SOURCE: Luxury Institute, LLC

Luxury Institute, LLC

April 07, 2015 13:43 ET

Luxury Institute's Luxury CRM Association White Paper -- Digitizing the Space: The Future of the Store

Conclusions From the Luxury Institute's Luxury CRM Association March Meeting With Guest Speaker, Sam Ewen, a Partner at Guild

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - April 07, 2015) - Luxury Institute's Luxury CRM Association hosts four interactive breakfast events per year with executives from top-tier luxury and premium goods and service categories. Members and select guests have the opportunity to participate in compelling, interactive discussions with other individuals of the industry to broaden the scope of understanding and collaborate in order to provoke key insights for the future of the luxury and premium space at the client level. Sam Ewen, Partner at Guild, Luxury Institute's esteemed guest speaker, shared detailed insights and innovative philosophies on how to create a stronger client experience using design and technology, yet noted to never forget the role of the human element.

The Role of the Retail Store

As widespread adoption of mobile commerce allows customers to shop from anywhere, pronounced weakness in foot traffic into brick-and-mortar stores is forcing retailers to rethink distribution channels and find ways of reinvigorating their most visible selling channel. Major brands, from luxury to mainstream, face a very fundamental question: What is the role of the store?

Enlightened retailers are fully cognizant of the efficiencies of online and mobile platforms where they generate a growing proportion of overall revenue, but they are also aware for the potential of the physical store to support the brand and boost sales. Rather than regarding stores simply as a cost center, they understand how they can serve as major drivers of client relationships and business performance.

First and foremost, stores are the most visible representations of the brand for customers, and they can play a primary role in enhancing brand loyalty while differentiating one brand from another. Customer interactions with properly empowered, trained and equipped sales associates and store managers provide a human experience that simply cannot be duplicated online.

At their best, stores can provide a comprehensive sensory experience that keeps the brand top-of-mind for consumers. A physical presentation allows shoppers to touch and feel the merchandise and to witness firsthand the artisanship of the product, rather than just seeing pictures online.

Stores provide a number of ways to enhance the relationship between sales associate and client that companies can leverage into increased sales. These include a greater deal of customization and tailored attention, fitting room sale opportunities, and closer communication between shoppers and staff. In addition, a liberal return policy can drastically reduce the likelihood of a difficult and complicated return process that can strain customer relationships.

Technology Complements Traditional Shopping

Consumers expect brands that serve them to adopt the latest technologies that can improve their overall shopping experience. Enlightened brands realize, however, that technology should enhance, but not supplant, the human store experience.

For example, Disney recently released an interactive wristband for use in its resorts that can let restaurants know when you will be arriving, what you want to eat, what your family wants to eat, allergies, how many kids you have, what parks you are going to that day, how you will be paying, and other information that can help them serve guests better. "This is all meant to take away the 'pain points' of the Disney experience," says Sam Ewen.

Customizing The Experience

Using technology to enhance the shopping experience does not mean simply shoving iPads into the hands of sales associates for efficiency. Technology can make a visual merchandising space interesting and interactive, and personalize shoppers' experiences.

Whether you are buying shoes or face cream, technology can aid in customizing the experience, but it cannot work as smoothly without a strong human touch. "An interactive mirror in a retail space can offer you coffee, ask if you need a different size, and change the lighting in your fitting room, but it cannot substitute for the relationship-focused human engagement that creates immense experience value for clients and brands. Expertise, trustworthiness and generosity are best expressed by empowered human beings," says Luxury Institute CEO, Milton Pedraza.

Of course, technology can make the closing and exchanging of information smoother, but a digitized mural does not make a customer feel special. Much like a self-check-out lane in a supermarket, technology is built for efficiency but not intimacy. "Every company is looking for the next 'killer app' but no app on any smartphone can ever replace human beings and what they have to offer the customer. Sales associates are more valuable today than ever before," says Sam Ewen.

Addressing The Technology Generation Gap 

"Retailers need to adapt technology so that it feels native for every user, from senior citizens to kids," says Sam Ewen. Children and younger shoppers have no hesitation when it comes to "playing" with touchscreens, apps, and computerized technologies in public spaces. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, on the other hand, often show hesitation in using technology to perform transactions that they are used to doing in person. They can find invitations to interact with fancy screens in stores intimidating and overwhelming.

The brands that will win are the ones that are adapting rapidly with the human engagement as the killer app in mind. The modern store should be much more than brick-and-mortar. It needs to have a seamless integration of technology to make shoppers more loyal and more satisfied with a brand's overall experience. These digitized spaces should embrace curiosity and fun while reinforcing the idea, in the minds of customers, that the brand is special. The right mix of technology and empowered humanity can deliver impressive results.

About The Luxury CRM Association

The Luxury CRM Association Membership includes quarterly networking breakfast events (2 hours) featuring expert guest speakers and/or collaborative workshops, exclusive research and industry insights issues or white paper reports, and interactive networking and outreach opportunities. Members of the Association include top-executives from several brands including Buccellati, Bentley, Carolina Herrera, Chanel, David Yurman, Mandarin Oriental, Michael Kors, Tiffany & Co., The Ritz-Carlton, and many others. The Membership is $3,000 per year. Please contact Katherine Sousa, a Consultant at Luxury Institute, for more information on becoming a member.

For more information and additional insights, visit www.LuxuryInstitute.com or contact us directly with any questions. For more information on Guild, visit www.guildisgood.com.

Contact Information