Meanwhile, with VIP treatment expected in-store, getting the balance right between subtle and salesy on an ecommerce site can be tricky.
So, how can retailers recreate the luxury experience online, while ensuring customers buy?
Here are five ways, with some nice examples to back it up.
Creating a sense of urgency
Without staff to shmooze shopppers in-store, creating a sense of urgency online can be difficult – especially when luxury brands don’t have sales or a unique tone of voice to persuade.
An effective online tactic is telling customers if an item is selling out.
Fendi is one brand that has recently started to do this.
On its product pages, it subtly tells you if an item has limited stock, giving a clever nudge to buy sooner rather than later.
Similarly, it uses pop-ups to inform customers how many others are currently viewing an item.
While it’s a popular tactic used by travel sites, I’ve not come across many fashion brands doing it before, especially not a high-end brand like Fendi.
Another way for luxury retailers to encourage customers to buy online is to replicate the service they’d receive in-store.
Or even better, to offer something they wouldn’t.
Dior is an example of a brand that cleverly uses personalisation to make shoppers feel special.
Its made-to-order range of Dior So Real sunglasses are fully customizable, allowing customers to pick and choose the colour, lens-type and even engraving to suit their own unique taste.
By handing over this level of control, it enables customers to feel like they are buying something a little more unique than just a carbon-copy of what everyone else is wearing.
Offering online exclusivity
It’s an obvious tactic on the high street, but many luxury retailers resist sales and discounts for fear of devaluing their brand.
Ralph Lauren is not afraid to promote discounts, as shown by its current offer of 40% off throughout December.
While this could potentially put off shoppers who like the brand’s premium aspect, it cleverly uses an ‘online-only’ element to offer something of value.
It could also help to increase sales at what is a very competitive time of year.
With shoppers displaying less loyalty and greater focus on getting the best deal, it appears to be a tactic that’s growing in popularity.
We’ve recently seen a trend for new companies aiming to disrupt traditional luxury brands by offering premium and custom-made products at more affordable prices.
Awl and Sundry is an example of this. A US-based shoe retailer that wants to ‘democratise bespoke luxury’, it does so by using a direct-to-consumer business model.
By offering a similar level of luxury but without the extremely high price point, it could potentially steal customers from the brands that are refusing to offer discounts.
Providing extra special customer service
Another important feature of luxury shopping is the level of customer service offered in-store.
From personal shopping to champagne – it’s incredibly hard to replicate this element online.
However, many are introducing features like live chat and messenger bots to bring the personal touch to their ecommerce offering.
Burberry is one brand that does this well, using a chat function to help and guide customers.
Small features like using the employee’s full name and a chatty and friendly tone reassures you that you’re talking to a human being – not a faceless brand.
While it is not advertised on the site as prominently as it could be, this chat feature still lets customers know that they are getting the same premium service that they would be in person.
Capitalising on social reach
With prestige and desirability the hallmarks of luxury brands, maintaining this allure on social media can be difficult.
I’ve written about Everlane before, but it’s a great example of how to promote exclusivity while still fostering customer loyalty.
It uses a private Instagram account to offer a select group of followers special sneak peeks and early access to sales.
By creating an ‘inner circle’, it ensures followers will feel valued and encourage sharing on their own social media channels, too.
Similarly, with new opportunities for social commerce, more brands are cottoning on to how this tactic can directly lead to sales.
Michael Kors revamped its #InstaKors campaign earlier this year to include a new shoppable feature.
More than just allowing customers to buy, it has created a social loyalty programme, whereby Instagram followers will be able to get their hands on items before anyone else, as well as access unique offers.
A great example of how to increase exclusivity through social media rather than dilute it – it’s one element of the luxury ecommerce experience that we can expect to see more of in future.
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