For shoppers, the definition of a luxury in-store retail experiences run the gamut — from being handed a flute of champagne upon arrival to being known by name by store associates to being greeted and then left alone entirely.
And it’s safe to say that more luxury ideals will soon infiltrate the mix, as brands are increasingly turning to in-store technology to enhance shoppers’ experiences: Ralph Lauren’s Fifth Avenue flagship store in Manhattan now has connected mirrors in fitting rooms, which recognize the items customers are trying on — the items appear on-screen, along with its other available colors and sizes. What’s more, there’s a “call an associate” button, and shoppers can choose from multiple language and lighting setting options. While not really a high luxury brand, designer Rebecca Minkoff also has connected mirrors in her store. In addition, in one of her four locations, she is testing out a technology called QueHop that allows shoppers to self-checkout.
Despite such efforts which attempt to make shopping experiences more luxurious and convenient, Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza said no one brand is nailing the luxury experience. “Luxury and retail are undergoing a revolution. The question is, ‘How does luxury maintain its aura?’” Pedraza said. He believes that, eventually, it will be store associates, not technology, that will give a brand competitive advantage. But, he said, brands need to invest in that. “Brands need fewer salespeople, and they need to scale them up to a level of expertise. Emotional intelligence skills are not being taught today in such a way that entire staff can exhibit those skills.”
72 percent of shoppers interviewed for a recent Timetrade study said they plan to shop in stores as much this year as last. Prompt service is what respondents said they value the most in-store, followed by a personalized service and smart recommendations.
In our latest “On the Street”, Glossy asked shoppers in Manhattan’s luxury shopping district, SoHo, to provide their own definition of a luxury in-store experience.
Tim Coppens, 40
The Celine store in SoHo is luxury. The clothes’ materials, the marble, the way everything is finished, the clothes, the way the clothes breathe (they’re not packed) and it’s all one-size. The store associates understand the brand and the customer, and understand when to ask and not ask — and that’s all part of the experience. People offer water when it’s hot, for example, and that personal experience is becoming more and more important.
Ana Gilligan, 41
I like going to stores that have a few things displayed in a comfortable way, and that let you walk around and experience things as if you were in your own home. Customer service is very important. It’s fine for me when they greet you at the door, but then people have to let you walk around. I have a very specific idea of what I want when I got to a store for furniture or clothing, but I like people to be available if I have questions.”
Kaitlin McGill, 28
When I shop luxury, I’m usually shopping luxury makeup. I’m a makeup elitist. My foundation is Giorgio Armani or YSL. I can buy an Armani foundation for $70, but I can’t buy a dress for $2,000. I think a luxury shopping experience is when you have the sole focus of a sales attendant: She’s taking the time to assess your skin, try different colors, show you what’s good for you and why. She’s also taking the time and asking lots of questions, and focusing on the experience rather than rushing through it. Making recommendations is also special. Shopping for my wedding dress was my most luxurious shopping experience. It was a bridal shop on Fifth Avenue, and it had beautiful carpeting, drapery, chandeliers — I had a one-on-one, full-hour appointment. [The associate] asked about all my needs for my wedding, how I wanted to feel, what I wanted to look like, and then she asked about photos before pulling dresses based on the information I gave her.
Brenden Bryant, 34
I prefer a store that’s not overly crowded — it’s minimal — and it has good service, but it’s not rushing me to purchase something or sell me things I don’t want. It’s really just a good customer experience: Leave me alone, but when I need you, be available.”