Jun 11 2018

Luxury Experts Give Their UX Insights: “It’s all about rolling out the red carpet”

How are luxury brands and retailers breaking the online barrier and creating exceptional user experiences for their shoppers? We’ve asked luxury industries experts for the answers and to provide their insights on engaging with luxury shoppers, creating lifetime value, and optimizing the ecommerce experience.

How do you balance emphasis between branded content and an experience optimized for ecommerce performance?

Shana Pilewski, Senior Content Marketer at Dynamic Yield

Within the luxury space, aesthetic, reputation, and quality are everything. Naturally, these associations should mirror the eCommerce shopping experience, with consumers expecting nothing but the best as they take their interest and power to purchase high-end goods online.

And here, while brands have a massive opportunity to really influence the decision-making process, they don’t want to risk cheapening or compromising the experience with things like coupons or urgency messaging for higher-yielding results.

Instead, the focus should center more on catering to the individual and their unique decision making criteria. This can be done by optimizing the layout of the site, for example, by displaying large, arresting photos on high-value sections of the page, highlighting relevant filters, and emphasizing preferred categories throughout. Also, through delivering quality recommendations based on things like gender, past purchases, and behavior, all of which makes each interaction with the brand a contextually rich one.

Slisha Kankariya, Co-Founder of Four Mine Jewelry Company

Branding for a luxury jewelry company comes from showcasing the quality of your product. Vivid imagery and photography go a long way in drawing the user in. Candid customer reviews reinforce the trust in the brand. A simplified UX and UI across tablet, mobile, and desktop ensure that the customer will come back. This is essential as it takes several visits for a user to make up their mind about a high-end purchase. Establishing a brand as a thought leader in the space is also a great way to ensure that customers will keep coming back. This can be done through original and branded text and visual content.

Katherine Amrhein, Site Operations Manager for Multi-Billion Dollar Luxury Business Group

I think it is important for branded content to feel organic on a site and the flow to feel natural- keeping in mind the balance of any page when coding the design is important so content is organized and clearly demonstrates the brand or product. It shouldn’t feel overwhelming – I think it’s important for customers to be able to connect to content, but it should not detract or complicate the shopping experience. If arrays or products are linked through content the call to action should be clear and the arrays should align with the branded content so the experience is seamless. Potentially utilizing navigational strategies such as placing a branded image in the top navigation bar could also be a good way to incorporate branded content or brand call-outs without sacrificing website design and performance, but also supporting or elevating brands as desired.

Heather Gruber, Digital Strategist, Client Services at Listrak

Continue to release and market blogs,  video content, and lifestyle imagery, but make sure this branded content is shoppable. For instance, if you release a lookbook for your new collection, allow customers to click through to a product or landing page where they can shop.

Moran Khoubian, Head of Partner Marketing at Yotpo

There’s a notion in eCommerce that the only way to showcase on-brand content is to create it yourself, but that’s entirely not true. At Yotpo, we see tons of luxury brands using customer content on site and in marketing campaigns, curating an aesthetic that both matches their brand and also communicates authenticity. For luxury brands that sell online, the barrier is often much higher and there’s a huge need to establish trust and communicate brand lifestyle and values. Customer content not only gives them social proof to do that, but it can also open up the doors to tons of types of creative they may not have considered before. We’ve heard from many brands that by looking at customer photos and reading reviews, they spotted messaging or gained ideas for aesthetics in ads or campaigns that they wouldn’t have thought of by themselves.

Rafe J. Johnson, CTO for Shreve, Crump & Low Jewelry Company

My main goal is to turn what is a 300-year-old jewelry company into an ecommerce platform that not only caters to our existing high profile clients but also to a broad online demographic. To do so, we have to walk a fine line of the type of products to highlight on our valuable homepage. Many of our existing customers love jewelry with large gemstones and unique one of a kind pieces they can’t find anywhere else. This doesn’t necessarily bring in new customers or hit the jewelry niche of current online shoppers who like minimalist pieces with smaller gems. We have to constantly change out products to appease to both sides and have our customer care reps on hand in case our existing clients are looking for a particular piece.

What kinds of things do you design specifically for brand loyalists to drive their recurring engagement and lifetime value?

Shana Pilewski, Senior Content Marketer at Dynamic Yield

For shoppers who continue to engage and make purchase decisions with a high-end retailer, it’s all about rolling out the red carpet. And loyalty programs are the most effective way of providing preferential treatment to a brand’s most valuable customers.

Customer tiers based on earning rules can be used to unlock a host of VIP benefits including rewards, invites to exclusive events, access to affiliate clubs or restaurants, special services, personal consultants and stylists, and more.

The higher the status perceived, the more likely a member will partake in order to reap the benefits.

Moran Khoubian, Head of Partner Marketing at Yotpo

We specialize in helping brands turn fans into advocates. Really, creating that sort of cult community of die-hard brand loyalists that won’t just come back and buy time and time again, but will also tell all their friends about the brand. With Yotpo, brands don’t just collect customer reviews, but they really are able to use these post-purchase requests as an opportunity to re-engage and retain customers.

Katherine Amrhein, Site Operations Manager for Multi-Billion Dollar Luxury Business Group

I think considering specific promotions targeted at brand loyalists, whether that is through promo codes or private sale pages, can be a way to acknowledge and reward lifetime customers. Also, having specialized experiences for customers spending over a certain threshold could be a way to drive engagement, again acknowledging and rewarding those customers through things like maybe express check out online or a more personalized checkout experience in store (even if product purchased online). I think customers would like to feel like they are individual and unique and creating experiences that drive in-store (if applicable) and online experience could be a great way to support omnichannel sales through customer appreciation. In addition, having a strong review program online could facilitate better customer engagement and trust. I think review sections with a clean design and clear summary help to drive conversion.

Slisha Kankariya, Co-Founder of Four Mine Jewelry Company

We consistently offer the best quality and customer service to ensure that customers feel like their business is important to us, regardless of the price point. Complementary and matching products like wedding bands for engagement rings and anniversary jewelry gifts help us to retain customers. Access to discounts can also be a great way to keep customers coming back. We work to learn about the customer through surveys and conversations so that we can make the most relevant recommendations for future purchases.

Heather Gruber, Digital Strategist, Client Services at Listrak

For luxury brands, it is especially important to develop a post-purchase strategy: customers should be thanked for making the purchase; future products and content should be personalized based on purchase and browse history; and these loyal customers should be offered early access to new arrivals and sales. We can trigger campaigns after a purchase using Predictive Content and Product Recommendations, showing a customer relevant content. Also, by using this purchase history data, we can segment our marketing emails based on a number of purchases or total order values and speak to our most loyal customers differently.

How do you overcome reservations about buying premium products through a digital channel without being able to experience them in person?

Rafe J. Johnson, CTO for Shreve, Crump & Low Jewelry Company

Other than having staff ready to answer online questions immediately (either through chat or email) we also have forms that our guests can fill out to request a private viewing. Having product online doesn’t mean we have to take away the personal aspect of buying beautiful expensive jewelry. Having a strong return policy and customer satisfaction guarantee has also been very beneficial in showing that we stand behind our quality products.

Moran Khoubian, Head of Partner Marketing at Yotpo

Social proof is the #1 way, online and off, that brands can cross the trust barrier. In the luxury industry, the barrier is even higher. But surprisingly, Yotpo research found that customers are much more likely to write reviews for more expensive products. Think about it: your customers made a big purchase, and so they’re that much more invested in going the extra mile to write about it.

Katherine Amrhein, Site Operations Manager for Multi-Billion Dollar Luxury Business Group

I think product copy and imagery is certainly important if the customer is not buying in person. Whether or not product is shot on model, still or virtual, the images should look well thought out and image resolution should be clear so patterns and colors can be easily identified. 360 shots can also help when customers are on the fence if they are able to see all angles as well as the ability to zoom in on the image to see detail. Copy should contain necessary and relevant details, including items such as dimensions, material, and any product prerequisites or requirements. I think customers want to be able to quickly understand what the product is and if there is anything they need to be aware of before purchasing. And product page features like videos can help to bring the product to life.

Also, if you are able to merchandise that product with other product available for sale, I think this can help customers better visualize how it would fit with their style – apparel, home, etc., and potentially purchase related items. Lastly, having the option for customer service online chat or personal shopping services through chat could help customers connect and feel like they can ask product questions they might otherwise ask in store and provide more security around purchasing high ticket items.

Heather Gruber, Digital Strategist, Client Services at Listrak

By using a customer service voice. Use campaigns such as Welcome Series or Shopping Cart Abandonment to be up front on return/exchange policies. Also, make sure your customer service phone number or chat feature is easily accessible, and encourage potential customers to ask questions if they have them.

Shana Pilewski, Senior Content Marketer at Dynamic Yield

Consumers of regular eCommerce brands have a hard enough time committing to purchases, often abandoning their carts for this very reason. But there’s certainly a lot more at stake when the average cost of an item goes from <$100 to >$1,000. This is when providing as much information up front about an item becomes critical, as well as other reassurances.

Displaying items as a part of a larger lookbook showcases ideas for how the product can be worn and whether or not the item may fit into the shopper’s individual wardrobe. Once interested in a particular item, specs about the fabric and material as well as high-resolution photos should offer a closer look at the product’s detail. Specifics about the model’s measurements and sizing calculators for determining the best fit can then be used to affirm the shopper before locking in a purchase.

And as a final guarantee, no questions asked returns can afford individuals with the comfort of knowing if an item truly doesn’t work upon, they won’t take a personal hit for it or have to deal with the hassle of paying for returns.

Slisha Kankariya, Co-Founder of Four Mine Jewelry Company

Combining digital and physical experiences is the best way to ensure that you win over customers. Engagement ring shopping is a stressful purchase as it is high in monetary value as well as emotional. With our company Four Mine, we have combined the best of online and offline shopping to give customers the most stress-free experience. We send them realistic replicas of their favorite diamond engagement ring styles from our onsite catalog to sample before they buy. This gets them over the fear of shopping online. When they find a style they love, they return to our user-friendly website to customize their ring. We find that this blend of online and offline, along with an emphasis on providing customers with an on-demand and at home experience has really won over our customer. We’ve seen 10x growth in the last year! We’re finding that this unique blend really addresses the needs of our customers and caters to their various shopping preferences.

Here are the big takeaways.

  • For luxury brands and retailers, reputation and aesthetic are core to their business model. The design element you see in stores should be mirrored online through high-quality imagery while optimizing the ecommerce experience by highlighting relevant filters and product categories.
  • Providing preferential treatment to recurring shoppers through loyalty programs and rewards, such as an invite to exclusive events or access to clubs and restaurants, increases engagement and lifetime customer value. In addition, user reviews are a low hanging fruit to quickly acknowledge and engage with customers.
  • Displaying items as a part of a larger lookbook along with merchandising the product with other available items can help customers better visualize how it can be worn or would fit with their style.

Shannon Kenneally

Content Writer

After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn’s Content Writer, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.

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