In this month’s Retail Insight, Sarah Friswell, CEO at Red Ant, the omni-channel clienteling platform that helps retailers Engage, Transact & Elevate, highlights six ways for retailers to meet luxury shoppers’ evolving expectations.
Luxury retail no longer means wrapping an item in elegant, branded packaging. It is being redefined by evolving customer expectations and influenced by escalating CX standards in specific regions of the world, such as the Middle East, where remarkable customer service is embedded in the culture.
Luxury retailers have always been ahead of the game in personalised customer experience – offering one-to-one service and personalised communications is intrinsic to their strategy to attract and retain customers. But the emergence of ‘new luxury retail’, with its engaged community of consumers, brings new attitudes, motivators and standards for luxury retail brands to meet – and the race is on for market share.
Luxury retail redefined
As e-commerce became more sophisticated and even the most heritage-bound luxury brands began to realise the value of allowing customers to shop anytime and anywhere, omni-channel services became the gateway to sales. By 2025, it’s predicted that 30 per cent of global luxury sales will be online, with luxury brands more accessible to consumers than ever before. New luxury shoppers are largely more socially aware digital natives with clear expectations for a modern, personalised service which they can access at their convenience.
Key drivers for ‘new luxury’ shoppers
With the rise of the more socially aware ‘conscious consumer’, retailers must ensure they chime with customers’ values. Social media is a key starting point as, according to Luxe, millennials and Gen Z will account for 70 per cent of the luxury market by 2025 who will be mainly finding or sharing their identity on social platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.
Today’s luxury customers expect more than an item which showcases their wealth. They seek more personal connections that reflect their values and promote their self-image.
Six ways for retailers to meet customers evolving expectations
As the shift in how luxury customers, their values and the way they prefer to shop continues, luxury retailers need to take steps to ensure they keep pace with their needs and get fully into the psyche of the luxury shopper to understand what it means to meet and exceed expectations for an outstanding luxury customer experience…
• Become active storytellers to build cultural credibility
To tap into this desire to be seen as authentic, tasteful and socially significant, luxury retailers need to consider what story their brand is telling, and how it relates to the target audience in supporting their own brand and how they present themselves to the world. Luxury brands need to examine their own cultural heritage and how it fits with today’s luxury ethos – it will play a big part in engaging the new luxury shopper. Self-expression/active storytelling should be at the heart of every engagement strategy.
• Understand your customers
Luxury retailers need to pay close attention to how customers present themselves and how their brand supports their personality. They must be prepared to tell an authentic story that relates to how customers see themselves – enhancing a personal brand with luxury goods that make them feel validated.
• Speak the luxury language
Supporting the self-image of luxury customers – existing and aspiring – both socially and as part of an overall experience should be at the heart of every engagement strategy. From a tech perspective, that means making sure store associates have the information they need to tell the right kind of story, via clienteling tools which provide information on the full product range, the customer’s profile and preferences, intelligence on where they have engaged with the brand before and full access to social and marketing campaigns to reinforce and inform every interaction, so that the customer feels that they are fully understood.
• Adopt an omni-channel approach
Providing an authentic insight into the brand’s cultural stance depends on integrating essential data right across the business to ensure there is a rich and readily accessible catalogue of both product and company information. This means adopting a retail technology ecosystem driven by a platform that delivers an omni-channel service. This will also give access to smart recommendations, online reviews, social media content, videos and blogs that provide social proof and expert insight.
• Become more inclusive and sustainable
Proving to the new conscious consumer that your brand is ethical and actively uses sustainable manufacturing processes takes more than simply adding a green label to your products. Luxury customers – particularly those aged 16-30 – are keenly aware of which brands simply pay lip service to the concept without taking action. To appeal to lucrative younger customers, retailers must give convenient access to product information wherever and whenever they choose in an honest way which will keep pace with their needs.
• Embrace clienteling for the ‘human touch’
Store associates must have the information they need to tell the right kind of story, via clienteling tools which provide customer intelligence, product data, full access to social and marketing campaigns to reinforce and inform every interaction, so that the customer feels that they are fully understood. This should include information on ethical business practices and sustainability, credentials for each product and full details of the company’s policy for sustainability and responsible manufacturing. With clienteling the store associate can deliver a more personal service, handholding a customer through the browsing and buying process and building brand loyalty. Store associates can enable online ordering in-store, upsell appropriate products and offer exclusive communications through in-depth profiling.
Taking control of the luxury retail agenda
Luxury retailers need to acknowledge that their customers have cross-channel shopping patterns, governed by their real-time wants and needs. Giving them a personal service that meets their high standards depends on having a strategy for bridging the gap between online and offline – one which reflects the retail craft behind truly exceptional experiences.
Most importantly, it’s essential in these uncertain economic times that luxury retailers connect their online presence with their in-store services to take full advantage of the spending power of their digitally-driven, ‘always on’ up and coming customers. Consistent and highly personalised one-to-one interactions both in-store and via technology channels are paramount to delivering the calibre of shopping journey that luxury shoppers will want to repeat.