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For too long, luxury retail has relied heavily on bricks and mortar and missed the opportunities afforded by online, according to Sandhya Shyam, Head of Customer Marketing at Attraqt. Through savvy online marketing and easy eCommerce journeys, high-end retailers can form an emotional and personal connection with customers to create a shopping journey that is fit for the digital era.

Sandhya Shyam, head of customer marketing at Attraqt

According to Bain & Company’s Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study (Fall-Winter 2018), the luxury market grew by five per cent in 2018 to an estimated €1.2 trillion globally. Expectations are that it has grown again in 2019, and the luxury buyer journey continues to become more complex thanks to market fragmentation, changing influences and diminished customer loyalty.

Younger and more digitally savvy shoppers have new expectations, which means that the path to purchase has fundamentally changed. To reach new demographics, luxury retailers and brands are having to up their game significantly.

Attraqt commissioned research by Savanta of 3,000 UK, France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) luxury and lifestyle retail shoppers, which had some interesting findings on shopper behaviour, expectations and key purchasing influences.

Brick and mortar still has an important role to play, with 40 per cent of those surveyed starting their shopper journey in-store. Thirty-nine per cent are now using mobiles and, of those, 29 per cent use a retailer’s or brand’s app.

What the findings do suggest is that high-end retailers need to form an emotional and personal connection with customers to create a shopping journey that is fit for the digital era. Curated content, enhancing the search and navigation process, right through to the packaging, the delivery and re-engagement, are all ways that retailers and brands can create frictionless and memorable experiences for customers.

Of course, none of this can be achieved without data solutions and leading technology to connect the dots. The research identified five typical stages in the luxury consumer’s omnichannel buying process where retailers and brands can take action using their digital channels to nurture the customer to purchase.

The biggest influence on a purchasing decision is online reviews, topping the list of factors at 29 per cent. Celebrity trends and Instagram were also significant influences (28 and 24 per cent, respectively), while other respondents cited online magazines (19 per cent), Fashion Weeks and print magazines such as Vogue (both scoring 18 per cent). It’s clear that brands and retailers should demonstrate they are on-trend and fashion-forward, but inspiration must be complemented by the ability to discover and choose with ease.

Personalisation should be considered at every step of the customer journey, but it is especially important during the product discovery process. When asked what luxury shoppers regard as essential from their shopping experience, 25 per cent cited being able to easily find new products as the most important factor. The ideal scenario is for retailers and brands to combine data-led search (also image and voice-led) and merchandising capabilities to optimise product discovery. Smart search gives the retailer a distinct advantage by revealing customer intent while product matching and product ranking.

Shoppers need specific information when they enter the product consideration phase, especially when they’re using their mobile. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of shoppers reported that websites and apps force them to search through too many menus and tabs, and 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 at 22 per cent and text at 21 per cent). If information can’t be found quickly, the customer will feel frustrated, triggering basket abandonment and souring customer loyalty.

The perfect checkout experience is as smooth and friction-free as possible to avoid basket abandonment. Minimising the number of checkout screens and streamlining the process for payment and address data capture, so that it can be completed quickly and retained for future use if necessary, is essential.

Post-purchase assurance
The quality of post-purchase customer experience is key in the luxury sector. If brands and retailers want to nurture lasting customer loyalty and lifetime value, they need to keep on delivering to a high standard beyond the buy button. The focus here should be on first-class fulfilment and returns, speedy, stress-fee delivery, and taking the opportunity to reassure the consumer about their purchase.

To remain distinct, high-end retailers must nurture emotional and personal connections with luxury shoppers based on values, trust and inspiration by building exclusive communities and delivering rich and personalised content relevant to each and every shopper, factoring in individual intent, geographic and cultural factors.

It’s no small task, but it is essential to secure brand loyalty which, in the digital era, is increasingly fragile. Nurture the quality of each and every micro-experience with shoppers and remember that often, in such a highly competitive space, the last brand moment can make or break a relationship. This is especially true with luxury goods, where brand values and trust mean everything.

Sandhya heads up Customer Marketing at Attraqt, an organisation which delivers eCommerce technology solutions to more than 300 global brands and retailers. She spent several years providing communications and marketing advice to consumer lifestyle and entertainment brands across Asia-Pacific and the UK. For almost a decade, Sandhya has worked with technology businesses to help articulate their value to retail and lifestyle brands in a fast-evolving, omnichannel environment.