The number of online shoppers in the US is expected to hit 291.2 million by 2025. Amazon has already shown the majority of the consumer population that it’s possible to have a wide range of products delivered conveniently to their doorstep at highly competitive prices.
However, a large segment of luxury retail shoppers still prefer physical stores over ecommerce outlets. Consumers of high-end retail demand a personalized one-on-one experience that’s altogether missing from most online stores. They expect a tailor-made experience that takes into account their individual preferences.
So, how does a high-end retailer in today’s competitive market position its online shopping experience to be at par with the in-store experience? Is it at all possible to recreate that one-on-one luxury shopping experience in the virtual landscape? The answer’s a resounding yes, thanks to mobile clienteling.
The allure of boutique luxury
A large number of consumers who buy high-end watches, cosmetics, jewelry, and fashion still prefer to do so in-store because of the personalized attention they receive from retail staff.
There’s an opportunity for luxury retailers to stand out from the one-size-fits-all approach of faceless retail behemoths like Amazon. Consumers are increasingly looking to high-end retailers who can provide a more personalized and unique customer experience, even at a higher price.
Whereas retailers like Amazon and BestBuy are still the go-to in terms of convenience and speed, consumers of luxury products are constantly on the lookout for tailor-made customer experiences from unique brands.
According to an industry analysis conducted by Bain & Company, the luxury retail industry 29% in 2021 to reach a net worth of 1.3 trillion USD. It’s also revealing that despite the COVID-19 pandemic looming over the world, only 23% of luxury shopping took place outside physical stores in 2020.
Clearly, boutique stores and in-person retail aren’t going anywhere for a while. So how do you translate the highly-prized in-store shopping experience into the virtual world? Luxury retailers around the world have already discovered a solution — virtual boutiques.
What’s special about in-store retail?
Creating an unforgettable online shopping experience means breaking down the things that people really enjoy about in-store retail and translating them for the virtual world. It also means taking advantage of online-only features that can help further enrich the shopping experience.
When it comes to high-end retail, people enjoy being able to hold and examine the things they’re about to buy. They like the fact that someone is always there to assist them with their purchases and offer after-sales support. Other things, such as sensory branding and the in-store ambiance also contribute greatly to the shopping experience.
At first glance, all of this seems exclusive to physical retail. However, online shopping brands have already started finding workarounds to mimic the in-store experience online. For example, Gemist is a sustainable jewelry brand that lets you order up to three types of rings at a time and have them delivered to you for free. Under its try-before-you-buy scheme, you only pay for the one you like and simply return the rest.
Similarly, The Watches of Switzerland Group is a luxury wristwatch specialist that uses communication technology to bridge the gap in online retail and create a truly boutique experience for online shoppers. At the click of a button, you can connect with its in-house specialists via high-definition audio and video, letting them guide you through the different options and then picking the watch you like best.
But virtual boutiques do so much more than simply duplicate the in-store retail experience. They also take advantage of online-only features like gamification and social selling to enhance the customer experience and uplift their brands.
Clienteling and the boutique experience
While there are many things that contribute to the experience of physical retail, the most important of them is one-on-one interaction with other human beings.
Clienteling is a strategy used by sales associates to personalize the customer experience in offline stores to make it feel more intimate. Each associate gets to know their clients on a personal level, learning from their past behavior and purchases to offer custom product recommendations and support.
Of course, sales associates rely on data to personalize the customer experience — data on everything from a customer’s style preferences to their family structure. But since there’s no obvious way for brands to document this information, it lives primarily within the minds of your sales associates.
Sadly, this approach is both very difficult to scale and too reliant on individual salespeople. When a member of your sales team walks out the door, for example, they can also take a sizable chunk of your clientele with them. Luckily, digital retail offers new opportunities for brands to improve on the clienteling approach.
Mobile clienteling is the future
Luxury brands need to enter the digital age in a hurry and provide a world class white glove mobile conversational experience within their own apps to their customers.
It’s standard practice in clienteling to give your phone number to your top clients. Sales reps already use WhatsApp and iMessage to stay in touch with customers. Just out of the view of the brands themselves. This means all of that rich data that’s part of that conversation – style preferences, questions, buying habits, complaints – is lost as soon as a sales associate resigns from your company.
Sendbird is a conversations platform that enables retailers to add live chat, voice call, and video conferencing features into their own apps to transform into virtual boutiques with real-time interaction between customers and associates. This empowers brands to easily keep track of the personal preferences and purchase behavior of their customer base, enabling you to offer personalization at scale.
Ready to create a high-end boutique experience for your online store with Sendbird? Get in touch and get started today.