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Shoppers captivated by luxury brands, but let down by the digital experience: study

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A new independent study of 3,000 luxury and lifestyle retail shoppers in the UK, France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reveals that, for luxury shoppers, stores still play an important role – with 40% starting their shopper journey there, however 39% are now using mobiles and 29% are using a retailers or brands app (29%).

A reflection of how times are changing, the research also found that looking at celebrity trends (21%) and Instagram (17%) weren’t too far behind. 

The study, commissioned by global ecommerce search, merchandising and personalisation provider, Attraqt, and carried out by market research provider Savanta also focussed on shopper behaviour, expectations, frustrations and key purchasing influences and lifts the curtain on the growing role of digital channels in the luxury consumer’s buying journey. 

What luxury shoppers regard as essential from their shopping experience, finds the report, is being able to easily find new products was cited as the most important factor (25%) of shoppers.

Discovering new style trends, having the ability to virtually ‘try on’ new style trends and receiving expert product and trend advice exceeding what is available on the website, all secured 15% – tying for second place.

Detailed knowledge of their previous shopping habits came in third place – with 14%. Advice from a stylist or personal shopper was essential to eight% of those questioned. 

Online reviews topped the list of biggest influencers on luxury purchases, with 29% of the vote. Celebrity trends came in second place with 28%. A brands own content online and visual merchandising in a store both secured 26% apiece – tying for third place. Instagram narrowly missed out on being in the top three influencers – with 24%. 

Other big influencers cited included online magazines (19%), Fashion Week and print magazines such as Vogue (both scoring 18%). Just 10% of respondents listed bloggers as their biggest influencer.  

In instances where luxury shoppers don’t know what they want to purchase, the report asked shoppers which features most help to narrow down their choices to inspire discovery and guide your purchase? In first place are social media feeds viewed directly on the brand website e.g. Instagram – with 35%.

Trending product recommendations came in second place with 34% and quick and direct access to favourite product categories on a home page came in third place with 32%.  Just over a quarter (26%) found editorial / feature stories based on collections or trends on the brands website helpful. 

Recommended content from a brand ambassadors scored 24% and image-led recommendations e.g. Shop the Look, appealed to 23%. 

When online browsing for luxury goods, the biggest frustrations for these shoppers are too many lists and menus when looking at sites and apps. More than a fifth of luxury shoppers said that they can’t access the intricate product detail and imagery they need to convert to a sale (video and still images – 22% and text – 21%). The next biggest frustration was irrelevant search results in the onsite search bar (16%) followed by impersonal or irrelevant recommendations (13%). 

Gen Z and Millennials

A closer look at the GenZ/Millennial luxury shopper reveals that 65% are more likely to start their buying journey online – 10% more than the general population (65% versus 55% of general population). 

Social media plays an important role in attracting this age group to start their shopping journey – 17% more likely than the general population (53% versus 36% of general population). 48% would also like a social media feed embedded on a brand’s website. 

47% of this age group switch between on and offline during their buying journey (versus 45% of the general population). 91% of this group are willing to shop around before hitting the buy button meaning that achieving brand loyalty is increasingly difficult amongst these shoppers. Social validation is significantly important to these shoppers – 50% of GenZ cited Instagram as the single biggest influence on their luxury purchases. 

“The luxury shopper journey is rapidly evolving,” says Jon Stephens, Director of Customer Experience at Attraqt.“By 2025 market predictions are that Millennials and Generation Z will account for a huge 45% of the global personal luxury goods sector. With that in mind, plus a fragmented market, disjointed customer journeys and diminished loyalty, it’s clear from our research that luxury brands need to think of digital channels as more than just a source of brand inspiration.  The idea that the luxury retailer should recognise their regular customers and understand what they like or want, hasn’t gone. Brand loyalty today shouldn’t therefore just be what a shopper feels about the brand, but also how the brand treats them at every moment. Luxury brands must act now to ensure that they evolve product inspiration and discovery into something a bit less stuffy, and much more immersive, personal and frictionless across all channels.”

He continues: “The importance of orchestrating a luxury shopping journey fit for the digital era – connecting the customer with relevant products and creating a series of ‘wow’ experiences to nurture a customer to a sale – has never been more important. In the luxury market this means removing the data silos in their organisation to ensure they influence every touchpoint – from the curated editorial content to the search and navigation process right through to the packaging of the delivery and re-engagement.”

Stephen concludes: “It’s critical that high end retailers forge an emotional and personal connection with luxury shoppers based on values, trust and inspiration, but on its own this won’t make them distinctive or competitive. Emotional connections with a brand need to be complemented by a series of logical and seamless discovery to purchase micro-experiences. Failure to understand unique shopper preferences and behaviours at each of these moments leads to lost sales opportunities, something that will only get worse as the younger buying segment grows.”  

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