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The luxury of convenience: How customer demand is blending the online and offline worlds

2021-05-04

Changing customer expectations and the need for an offline experience has meant even the most successful of online businesses are switching their focus to provide tangible experiences

In 2021, meeting the needs of the luxury consumer is becoming ever more challenging. As they become younger and more digitally native, it’s essential to provide a consistent omnichannel experience with a key focus on digital. Recent global events and ongoing market uncertainty have also accelerated the need for digitalisation across the luxury industry. But a pureplay digital focus isn’t always enough to cater for both customer experience and satisfaction. So, while we see the market evolving, the essence of luxury still must shine through. Our customers still want to touch, feel and see the products. So, what are we doing in the luxury sector to respond, and what does this mean for the future of the industry? Even the most successful online marketplaces are making an offline play Changing customer expectations and the need for an offline experience has meant even the most successful of online businesses are switching their focus to provide tangible experiences. FARFETCH is a great example. Alongside their huge online and digital success, they continue to invest in the offline experience. Earlier in April they opened, Browns, their new flagship luxury boutique and store of the future in London. And it’s all about the luxury experience. There’s a restaurant, dedicated styling area and a room with rotating experiences. Of course, tech also plays a huge part boasting the likes of: - Connected mirrors  - Augmented reality virtual try-on tools - A connected app experience including search functionality, wish lists and personal shopper engagement

Offline clearly still has its role in a 360 luxury experience. Bricks and mortar retailers are investing in technology to deliver a tailored experience Customer expectation has meant that even the most prestigious of luxury brands can’t ignore the requirement for tailored, personalised and bespoke offline experiences. And with significant investment in technology they’re creating a new world of luxury brand interaction. You’ve got Prada’s dressing rooms and their ability to read the electronic tags found on each item for available colours, sizes, complementary items and more. Then comes Gucci’s 63 Wooster Street store featuring a 3D screening room and multisensorial space where musicians in residence perform. Talk about experience. This connection between offline and digital has also seen Galeries Lafayette take it in the other direction by developing an exclusive, personal online shopping service through live video. This enables a range of products to be seen at the same time, as well as users to learn more about the history of the brand and to further engage with brand representatives for an extra emotional connection. Online or offline, customer satisfaction all comes down to the experience.  Offline luxury is transcending the in-store environment With COVID-19 forcing temporary store closures – and for pureplay online retailers – there’s the need for more creative outlets to offer a tangible experience. We’ve seen speciality boutique, Intermix, offer days out in hotels for regular customers and their friends including shopping, lunch and spa treatments. It’s a savvy move to tick the experience box, but also to cater for a conciseness in stock compared to traditional bricks and mortar. At Auverture, we’ve pioneered our jewellery box to enable the luxury experience to be replicated in the comfort of our customers’ own homes. It’s COVID safe, but also promises the ability to try on, touch and feel their own hand-picked curated collection of jewellery. We see this as a way to mobilise our designer community and bring a tangible proposition and service as a luxury e-tailor. The early feedback from our customers has been fantastic – it’s been an experience they’ve been missing over the last 12 months or so. And we’re happy to provide it. Unboxing just adds to the offline experience  For many, unboxing is the new storefront – this is even more so the case post-pandemic. We’re also starting to see an interesting trend in recent years of social media ‘unboxing’ with influencers filming themselves unpacking luxury products. What this has done is place an additional focus on packaging and increase expectations around it. Run of the mill packaging now no longer plays into that first moment of the luxury experience. It’s not enough to satisfy users. A delightful, memorable and premium unboxing experience is crucial. It is this notion that has underpinned our development of our jewellery box proposition. We’re extremely happy to see the feedback we’ve had from our customers as they’ve been delighted with the look and feel of the box and packaging. But we can’t forget sustainability. Unboxing as an element of experience and brand storytelling is key – when it’s done in a responsible way, it’s even better. The omnichannel path can’t always be taken alone Acquisitions, partnerships and collaboration. It’s this that underpins the next steps in the luxury industry. From FARFETCH acquiring Browns, Galeries Lafayette partnering with GoInStore and Gucci teaming up with avatar platform Genies, partnerships, collaboration and knowledge sharing is driving the ability to satisfy luxury customer expectations. It feels like it’s just the start of what is to come and it is very exciting….

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