Online purchases: who’s delivering the best luxury experience?
With Exane BNP Paribas we, Contactlab, released the 2nd edition of our unique report The Online Purchase Experience Ranking: from Milan to New York City, the world first in focusing on luxury experience in online purchasing experiences in the Big Apple (last year the research was based in Milan).
Customers expect a greater level of care and personalization in digital as they were offline, Gartner’s analysts say. This is even more true for luxury customers, looking for a unique and tailored experience as well as top quality products. When it comes to online purchases, this demand reach its hype for a couple of reasons: on one hand, consumers pay a lot of money for products from these luxury brands and they expect the whole experience to have that luxury feeling; on the other hand, it is imperative for brands to guarantee the strong sense of heritage, tradition and exclusivity they rely on to affirm their luxury status.
Contactlab analysed physical and digital customer experience touch points in luxury online shopping looking at 31 global luxury mono-brands, plus 4 major US luxury department stores and the e-tailer Net-a-Porter. Digital touch points refer to the ordering process, abandoned carts, purchasing & return communications, customer service online assistance, whereas physical touch points refer to direct customer engagement with the product, such as delivery options & effectiveness, external and internal packaging and documentation, return procedure.
The general sentiment from us at Contactlab is that brands provide luxury experience during the consumer journey less than 50 per cent of the time, and that they are performing a little bit better on digital touch points rather than in physical ones.
Luxury brands need to equip themselves with digital tools that capitalize existing assets on customers’ data and preferences. This is the unique way to engage with their prospects and clients, increasing purchasing loyalty and, as a consequence, customer profitability.
The cross channel potential is still widely under exploited in the Online Purchasing process: to mention as examples, almost half of panel doesn’t offer return and exchange in-store, and only one out of three links welcome email to the store finder. There is still too little attention to environmental issues: only a handful of brands give information on sustainability of packaging materials (Balenciaga, Tiffany, Coach, plus powered by YNAP brands) or on social responsibility programs (Gucci).
We mapped our findings on the “Online Purchasing Experience Ranking Matrix – SS16 NYC” which measures the luxury experience provided through physical touch points and digital touch points. Balenciaga and Fendi lead overall the NYC 2016 ranking, followed by Saint Laurent, Chanel and Coach. US Department Stores perform reasonably on digital touch points, poorly in Physical ones. Brands powered by YNAP are scattered on the matrix, some standing out on digital touch points, and Balenciaga also on physical.
It has become almost clichéd to point out that millennials expect companies to have a strong omni-channel approach to customer engagement. In luxury online shopping, this means paying attention to the entire journey and offering added value at every step to meet completely customer expectations. Things are not marching properly when it comes to analyse how much brands really care about the luxury experience of online shoppers: some major monobrands don’t answer to customer assistance inquiries, two out of three require them to go to the post office for returning goods. Only 5 brands differenciate gender by title in their emails, and only Armani and Nordstrom personalize contents and images by gender. Satisfaction survey after returning products or customer assistance inquiry are sent only by 2 brands (Givenchy and Net-a-Porter).