The luxury retail market is renowned for its high-touch approach – but how can retailers meet the needs of consumers in a world of face masks and social distancing? Virtual styling and shopping services are helping to fill in the gaps.
When shoppers visit a luxury store, they expect an experience that strays outside of the ordinary. They want to be introduced to exclusive products, put in front of the latest accessories, and given expert advise that they can rely on. But providing this same experience has proven challenging during a global pandemic, especially with so many luxury shoppers avoiding stores.
At the beginning of the lockdown, we surveyed 2,000 US consumers to get a better understanding of their shopping behaviors, and here’s what we discovered:
- 86% of consumers who normally visit luxury brands were avoiding visits to stores in the weeks leading up to the lockdown.
- 83% of consumers who normally visit fashion and apparel brands were avoiding visits to stores in the weeks leading up to the lockdown.
While the majority of stores have now reopened, many consumers are still hesitant and are actively avoiding stores. And for those that do make a visit, many have found the experience isn’t quite the same. According to a survey by ChannelAdvisor and Dynata, 40% of consumers who have returned to UK shops found the in-store experience ‘less enjoyable’ than before Covid-19.
However, many luxury consumers are eager to use virtual appointments to create a similar high-touch approach when dealing with brands. According to the same survey, 61% of consumers want virtual service from essential retailers and 32% want virtual service from all retail types.
This is particularly true of younger audiences, with younger generations 117% more likely to want video service from brands than their Baby Boomer counterparts.
That’s why many luxury retailers are connecting their customers with online advisors to create the same personalized level of support.
How are luxury retailers creating virtual appointments?
Retailers are using appointment scheduling software that allows customers to book appointments with styling, design or beauty experts over video or the phone.
Customers can sign up for virtual appointments through a number of channels, including your website, app, social channels, online ads, individual staff pages, QR codes, or through your call center. Customers can then select a time-slot that suits them, as well as a preferred expert that matches their requirements. They may also be asked straight-forward questions about their appointment, such as the relevant department, the event or occasion they’re shopping for, or some more detail about their styling preferences.
Once the appointment has been booked, the customer then receives an email and SMS confirmation message, as well as regular reminders before their appointment takes place, keeping them engaged and informed.
At the time of their appointment, customers click on the link to join the video call where they can chat with their advisor. Staff can showcase new products, answer questions, and provide advice or support.
Here are 3 luxury retailers with powerful virtual service offerings:
1) Brown Thomas
Luxury department store retailer, Brown Thomas, which is home to a variety of high-end brands such as Marc Jacobs, Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana, managed to attract an entirely new customer-base during the Covid-19 lockdown by hosting virtual appointments with beauty and style experts.
Like many retailers, Brown Thomas experienced a sudden increase in online sales when its stores closed during lockdown, but where the Irish department store icon managed to stand out was by using Qudini’s virtual appointment scheduling software to offer customers tailored, one-to-one appointments with its team of beauty and style experts.
These virtual appointments became incredibly useful at drawing in new customers, said Brown Thomas’s Stores Director, Mark Limby, at Qudini’s Safe Stores panel event, who revealed that approximately 60-70% of all its appointments were with new customers.
When creating its virtual shopping and beauty teams, Mark said Brown Thomas handpicked its personal shoppers, choosing stylists who were particularly active on social media, as well as helping these stylists to present themselves well and bring the brand to life.
Brown Thomas’s sister company, Selfridges, is one of the most well-known luxury department store retailers in the world and its Oxford Street store is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. The luxury retailer is allowing customers to book personal shopping appointments for fashion or beauty, which can take place through video call or in the store where advisers keep two-meter social distancing measures in place. Selfridges is also offering virtual gift advice and Instagram beauty tutorials.
World-renowned fashion powerhouse, Gucci, has created a personalized virtual experience for customers who are reluctant to visit stores. The designer brand has essentially recreated a virtual trip to the Gucci store with its “faux luxury store” at its Gucci 9 hub in Florence. This allows staff to livestream from a replica showroom, pulling items to bring to the camera based on customer requests, and to communicate directly with shoppers around the world via their laptops and smartphones.