As soon as customers walk into a store, high-end brands activate an end-to-end luxury shopping experience, from providing individualized attention through knowledgeable associates to showcasing the craftsmanship and design of products.
But with the shift to digital now a necessity, how can luxury brands convey their unique identity and make shoppers feel part of an exclusive community online? Luxury customers no doubt expect the same tailored service in their online shopping experience that they would get in-store, and brands need to go the extra mile to meet and exceed their expectations.
Navigating Uncertainty by Focusing on the Luxury Online Shopping Experience
Even before the pandemic, a McKinsey & Co. and Business of Fashion report revealed that 57% of fashion executives expected conditions for the luxury goods industry to be worse in 2020 than the previous year.
Unfortunately, there are no signs of things turning around as COVID-19 looms in the background. The updated report found that global revenue will contract by –35% to –39% this year (though we can look forward to a growth of 1% to 4% in 2021).
To remain successful under these conditions, luxury brands need to reimagine what the online shopping experience could look like beyond just keeping customers safe and satisfied. In an industry built on brand loyalty, now is the time to find a way to build an experience that stands out and keeps customers coming back.
As more shoppers move to digital channels, these are the top five things that they’re expecting from luxury brands and retailers:
1. Easy-to-Find Across Channels
At the luxury price point, research is key, and shoppers begin that process online. At least half of the website traffic to luxury brands comes from an online search. Product information is important to luxury customers, who will do due diligence before ultimately purchasing at a touchpoint that’s most relevant for them.
For luxury brands, this means being at the top of search results. However, channels beyond search and your website are also important. According to eMarketer, 20.5% of young shoppers research luxury brands and trends on social media and through influencers. Shoppers expect a seamless experience across these digital touchpoints as well.
According to the Boston Group, “more than 85% of millennials and even 75% of baby boomers and older people who buy luxury brands are ready for so-called omnichannel interactions.” Moreover, the latest data from Adobe Digital Insights showed that 74% of luxury customers use multiple channels when shopping. So, brands need to make it easy for shoppers to find the product they’re looking for and all the relevant details, whether they’re coming from search, social, or directly onsite.
2. Look and Feel
Once customers are on a brand’s website, they expect products to be presented as close to reality as possible. Google and Ipsos found that 57% to 69% of luxury buyers want to physically see and touch the product before making a purchase.
To achieve this online, survey respondents suggested the use of video and highly visual websites. In fact, one luxury buyer put it perfectly:
“Catch my eye more, convince me of the quality. Show more 360-degree views, show me both inside and outside views [of handbags]. Make it easier to view the size of the item.”
In addition to style and contextual product images, shoppers also look for details on materials used as well as sizing and measurement — anything that can help them visualize luxury goods as if they’re shopping in-store.
This is also a great opportunity to provide aspirational imagery. Luxury customers appreciate the help of relevant image displays that they can shop instantly, showcasing trending products, new arrivals, campaign editorials, and more.
3. Authenticity and Transparency
High-end shoppers expect the online experience to be as authentic, transparent, and trustworthy as buying in-store. There’s a risk involved in purchasing luxury goods online, so “customers want to get it just right, and not leave it to chance.”
Rakuten, citing eMarketer, revealed that 35% of luxury shoppers are motivated to buy premium products online as long as they can “get exactly what they want.” Therefore, luxury brands have to be transparent about their products and inventory to gain shoppers’ confidence and trust.
Additional information that can help build trust includes authenticity documentation, detailed shipping and order-tracking information, care and repair policies, as well as return and exchange policies.
4. Superior Customer Service
At the core of buying premium products online is exceptional customer service. In-store, associates make the shopping experience tailored and personal. Replicating that online, luxury customers expect convenience and choice, amplified by personalization.
On the basic level, luxury shoppers want brand websites to load easily, have responsive designs that work on any device they use, and provide clear navigation. Customers should also be able to find products easily whether they choose to search visually or via text search.
Considering the value of a potential purchase, luxury customers expect brands to provide multiple contact methods, including live chat, in case they have questions. Since in-store associates provide one-on-one engagement for luxury customers, from suggesting products and style combinations to packaging sold items for gifting, shoppers will expect a similar level of personal attention online. Brands can deliver this service by using intelligent recommendations that customize the online shopping experience. Based on their individual browsing history, customers can explore hyper-relevant products throughout their journey.
Adobe found that 80% of shoppers would buy from retailers that offer personalized experiences and that 63% would increase their spending if a brand delivers more personalized shopping experiences.
5. Brand Values
Luxury buyers come from different demographics, and the younger ones are increasingly demanding brands to have a positive impact on the world around them.
According to GlobalWebIndex, at least 34% of shoppers want clear values or points of view from luxury brands. Related expectations include using locally-sourced materials and providing clear supply chain information (78%).
These “reflect the growing pressure on companies inside and outside of the luxury category to lay bare their corporate social responsibility credentials.” Your website and social channels provide ideal real estate for communicating not just where you stand, but also the actions you’re taking on matters like sustainability, fair trade, animal welfare, and labor issues.
Shaping the Luxury Online Shopping Experience to Align With Customer Expectations
Fundamentally, luxury shoppers want a balance between exclusivity and accessibility in their online shopping experience. To provide both, and everything in between, luxury brands need to truly understand their customers.
One way to know your customers at a granular level is to gather data on search queries and which products they’re engaging with the most. Automatically tagging products by their attributes can help luxury brands understand what customers like, manage inventory, ensure in-demand items are available, and tailor the online shopping experience to their preferences.
In an uncertain and competitive future, using deeper customer insights to underpin personalized service, omnichannel experiences, and renewed dedication to values and authenticity, can help brands continue to be relevant and deliver value to both legacy and next-generation luxury shoppers.