The Luxury Lapse

When it comes to products, service and bricks and mortar stores, luxury brands exude high-quality and exclusivity.

Turn the spotlight online and a different story emerges, with a lack of attention to detail and inferior shopping experience common themes which are losing these same brands sales and customers.
Despite a challenging economy, the overall luxury market reached an estimated $1.5 trillion globally last year, with a year-on-year growth of almost 10 per cent, according to Bain & Company.
However, research by SQLI into some of the luxury market’s biggest eCommerce stores across designer clothing, timepieces, handbags, fine wines and jewellery, uncovered some recurring shortcomings running through their digital experiences, contrary to the usual industry high standards.
In-depth interviews with luxury goods customers were also carried out, to help us better understand their frustrations and expectations when purchasing online.
In the first of a series of articles, SQLI highlights some of its key findings along with actionable recommendations to enable luxury brands to make immediate and impactful improvements. 

Product page essentials

While luxury brands spend time and energy perfecting their homepages, around 55 per cent of the online stores we examined neglected to extend the same care and attention to their product pages – despite these often being a customer’s first entry to an online experience.

We uncovered translation errors, spelling mistakes and awkward phrasing in product descriptions.

Some lacked detailed information about the product including materials used, where they were sourced, heel height, and even sizing, while others didn’t have enough photos showing the product from important angles.

SQLI view and actions:

With many luxury brands running online stores in many different languages, translations must match the exacting standards of the content from the country of origin, considering cultural nuances and language differences.

Many brands do not use photos of models wearing or using the products. Many of the customers we spoke to want to see what a watch or jacket, for example, looks like on a person to help them make an informed purchase decision. Models of varying sizes, with height and weight details, can help them visualise the fit.

Furthermore, several luxury sites lacked comprehensive product photography. Customers want 360-degree views of the product, as well as zoom functionality so they can examine certain detail close-up.

Recently, SQLI’s design team created a mobile friendly online store for fashion brand Charles Tyrwhitt. Close-up imagery shows off minute details, down to the buttons, with descriptions including the feel of the wool, helping customers get a real sense of the luxurious product they are considering purchasing.

Strong storytelling

At least a third of the sites we looked at shied away from promoting their brand story on the home page, if they published much, at all.

Luxury shoppers often love the brand, more than the products themselves and they’ll spend a lot of time learning about the company, its history and values.

SQLI view and actions:

It’s important to weave in storytelling at every level of the commerce journey, not just in the ‘about us’ section. Describing how a product is crafted, the design rationale or history behind it, for example, provides an opportunity to control the narrative and is a great way of fostering an emotional connection to the brand.

If you company has a social or environmental programme or contributes to a good cause, let you customers know.

We suggest finding space for immersive video to tell your story and convey your uniqueness.

SQLI collaborated with a leading luxury watchmaker to elevate their digital storefront. It now displays beautifully captivating content and immersive videos highlighting the company’s storied history, intricate watch designs, and the meticulous precision of its manufacturing and testing process. Customers gain an authentic insight into the brand and its high-end qualities.

Get the user experience on point

A luxury brand’s regular customers have a different mission from gift buyers. The latter needs to know delivery dates, and even how the gift will be presented. In many of the sites we examined, this information was hard to find or absent completely.

We discovered many brands failed to guide customers through their product ranges, especially when there were similar products, such as shirts or jewellery.

SQLI view and actions:

Tailor online services to diverse customer needs. A gift buyer’s needs will differ from the occasional splurger or big spender.

Can you give clearer delivery details earlier in the customer journey? Could you describe the packaging in which the gift will be delivered? Can you personalise the packaging and show what this would look like? This is especially important with gift items such as perfume and jewellery.

Brands must guide customers through product ranges to stop decision-making becoming overwhelming or even frustrating. We suggest streamlining product choices by organising similar items into dropdowns so customers can compare items more easily.

Small changes like these can make a big difference to a customer’s experience and help improve sales and customer retention.

Think real omnichannel experiences

Seamless integration of online and in-store interactions is important, especially for high-end purchases like a £40,000 watch.  Very few people will purchase an item of significant value online.

However, many luxury brands we studied failed to connect their online and physical stores for a complete omnichannel experience.

In some cases, customers would browse online for a premium item and then search for a local store to make the purchase.


SQLI view and actions:

Every touch point of the customer journey must be considered to deliver a true omnichannel experience.

For products requiring an in-store purchase, consider incorporating a QR code on the product page which, when shown in store, details the customers preferences. Brands must reserve the item at the designated store and arrange a personalised in-store appointment for a premium, seamless shopping experience.

High-end in-store experiences are integral to a luxury brands’ offerings, allowing brands to collaborate but also serves as a canvas for creativityCan you offer classes or one-off experiences online to encourage in-store visits? Could these be made accessible through special VIP access only?

The customers we spoke to value unique experiences, whether online or offline. These experiences foster a stronger connection to the brand and instil a sense of value and importance.

SQLI recently partnered with luxury heritage brand Fortnum & Mason to implement a new omnichannel commerce solution to support its growth and international expansion. Now, omnichannel offerings are at the heart of everything the brand does, with regular supper clubs and chef’s tables and hosted discussions, that customers can find online but try-out in-store. It offers just a taste of the innovative direction it is taking.

The final word

From Fortnum & Mason, Richemont and Miele to the labels under LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), luxury wines and spirits, SQLI has crafted digital solutions and experiences for some of the world’s biggest luxury brands.

Our experienced teams of experts, designers and developers are renown for creating original and engaging experiences that improve business agility, increase efficiency, and facilitate international business growth.

This experience and knowhow has also shown us that, at times, a brand benefits most from a fresh perspective on their business and digital strategy. This insight often allows us to provide recommendations on smaller, impactful improvements - ‘quick wins’ - rather than large-scale changes.

Rachel Smith, managing director of SQLI UK & Middle East said: “Our vast expertise allows us to bring a customer lens to a luxury brand and highlight areas ripe for improvement.

“Talk to us about your business challenges and we will support you to find that all-important extra 10 per cent to boost your sales and future performance.”

Find out more

SQLI offers a wide range of auditing services, from front-end and experience audits, to workshops, designed to help businesses determine the areas that could be performing at a higher level.