Enhancing the luxury retail experience with mobile

Gucci’s mobile point-of-sale app

Since mobile is a channel that consumers can choose to use in-store to enhance the physical shopping experience, it is the ultimate way for luxury marketers to interact with existing and potential customers on an opt-in basis.

There are a number of ways that luxury marketers can interact with consumers in a retail setting including branded applications, QR codes and other touch points. However, experts agree that mobile capabilities should keep consumers’ minds on the store atmosphere and the products, rather than veering off to other digital realms, so that there is a distinguished experience between the on-the-go world and the retail store.

“The more affluent luxury consumer is likely more tech-savvy, informed and vocal than their budget-conscious counterparts and have come to expect more from their preferred luxury brands to enhance their in-store shopping experience,” said Ricardo Martinez, sales and marketing executive at mVentix Inc., Santa Clarita, CA.

“A recent study by Condé Nast and Morpheus Media found that over 90 percent of luxury consumers spend four times as much on online purchases than non-luxury households,” he said.

“This means it is imperative for luxury brands to have a mobile presence to engage with their customers, especially if the mobile experience is thoughtfully integrated and layered within their existing media efforts, to give their customers a compelling and seamless way to drive real-time, bi-directional communication and interaction with their preferred luxury brands.”

Making mobile adjustments
The more integrated mobile becomes in consumers’ habits, the more comfortable they are with using smartphones in a store.

Retailers that want attention from consumers while they are in the store are smart to do so on mobile.

The beauty of mobile is that it is customers’ choice to use it in the store, per Jasmin Kung Bhukkarat, marketing consultant at 5th Finger, San Francisco.

By giving consumers control, they will not feel as though their shopping experience is being interrupted.

“As mobile becomes increasingly integrated in consumers’ lives, they are leveraging it more often to enhance their shopping behavior and experience,” Ms. Bhukkarat said.

“According to Google Insights, 70 percent of smartphone owners have used their mobile while shopping in-store,” she said.

“Luxury brands have an opportunity to differentiate their brand by enhancing their experience in-store with personalized and engaging mobile resources.”

Adding mobile to the physical shopping experience is necessary to build brand loyalty, per Shuli Lowy, client services and marketing manager at Ping Mobile, Beverly Hills.

“Most luxury brands deal with a business model that involves fewer customers and a larger incoming profit stream from each of those customers,” Ms. Lowy said.

“Therefore, it is particularly crucial for a luxury brand to build a mobile program that constantly engages and remarkets to the current customer base to ensure that each and every customer retains his or her allegiance to the brand,” she said.

No matter the technique, mobile efforts should add value to a purchase.

Successful brands embrace the mobile channel to satisfy customers and continue the conversation once they have left the store, per James Connelly, co-founder and managing director at Fetch, London.

Mobile can also be an effective channel for luxury marketers to capture data about their consumers.

“Allow mobile to enhance the shopping experience and create better customer service,” Mr. Connelly said.

“For example, a high-end supermarket inserted QR codes next to some produce so that when a user snaps the QR, they get a menu made from that product on their phone presented by a famous celebrity,” he said.

Luxury marketers should look at mobile in two ways: a channel to help sales associates and a tool to help consumers tailor their in-store experience, per 5th Finger’s Ms. Bhukkarat.

For instance, an app for sales associates will help them bring knowledge to the consumer such as product information not displayed in the store, release dates of new styles and similar products.

The app could also help them access consumers’ personal information and complete a purchase away from the register.

Italian label Gucci used mobile in this capacity with an app that aims to provide a higher level of service via employee-handled wireless devices.

The fashion house is equipping its store associates at select locations with Apple iPhone 4S devices that contain a mobile point-of-sale program. Employees can process sales, email receipts to customers, access the Gucci Style app and use a translator and currency convertor on the spot (see story).

Gucci flagship store

For the consumer, luxury marketers can create apps that are meant for in-store use.

An app can help brands better control the in-store mobile experience, versus the use of third-party apps.

“By focusing on developing a custom experience through your own app or site, you can provide the option for consumers to engage socially with the vehicles you choose, for example Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter,” said Paul Tapscott, director of mobile at Centro, Chicago.

Another way to tailor the shopping experience in an app is to use the scan feature of a smartphone so that consumers can see additional content on their smartphones such as a lookbook of related items. This is essentially virtual merchandising, per Ms. Bhukkarat.

Other features to consider are a presentation of a mobile catalog and an add-to-wishlist feature.

Department store chain Bloomingdale’s iPhone and Android apps have some of these key functions. The in-store bar code scanner lets customers view additional product details and read customer reviews.

The app also lets customers find discounts and promotions and scan products in-store to view available promotions (see story).

Bloomingdale’s barcode scanner

“Consumers can opt to leverage mobile whenever it makes the most sense to them,” Ms. Bhukkarat said.

“For example, they can use mobile to seek product information while in-store versus waiting for a sales associate,” she said. “Or, they may personally prefer to ask a sales associates about product information and then use mobile while in-store to purchase an item in an effort to avoid a line.

“Mobile empowers the consumer to tailor their in-store experience.”

Luxury marketers can also opt to engage consumers in-store with mobile touch points.

For example, QR codes near apparel or on item tags can show more information about the product.

The bar code could lead to a short video of a model showing the outfit, demonstrating how to measure the fit and suggesting how to accessorize it, per Ping Mobile’s Ms. Lowy.

“Remember that the goal is not to integrate your mobile commerce with your in-store commerce,” Ms. Lowy said.

“People who come to shop in a store want the real-life experience – making them buy the product on their mobile phone instead of at the cashier is counterproductive,” she said.

“Instead the goal is to enhance the in-store experience by allowing shoppers to further interact with the product, build their loyalty to the brand, and voice their thoughts.”

Another mobile function to consider is augmented reality.

Brands are experimenting with virtual dressing rooms so that customers can see how the apparel will look prior to trying it on, per mVentix’s Mr. Martinez.

Moreoever, any mobile effort should have a focus on customer service.

“Nothing trumps providing impeccable customer service to the in-store experience,” Mr. Martinez said.

Stay smart about smartphones
Despite the many benefits of mobile use in-store, brands should be cautious when enacting multiple efforts.

Luxury marketers should first and foremost concentrate on showing the product in use, providing customization options and highlighting special offers, per Tim Smith, senior director of emerging technologies at Centro, Chicago.

“There is a fine line between providing extra value and being gimmicky,” Mr. Smith said.

“There are ways to leverage mobile to enhance consumer experience through providing additional support in considering the product’s role in natural environments,” he said.

Furthermore, a minimalist approach is best when combining a luxury brand retail experience and the mobile channel.

“One tasteful enhancement is often enough to tip the scales,” Mr. Smith said.

“It is similar to a luxury showroom – minimalism highlights the offerings where a crowded showroom is a nightmare,” he said. “As with everything in life, you do not want to overdo it.”

In addition, mobile can hurt the luxury brand retail experience if the calls to action are not incorporated into the design of a store, per Ping Mobile’s Ms. Lowy.

It is important to give consumers a few options to connect to a brand via mobile in a retail location, but too many calls to action that are not effectively built-in to the design can be overwhelming.

“When placing mobile calls to action, consider how they will look in the store,” Ms. Lowy said. “Make sure they align with the color scheme and overall tone of the shop.”

Meanwhile, not enough mobile can also dilute the physical shopping experience.

“The majority of luxury marketers cannot afford to ignore the potential that mobile has to offer consumers, keeping in mind that the best approach is to incorporate mobile as only a single layer out of several multifaceted digital touch points that carefully integrate social media, display ads, affiliate marketing and other media channels, allowing for the best level of continued engagement and conversion,” mVentix, Inc.’s Mr. Martinez said.

Editorial by Tricia Carr -Luxury Daily – The News Leader In Luxury Marketing