Imagine the perfect store experience. You walk into a store, and are greeted by name. The salesperson you have been interacting with, knowing your size, preferences and personal style, selects a choice of items for you to try on. You have a question about something, the answer is found immediately. You want your items delivered to your home so you don’t have to carry your purchases around with you, it’s seamlessly arranged. In luxury, the personal touch matters.
Which is why, when considering the online experience, the same standard applies. While online sales only account for around 20 percent of revenues, around 80 to 90 percent of offline sales are influenced by online behaviour. Now once again, picture in your mind the online experience of a luxury brand. Do the two experiences match?
The reality is, the experience of a physical store can be hard to replicate online and actually, brands shouldn’t try to replicate it but offer something different.
In-store, every detail has been meticulously thought of, the window displays, the packaging, the interior design, in many cases, it’s even the scent. The in-store experience is an immersion in the multisensory: the sounds, textures, smells, these experiences stay in the minds of consumers because they’re playing with more than one sense.
Online, you’re missing smell, taste, touch (haptics touchscreens just aren't reality yet). You’re experiencing websites and products in 2D. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on creating a memorable luxury shopping experience online.
It’s not about recreating that in-store experience – it’s more about creating a frictionless, one-to-one digital experience that is relevant and valuable to the customer.
In other words, it’s about taking the best parts of the brick-and-mortar experience and translating them into personalised digital experiences.
While omnichannel and customer-centric discussions have been around for years, many brands are still lagging behind. Here are my key takeaways for how luxury brands can make their online experiences more personal.
The first thing to consider is how to ensure your messaging to your customer is truly personalised. To do this, brands must learn to segment their audiences in a seamless manner.
When luxury shoppers browse a website, they are often treated in the same way as any other online customer. A long-time customer of the brand receives the same message as a young consumer making their first purchase. Expectations about the product, message and imagery may be vastly different for each customer. And if you serve up the same content to each of them, you may end up alienating one of these groups and pigeonholing your brand into a small niche.
“Customer or visitor data will provide you with insight into what customers are browsing, buying, adding to carts, and what kind of offers they are engaging with,” said Faycal Bouhdadi, Country Manager at Insider, a growth management platform that DLG collaborates with.
“Information is at our fingertips, and you can use it in order to provide a rich and meaningful experience to your (unknown) visitors,” he added.
For certain, the customer experience is the highest priority in a brick-and-mortar store. Beyond the physical space, store associates are trained to provide the highest quality customer service, cross-sell and upsell products through the personal touch. The same needs to apply online.
When thinking about the online customer experience, many brands still think desktop first. They think that users are accessing their websites with a strong internet connection, on a desktop with the highest quality resolution for optimal viewing. But the reality is, brands need to think about how all their customers are accessing their website.
Take for instance, Facebook, which wanted to improve its users’ mobile experience. The company tasked their engineers with working on reduced bandwidth internet connections, the average around 3G. By doing this, it forced its engineers to really optimise their experience for mobile. And it is this kind of initiative that brands need to consider if you want to improve customer experience.
The concept of personas are not new, but from what I have seen, our experience with brands do not often reflect those personas. Most brands don’t even know if the personas they have so carefully defined, have ever visited their website or bought their products.
Most brands focus on quick wins. And if you have limited budgets and need to prioritise, it’s a tough challenge and it takes time. You need people to design the customer journey, to keep tweaking it, and to tailor the messages you’re sending to each person. And if you don’t have a growth management platform like Insider, you won’t be able to unify your experience, test your personas and send the right messages to the right person.
“Through Insider’s platform, you can create a unified customer profile, making use of data gathered from websites, emails, CRMs and personas to provide completely customised content,” said Bouhdadi.
“Things like AI-powered predictive segmentation, based on past customer actions, will automatically show relevant products to appropriate groups,” he added. “Undoubtedly, defining a target audience can result in delivering unique experiences and, consequently, higher return on investment. Adapted to meet your customers’ needs, the content makes them feel as if they are receiving personal attention. The same as in a store.”
Indeed, some brands do marketing segmentation well. But it’s not often something that is repeated on their homepage experience. If your brand doesn’t customise your homepage to that visitor’s interest and affinity, it’s a big missed opportunity.
It is 2021 and despite COVID19 having accelerated the digital transformation, many brands did not find other means of communicating with their customers.
Brands who want to reach younger consumers like millennials or Gen Z will need to move fast and shift their Customer Relationship Management investments from email to apps like WhatsApp and Webpush which have higher open rates.
Lastly, it goes without saying that you need to align your marketing goals with your business goals. Everyone wants a beautiful website, but when you ask about what you want those websites to achieve, you often hear a deafening silence. But shouldn’t a brand connect the dots between its marketing and business teams?
Marketing teams need to align their objectives with overall business objectives. To this day, marketing objectives are still vanity metrics like reducing the bounce rate, increasing time on site and most of the time, there appears to be no correlation between session duration and revenue directly. It is far better to focus on how to get a customer to buy something on your website rather than have a visitor spend 20 to 30 minutes browsing your website and buy nothing.
When brands are able to create online experiences for their customers that are more personalised and seamless, it makes a customer feel more valued and seen by the brand, as their experience is personal to them. And if I’m honest, a customer should expect nothing less. Because luxury is always personal. Even in the digital world.
This article originally appeared as an interview on Insider. It has been edited for style on Luxury Society.