How Luxury Retailers Can Deliver the In-Store Experience Online
Luxury and high-end fashion brands have always done a great job engaging each shopper individually by understanding the individual’s unique tastes and preferences. Great associates know what new merchandise certain shoppers want by observing what their previous shopping habits and behavior can tell them.
What those associates and brands know not to do is promote the most popular item or try to sell it just because it’s a new item. Luxury brand associates know that “most popular” can sometimes be a way to kill a sale since shoppers are increasingly defining their own individual personal brand by what they purchase, wear and own — not by what’s new or popular. You can see this being played out by many brands that make it possible to customize products — and we’ll likely see this emerge as a key theme at New York Fashion Week next week. Consumers want to be unique, not necessarily buyers of the “most popular” item.
The challenge, for luxury retailers especially, is how to apply this approach online. Unlike the in-store experience that bodes well for luxury brands, the digital store presents an environment where a curating sales associate doesn’t necessarily exist.
Historically, e-commerce has been driven by presenting the most popular products in merchandising widgets and in site search results. This flies in the face of how consumers and luxury customers shop. In an odd way, those “most popular” or overly large segment approaches are simply identifying what the shopper probably doesn’t want (especially when it is emblazoned with the “most popular” label).
Interestingly enough, all of the elements to engage shoppers at an individual level are actually easier to implement online than they are in person. Brands can observe what items shoppers click on, what they search for, what they add to their cart and what they purchase. More importantly, it allows brands to understand their preferences and intent in the patterns and correlations in all of their actions (brands, color, materials, and more).
The secrets are in keeping an individual profile for each shopper — much like a brand does between the walls of a brick-and-mortar store. This allows brands to better leverage customer information and respond in real time to new shopper actions and behaviors. In turn, this allows the most individually relevant products and merchandise to be shown in site search, in merchandising opportunities and even email.
When brands execute this individual-level relevance, they are more informed about their shoppers and their needs, which translates to a more customer-centric organization. This also allows brands to create more successful shopping experiences and increase brand loyalty, which translates to increased conversion rates and higher return traffic.
Recognizing a shopper, their product preferences and order history, from one visit to another is also important. It makes life easier for those with little time to spare (especially mobile shoppers). Anything that decreases friction leads to more revenue for retailers. Digitally savvy customers demand seamless interactions with retailers and a unified experience across browsing sessions and devices — at all times.
Unfortunately, a dismal 7 percent of top 100 brands remembered shoppers’ user names. And just 33 percent of retailers customized recommended items on the home page from a previous visit before a shopper logged into her account. Once a consumer signed in, 46 percent of merchants recommended products either on the home page, product pages or main account page that were based on prior browsing history. Additionally, 19.2 percent preserved a search history from the previous visit for quick reference, according to a recent report.
These personal touches — or lack thereof — tell shoppers whether or not brands remember them and if their e-commerce experiences are being tailored to their individual preferences and intent. It’s especially important to remember shoppers when they move to their mobile devices. The majority of consumers surveyed — 50.2 percent — expect a retailer to remember them and recognize their shopping habits when switching between devices. And the percentage jumps to 68.6 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds. Now that more than half of online retail transactions stem from mobile devices, retailers should be sure their personalization strategy factors in cross-device shopping behavior.
As New York Fashion Week looms next week, consumers will flock from the runway to online. Getting digital personalization right — from product recommendations to cross-channel strategies — is more critical than ever. What approach is your brand taking to step up its digital game?
Kurt Heinemann is the CMO of Reflektion. Prior to joining Reflektion, Heinemann was CMO for Marketwired/Sysomos where he relaunched the company’s brands, and led the successful turnaround of the lead generation and content strategy efforts for both brands. Previously Heinemann was the CMO for Monetate, where he helped double revenues for the cloud-based browser technology company.