How Luxury Brands Can Use Mobile to Enhance the In-store Experience


Scott Forshay | January 31, 2011

Scott Forshay, regional sales director at Digby, explains how brands can use mobile technology to enrich and compliment the in-store retail experience

First, you have to get your audience’s attention. Once you’ve done that, you have to present your message in a clear, logical fashion–the beginning, then middle, then the ending. You have to deliver the information the way people absorb it, a bit at a time, a layer at a time, and in the proper sequence. If you don’t get their attention first, nothing that follows will register. If you tell too much too soon, you’ll overload them and they’ll give up. If you confuse them, they’ll ignore the message altogether.

Paco Underhill – Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

Instantaneous access to information, location awareness, social connectedness, personalization, immediate accessibility – these characteristics form the inherent value proposition of mobile devices as natural extensions of ourselves. Our lives are inextricably tied to these extraordinarily powerful devices – our address book, phone directory, pictures of family and friends, our social network, our tastes and preferences, our mobile wallet, our identity. The less we as Luxury retail marketers limit these devices as simple inanimate objects designed to stand alone as a fourth channel for shoppers to search, browse, and buy our products on the go and the more we continue to creatively conceive imaginative use cases that these extensions of shoppers’ identities can solve to enhance the essence of the Luxury brand experience – the sensual, opulent, mysterious in-boutique experience – the more effectively we can cater to our legions of brand loyalists in a manner befitting their value and in a manner consistent with the mystique of the brand.

Mobile, as a medium and an “always-on” retail channel, has the unique ability to serve as a galvanizing force behind multi-channel unification, uniting online, boutique, and catalog channels in a highly targeted and personally relevant manner through a device that is always within arms reach. The question becomes, however, how can mobile solutions offer extended functional capabilities designed to enhance the shopper in-boutique experience and provide a deep level of engagement with the brand’s legions of loyalists? Additionally, how can we increase brand loyalty among those shoppers who historically choose from a wider portfolio of Luxury brands by providing a differentiated, utility-driven mobile experience in the store?

“ the brand must create a mobile-accentuated in-boutique experience without noise, clutter or poor timing and deliver a well-orchestrated augmentative series of events with the shopper at the forefront of functional consideration ”

With the often overwhelming proliferation of mobility-based solutions descending upon the marketplace, Luxury brands must be prudent in their selection of the vehicles employed to augment the in-boutique experience. Moreover, the brand must cognizant of the teachings of Underhill and create a mobile-accentuated in-boutique experience that is without noise and clutter and poor timing and deliver a well-orchestrated augmentative series of events with the shopper at the forefront of functional consideration. In her November 17th Fashion’s Collective article, entitled Establishing an Online / Offline Connection, Elizabeth Schofield effectively articulates the need for tight orchestration to deliver an augmentative in-boutique experience:

… brands can ensure that relevant campaigns have several touch points, all working in conjunction to convey a singular message. Interactive in-store elements, like Diesel’s fitting room kiosk that allowed customers to try on clothes and immediately post pictures of themselves to Facebook, getting instant feedback from their friends that potentially influenced purchase, or MaxMara stores recent in-store contest surrounding their iPhone Cube application, all help to connect online with offline … It all comes down to structuring internal communications to ensure brand initiatives are executed on various levels and that teams, from the in-store staff to the corporate marketers, are involved in brand activations.

With the importance of effective orchestration in mind, let’s view the sequences that make-up the shopper’s experience as a blueprint for the mobile-enhanced boutique, using the logic Underhill suggests:

The Entrance Sequence

“We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.”

Malcolm Gladwell

Few experiences in the retail world elicit the emotions of entering a Luxury boutique. It is akin to pulling back a veil of mystery that assuredly hides opulence, sensuality, attention to detail, craftsmanship, and heritage. Allowing shoppers the opportunity to initially breathe in the atmosphere without crowding is absolutely essential, so how and when can mobile be most effectively and unobtrusively engaged in the Entrance Sequence?

Doubtless sales staff will initially approach the shopper, welcoming and inquiring. Sales Associates are irreplaceable in their knowledge of product, brand heritage, and personal touch that are the core of the boutique experience, however mobile solutions can add more context and engagement opportunities beyond the spoken word. I would propose adding a simple question in initial dialogue as to whether the shopper has downloaded the brand’s mobile application for their smartphone or tablet. If so, invite the shopper to check-in to the boutique to receive loyalty rewards (if the brand offers such rewards), exclusive video content such as heritage, runway, or making of the collection, or to receive pre-release access to upcoming product. If the shopper has not downloaded the branded app, via device camera capability, the shopper can scan a QR code embedded in signage to take them to the appropriate app store to download while in the boutique to receive access to similar content, rewards, or exclusive access to product.

The Shopping Sequence

“Creating a successful and enduring luxury marque is about forging a deep emotional bond with the consumer. The luxury brand must aim to become a soulmate. When you have a one-to-one relationship, you don’t need to ‘brand’ yourself, you already exist in the mind and hopefully, heart of the other. You are unique to your client and your client is unique to you … Every luxury ‘brand’ should aim to become a new soulmate.”

Philippe Mihailovich

Blurring the lines between the true attraction of luxury brands – the opulence of the in-store experience – and the augmentative engagement capabilities possible with mobile rich applications is at the core of Mobile 2.0. Making it difficult to comprehend where one experience ends and another begins in a seamlessly interconnected clienteling effort is the most clear and present opportunity for mobile to make a positive impact on the luxury shopper’s experience with the brand.

Allowing shoppers the ability to scan product bar codes while shopping allows them to add items to their personal wish list within the mobile application – the curation of a mobile closet of sorts. This mobile closet can be extremely powerful before the shopper even arrives at the boutique. The shopper can assemble her closet within the brand’s app and forward the contents of the closet to the boutique nearest her, have her dressing room pre-picked and awaiting her arrival, and elicit a very personal greeting from store associates who are fully aware of her impending arrival. The in-app mobile closet also allows shoppers to share their prospective purchases on their social networks to elicit opinions and subject matter expertise from among their social network of like-minded Luxury enthusiasts to bring the powerful influence of social shopping to the in-boutique experience to confirm purchase decisions.

While on the topic of social shopping, much has been recently debated concerning the role, if any, of consumer product reviews on Luxury and Prestige brand e-Commerce sites. Regardless of which side a brand takes in the debate, if reviews or other forms of consumer-generated content are a component of your e-Marketing mix, the same scanning function referenced above can be leveraged to render such content in the boutique to provide an additional layer of objective insights and work to further instill shopper confidence to drive purchase decisions.

The Cash/Wrap Sequence

“Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”

Gucci Slogan

With all of the opulence and mystique and personal service inherent in the Entrance and Shopping sequences, where the Luxury shopper is seduced by the experience of the boutique and lavished by the the brand, the Cash/Wrap sequence – where the ultimate exchange of currency for goods commences and concludes – is historically the most awkward sequence in the Luxury retail experience. Underhill describes this dilemma perfectly:

… for all the glamorization and glorification of the 21st Century shopping experience, for all the art and science that have brought to bear by geniuses of commerce, nobody has found a way to make cash/wrap lovable … In theory, since it’s where the shopper is being separated from his or her dough, it should be where all the dazzle goes. Instead, it’s the dreariest part of the process. It’s also the source of most shopper anxiety … If the machine is badly designed, or poorly built, or misunderstood by its operator, here is where it shows.

Any mobile solution to the cash/wrap dilemma is only as good as its practitioner, but emerging technologies will ultimately (in the not-too-distant future) render the traditional stand-in-line-for-the-register approach prehistoric. For a current example of a retailer that has eased the cash/wrap process leveraging mobile technologies, we need look no further that the Apple Store. Nowhere in the store will you find a traditional register. Payments are accepted on Apple devices, product is wrapped while the transaction is authorized, and shoppers are out the door as expediently and efficiently as exists in the retail realm. In addition to the Apple Store model, emerging technologies in the area of Near-Field Communications (NFC) will soon allow for contactless payments, where shoppers simply wave their device near a reader module in the boutique, thus eliminating the need for for traditional monolithic point of sale systems as well as the lines and anxiety that accompany them.

“ Mobile 2.0 is predicated on leveraging the intimately personal, highly relevant, device extensions of shoppers’ lives to design solutions that galvanize all existing retail channel touch points. ”

Mobile as a channel for Luxury Retail (and Retail in general) represents far more opportunity than simply serving as a pared-down version of a retailer’s e-Commerce presence on a small screen. Mobile 2.0 is predicated on leveraging the intimately personal, highly relevant, device extensions of shoppers’ lives to design solutions that galvanize all existing retail channel touch points. From in-boutique to e-Commerce, from print advertising to print and digital catalog, mobile is unique as a channel in its ability to tie all touch points to a common medium and augment shoppers’ experiences with brands, regardless of how they prefer to engage with them. For Luxury and Prestige Retail, where the in-boutique experience is the essence of what makes brands luxurious and desired, the mobile medium and its ability to serve as an augmentative force in enhancing that experience should be at the center of any thoughtful multi-channel strategy.

This article has been published courtesy of where it first appeared here under the headline ‘A blueprint for the mobile-enhanced boutique’.