weekly online magazine, ‘The Journal’. Focusing solely on editorial content and features that integrate content and commerce to inspire, educate and entertain.
MR PORTER often use well-known contributors that bring industry gravitas and achieve their aim to become a trusted destination for men’s style online. All their articles backlink to relevant products on their eCommerce site. Unlike many other luxury brands.
These unique, interesting articles that are ‘on trend’ and on message, help brands like MR PORTER build trust, gain traffic and encourage sales.
Example: Burberry, ‘Art of The Trench’
Burberry launched a website, ‘Art of the Trench’ which shows everyday people wearing trench coats. The brand invited photographers, trench coat owners and brand ambassadors to participate by sending in photos. The best of which were added to the site. The site also offers a history of the Burberry trench coat through the decades.
This combination of curated content and commerce increased customer engagement and has helped to maintain the global expansion the brand has achieved.
For more example, download the full report, "Luxury Retail in an Online World".
Mobile for “Low Touch Luxury”
Today, an average of 15% of all searches globally for luxury brand terms come from mobile devices. Completely trumping early predictions that digital platforms would not impinge on the high-touch, in-store sales experience of luxury consumers.
However, the more affluent the luxury consumer is, the more likely they are to own a smart mobile device.
This is particularly true of emerging “young affluents”, who rely on mobiles for research. Convenience and independence from sales assistants have become the new hallmarks of “low touch luxury”.
As these stats show, Omnichannel now extends out to mobile commerce and is no longer optional, but a ‘must have’. The mobile channel presents an opportunity to remain competitive and engage with consumers. Wherever they are.
Nevertheless, many prestige, luxury brands have a drop- off in eCommerce functionality across mobile and tablet. It was surprisingly hard to find good examples of luxury experiences across mobile. Feel free to write in if you think you've got a better example.
Example: Diane Von Furstenberg
Diane Von Furstenberg recently redesigned their eCommerce site to ensure it was responsive across all devices including desktop, tablet and mobile.
Their product pages work particularly well, with excellent imagery and detail that conveys the quality of products on offer. The homepage and checkout is clean and simple, with a guest and account option, and easy to follow despite being on a small screen.
It becomes a technology problem to solve.
Online presents an obvious opportunity for luxury brands to improve their customer experience.
Luxury Retailers need a tightly integrated solution that can improve visibility across all channels. Be it stock, product and customer information. Secure in the knowledge that they can offer delivery options and keep their promises.
Implementing more advanced eCommerce systems that empower marketers to serve personalised content and commerce. Relevent offers. Use online data instore etc. Ultimately, providing the tailored, customer-centric experience today's modern consumers expect...(Treat your customers like a princess – they actually might be one.)
Free Report: Luxury Retail in an Online World
In our recent report, "Luxury Retail in an Online World". We identified 100 luxury retailers in the UK. And scored each against key criteria for a ‘luxurious’ online experience. If you're curious about which luxury retailers hit the top of our list simply fill in the form below to download the full report.