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Why Luxury Shoppers Need a Luxury Online Experience and How to Give It to Them

The in-person luxury shopping experience is unique and personal. In an increasingly digital age, can luxury brands deliver the same elevated customer experience online? Yes. Here's how.

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As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked its havoc on nearly every economic sector, many luxury brands pivoted to eCommerce for the first time in their histories. But for an industry that specializes in the in-store experience, replicating that exclusive feel in an online environment proved to be challenging. The big question was, how would a discerning luxury shopper that is used to shopping in stores adapt to an eCommerce shopping experience? 

Luxury Customers Demand a Luxury Experience

Luxury consumers expect highly personalized in-store experiences. These high-end purchases are more than mere transactions; they are emotional investments. Luxury brands sell more than products; they offer an identity. Because a luxury purchase is markedly different from a retail purchase, brands invest heavily in creating a buying experience that tells the brand’s story and creates an exclusive, customer-centric experience. Luxury store employees, then, create that experience by having deep product knowledge, anticipating customer needs and appreciating customer interests.

Shopping online is a radically different experience than browsing the Alexander McQueen store on Bond Street in London or Chanel’s Paris flagship location. A digital store lacks the tactile experience of being in a brand’s carefully designed environment. There are no expert sales associates, no opportunity to handle and examine a bag or skirt and no complimentary refreshment.

Luxury Brands Met Luxury Shopper Expectations

Most luxury brands succeeded in their digital conversions, and online luxury purchases increased throughout the crisis. By the end of 2020, luxury online sales totaled $57 billion, up from $38 billion in 2019. It is projected that online luxury eCommerce could represent up to 30 percent of the market by 2025. 

The luxury brands that survived the pandemic did so by meeting the demands of luxury eCommerce shoppers. These brands delivered creative and personalized online shopping experiences that were the next best thing to in-person shopping. Mostly, they survived by tapping into the eCommerce trends that are popular with their customer base.

Today’s luxury market is driven by the youth culture of Gen Z and younger Millennials. This new wave of young shoppers has a different set of values than the Gen X and older Millennials demographics they are replacing. In general, these younger shoppers do not carry mortgages, nor do they have children. What they do have is cash in hand that they are willing to spend on high-end products. 

For the most part, these consumers are highly educated and have high-paying jobs – earning between $100K-$250k annually. These so-called “HENRYs” (high-earners-not-rich-yet) often spend beyond their means, have high debt and meager savings. Most have never known a world without the internet or smart phones. 

Today’s Luxury Consumers Are Digitally Savvy

A recent study conducted by Google revealed interesting facts about today’s tech-savvy luxury consumers. On average, 100% of luxury shoppers connect to the internet using more than three connected devices (smartphone, tablet and laptops). 90% use the internet to research products, with search engines being their primary online resource. 

Surprisingly, after researching products online, most luxury shoppers will then go to a store to make a purchase. But no matter where or how they buy, shoppers spend on average $2500 on their luxury purchases.

How DTC Brands Can Give Luxury eCommerce Shoppers a High-End Experience

While many luxury purchases occur offline, luxury eCommerce represents a crucial way for brands to get their products in consumers’ sightlines. Since luxury consumers expect a unique experience, brands need to go the extra mile to meet and exceed their expectations.

Offer Elite Customer Service

Like all businesses, luxury brands need to offer an amazing customer experience. The luxury brand clientele is used to receiving high-level service, and they demand the same experience in the online environment. So it is important that brands follow all of the tenets of excellent eCommerce customer service, which includes:

  • Easy-to-navigate, intuitive websites
  • Hassle-free checkout process
  • Highly personalized experiences
  • Private, one-on-one online consultations with dedicated sales associates
  • Easy-to-understand return and exchange policies
  • After-sale support to ensure the experience was to the customer’s liking
  • Thank you follow-ups

Design On-brand, Visually Appealing Product Pages

The online environment cannot match the visceral feel of a high-end luxury store, but customers appreciate the convenience of a virtual buying experience. So, a brand’s website and product pages must be as visually exciting as a physical showroom. Merchants should present the products as accurately and as close to reality as possible. To help achieve a high-end look, photographs and artwork must be of the highest quality. 360-degree views of products and videos of the product in use can also dramatically enhance the visual experience.

Chanel proposal for luxury shoppers

Chanel has created a virtual runway and interactive online experience. Its site highlights its seasonal ready-to-wear collections as well as its couture.

Follow the Technology Trends

To keep pace with today’s luxury eCommerce shoppers, they must offer the same technology trends that customers expect from the online shopping experience. Some of the popular trends include:

Virtual reality showrooms

This fast-growing eCommerce trend gives customers a fully immersive and interactive online experience. They are digitally-simulated, 360 degree immersive spaces that provide 3D product displays with complete product information. In a virtual showroom environment, customers have full control over their navigation, just as they would in the real world.

Chatbots

Chatbots can act as virtual sales associates by providing information and answering questions in real time. They make brands more accessible to their customers and add valuable personalization to the customer experience. 

Buying guides

These guides can also stand in for a knowledgeable sales associate. Written or visual buying guides provide specific product information that will help customers make informed purchasing decisions like advice on eco-friendly cosmetics or how to pair winter styles. Buying guides should be easy and intuitive to read and navigate. A simple click should take customers to the information they need.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) technology is a dynamic new way brands can help customers connect with their products. Through AR, luxury brands can come close to replicating the in-store shopping experience. Customers can actually see how fashions or cosmetics look on them before they buy, with very realistic results. These AR techniques give customers a realistic experience and help them choose products that are right for them. 

Live streaming

This is another technology trend that can broaden a luxury brand’s reach, particularly in foreign markets. It utilizes social media platforms to present streamed real-time video content and enable purchases from the stream itself. Live streaming also helps brands effectively tap into trendy influence marketing and brand ambassadors to directly interact with consumers. 

The technology is huge in the Chinese luxury eCommerce market, generating $300 billion so far this year. By the end of 2021, live streaming will account for 11.7% of China’s total retail eCommerce sales. Tapping into that type of revenue potential can help western brands attract luxury eCommerce shoppers in the lucrative Asian digital marketplace.

The Future of DTC Luxury eCommerce

If anything, the pandemic forced the luxury DTC retail industry to embrace modern eCommerce trends and techniques that customers have come to expect. The future of luxury eCommerce now looks bright. By 2025, eCommerce will account for 30% of the luxury goods market. While competition grows fierce, brands that know their customers and follow the trends can thrive in the world of luxury eCommerce marketplace.

Scalefast knows luxury DTC retail eCommerce. In fact, we helped L’Oreal develop their popular Friends & Family store in just 90 days. Whether your brand is established or just getting started, talk to an eCommerce expert today to see how Scalefast can help take your store to the next level.

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