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GUEST COMMENT Why the luxury retail market needs to take ecommerce seriously

Sophisticated technology has enabled retailers to deliver personalised experiences

When you enter into the sumptuous surroundings of the Harrods Salon de Parfums, you’ll find yourself sinking into the plush carpet, being warmly greeted by a scent specialist who introduces you to some of the world’s rarest and finest smells, and all this with a glass of champagne in hand.

This is a place you want to stay in not just spend money in. We’ve seen that luxury shopping has made its mark by being as much about the intricate details of the in-store experience as the purchase itself. That focus on intimate services and premium experiences has meant that so far, luxury retailers have done very well without generally making significant investments in the digital and ecommerce front. After all, it’s been difficult to replicate luxury brands’ USPs through a desktop or mobile site.

Replicating the luxury USP

Efforts to move luxury retail into innovative digital shopping have sometimes struggled with maintaining the quality of experience. Luxury retail traditionally takes time: time to create and time to understand. It is about scarcity and exclusivity, the individual touch and beautiful details. In fact, quite the opposite of all the things that digitisation can offer: speed, ready availability and huge choice.

It’s a challenge to replicate this high-end experience with clicks on a page. It’s got to be about a lot more than ‘Amazon-esque’ recommendations and offers based on browsing history. However, increasingly sophisticated technology is beginning to allow brands to bring a personalised experience to luxury shoppers wherever they are.

One of our luxury retail customers, a global fashion brand initially founded in London, recognises that technology is central to enhancing the customer experience, both online and in store. Staff in-store have tablets that can provide information quickly about stock availability, products and orders. Online, the website offers bespoke and personalised gift recommendations. They even offer the option of creating a [custom/made to order] bag of your dreams and the ability to watch their latest runway collection for inspiration. One of the biggest luxuries today is time. Smart luxury retailers appreciate this and offer shopping directly from their Instagram page. Combine all of these elements – along with a seamless experience of switching from one channel to another – and you’ve got a genuinely unified retail experience.

Taking advantage of mobile

It’s no surprise to see the popularity of mobile continue to grow; the recent Commerce Cloud Shopping Index reported that in the UK two-thirds of all traffic is coming from mobile and it accounts for nearly half of all orders placed. Luxury shoppers are no different and are actually more likely now to buy on mobile than any other apparel shoppers.

One of the most significant reasons why today’s shoppers are choosing online and, more recently, mobile is down to convenience, and arguably more niche personalisation. However, to match the convenience of mobile shopping with the high standards of luxury shopping, retailers need to get creative and deliver a full experience within the limits of that 5″ screen. Curated apps that feature exclusive content and member-only offers and events can create a real sense of community. That same luxury retailer I mentioned above introduced an app to download emojis and create pixelated artwork using your own photographs. This not only gives customers and fans a way to share their passion and interaction with them, but it also creates opportunities for brand amplification and a sense of tribe marketing.

With mobile shopping on the rise, positioning an app as a lifestyle platform is a smart move. By using data in an intelligent way, retailers can replicate an intimate, personalised experience that offers customers tailored style advice, ambassador interviews or access to exclusive experiences or installations in store. In the past year, we’ve seen retailers open pop-up bars, host dinners and even hold sleepovers. All of this accelerates brand loyalty and extends the relationship the customer has with your brand.

Perhaps there is much to learn from the usability of fast fashion brands like or Missguided. They are bringing the brand experience to a mobile platform in an authentic way, which for them is a smooth swift and social network style. There is no reason the luxury shopper would not appreciate the same experience.

The future is now

The next tech developments for luxury retail are already starting to emerge. It’s not hard to imagine how smart home hubs like Amazon’s Alexa, which are just beginning to gain real popularity with consumers, could provide loyal fashionistas with the ’”See Now Buy Now” option from the latest runway shows. For that reason, it is essential for retailers to get started on their digital journeys today to be ready for the next wave of innovation tomorrow.

Inevitably there are no simple solutions or single answers to how to serve the modern luxury shopper, except to be ready and keep pace with their demands. Ecommerce and mobile are right now, the essential elements that are binding together the shopping experience. Opportunity knocks for the brands that are prepared to deep dive into the data they have available to them, relentlessly focus on the user experience and blend online and offline worlds across channels.

Author: Jamie Merrick, director, industry strategy and insights at Salesforce Commerce Cloud

Image credit: Fotolia

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