Buyers of luxury goods are highly discerning; they expect a superior, pleasurable, high-end experience that matches the price tag.

That’s why luxury retailers have to differentiate themselves with extremely high levels of service, going above and beyond the average shopping trip to meet the specific needs and tastes of each customer.

It gets even more challenging to replicate the same top-end, retail store experience online. In the digital world, shoppers are left without the ability to physically interact with the products themselves or the ever-present, white glove treatment of experienced assistants to provide expert advice and ease people to a satisfactory purchase.

There are many ways in which the luxury feel of an in-store visit can be replicated online. A good starting point is to take elements of luxury store design, product display, and branding that work well in luxury bricks-and-mortar stores and transfer them into a superior website.

The site design needs to be uncluttered, showcasing individual products to best effect, rather than cramming lots of items onto the pages. High quality product photography and a great supporting narrative is a must, with video demos incorporated where appropriate.

From there, there are multiple tactics in which combining big data, artificial intelligence, and retail expertise can create a frictionless, luxury online journey for shoppers. Here are a few of the most effective:

Recreate the personal touch with AI and machine learning 

One of the key challenges when creating a luxury experience online is replicating the feel of an attentive, in-store personal shopper that gets to know what customers are looking for and shows them the most relevant products. To address this, luxury retailers can use the power of big data and machine learning to analyse shoppers’ likes, dislikes, and online behaviour and then to automatically trigger the most relevant, individualised product recommendations.

Personalisation platforms do this by building a deep understanding of every product in an online store and every visitor that interacts with it. They are able to hone in on each shopper’s online activity – what brought them to the site, what they browse and engage with – and run these data signals through powerful self-learning algorithms to predict which products individuals are most likely to be interested in. The more customer journeys that are analysed, the better the technology gets at showing people the most relevant products.

Importantly, this is not just about making recommendations based on a customer’s past purchases – which often serves to irritate shoppers by showing items they were interested in before. Customers’ tastes evolve and so should the recommendations. The most effective approaches to personalisation are focused on suggesting relevant products in real-time – based on what a shopper is currently doing on the site.

Integrate user generated content to provide authenticity and reassurance

When splashing out on expensive luxury goods, shoppers are more likely to make a purchase if they are reassured by their peers that they’re making the right choice.

This is where User Generated Content (UGC) – such as reviews and authentic photos of products being used by real customers – can help. Research suggests that nearly one-in-three online shoppers (32 percent) engages with this kind of user content and 55 percent of those who have made a purchase reveal they have done so.

Importantly, 77% of online shoppers say their purchase decisions are more influenced by authentic photos from customers than professional photos.

So it’s important to integrate relevant, high quality, UGC throughout the online shopping journey. It can help build trust, validation, and ultimately encourage sales.

Nurture the customer throughout the decision journey

In our experience of working with thousands of online retailers, customers typically visit a website five times before making a purchase. For more involved purchases such as luxury goods, it could well be more.

So there’s a need to nurture customers throughout a potentially long decision-making journey, bringing them back a number of times to browse and ponder over relevant products until they’re really sure of their choice. In every visit, their experience should reflect how well you’ve come to know and appreciate them.

Social media can play an important role here. For example, by analysing visitors’ online behaviour – what pages they lingered on longest, the searches they performed, etc – it’s possible to create highly personalised, automatically triggered retargeting campaigns through Facebook or Instagram. Customers can be targeted with product ads showing similar or related items to those they’ve shown interest in for example, or shown the top- trending real-time, best sellers in the category they were looking at.

A similar technique can be used to lure back indecisive customers who put products in their baskets, but never completed their purchase. An abandoned cart is a strong indicator of purchase intent, so if customers can be brought back through powerful, relevant retargeting there’s a high chance of closing a sale.

Add value by up and cross-selling

In a luxury store, knowledgeable assistants add value – and potentially increase the average spend on a purchase – by advising when there’s a newer model or an upgraded version of the item that customers are looking at. They can also introduce customers to just the right complementary products or accessories to go with their main purchase.

In an online environment it’s harder to do this, but it’s still possible. Personalisation technology can be configured to show the most relevant alternatives and complementary items using on-site recommendations and pop-ups. An effective way of showcasing a broad range of alternatives and complementary goods is when a shopper is using the on-site ‘product search’ facility. Leverage the keywords used within search to identify and recommend similar items

Alternatively, the perfect range of accessories or complementary items can be highlighted just before the checkout stage.

Ultimately, forward- thinking, luxury retailers understand that continued digital innovation is vital to their success. Those luxury brands that use the smartest available technology to recreate the best elements of a bricks and mortar retail experience online can expect a bright future. 

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