Imagine drilling down into the guts of a product without ever opening the package or avoiding the painfully long wait times while a sales person checks the inventory to see if an item is in stock. These are just two ways luxury brands are enhancing the in-store customer experience. Sparxoo has spotted new tech trends in luxury, which often involve e-commerce. But, the bread and butter of the luxury industry has been the superior in-store experience. So what drives an exceptional in-store experience?
Making the customer feel comfortable and special are the two main drivers of in-store brand experience, reports a recent survey from the Luxury Institute. How luxury brands are meeting these customer needs is being driven by what we traditionally expect from luxury brands and also some innovative thinking.
Luxury brands are hitting their mark most of the time, according to LI’s study. Mystery shoppers report that on 94% of Burberry visits the staff made them feel comfortable; Vuitton did the same 76% of the time and Burberry and Vuitton top the rankings for making customers feel special, doing it on 52% and 42% of visits, respectively. But what tactics have luxury brands employed in 2010 to enhance the in-store experience?
One innovative way luxury brands are adding a touch of special is through mobile technology. In-store sales people can deliver better service with the aid of mobile devices, such as the iPad. “Mobile devices combine personalization efficiency and effectiveness with an unprecedented touch of caring and nurturing that are the Holy Grail of a true luxury experience,” writes Luxist in its 2011 trend report.
Multi-media devices, such as the iPad, can be used to check inventory, arrange for real-time delivery, cash-out customers, extend sales pitches, and videos to further enhance the personal brand experience. Mercedes Benz is one of the first brands to test this mobile sales service in the USA and Acura will be leveraging its iPad app to help dealership staff speed up the selling process. Audi and Puma are also using the iPad to customize the customer service experience.
Investing in Kind Human Capital
The stuffy, know-it-all, sometimes condescending sales associate is certainly a big turn-off for customers at luxury stores. LI takes example of superior customer service from the online retailer, Zappos. Taking a cue from the extremely polite, considerate and genuine customer service reps at Zappos, “putting polite, informed and well-groomed sales personnel on the floor is just the start, but done well it can be a true differentiator,” writes Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute.
German designer, Hugo Boss, is injecting some innovative thinking into its in-store brand experience. To get boots through the door, the brand offers special perks for those who check-in. One of the perks are discounts up to 40 percent and even special one-night events. Boss is marrying mobile technology with discounts and other perks to make its loyal customers feel special.
Putting an iPad in the hand of top-tier sales people is not the silver bullet to creating a best-in-class brand experience. It’s about managing expectations of customers. Through the years, affluent buyers expect the clean-shaven, polite sales people, but that isn’t the end-all-be-all answer either. Pleasantly surprise them with a sales associate that can show them product demos and even check them out without gracing the sales counter. Blending tradition and innovation are two ways to manage expectations and deliver a best-in-class customer experience.