Personalising the Luxury eCommerce Experience


Ibis Lilley | February 04, 2013

Ibis Lilley, marketing manager at Emailvision, details ways in which luxury brands can put personal touches on online experiences

Astley Clarke’s eCommerce portal

“The future of the web is about personalisation… about ‘me’. It’s about weaving the web together in a way that is smart and personalised for the user.” Tapan Bhat, Yahoo VP

“Personalisation” is clearly one of the buzz words of the moment but in an online retail context, what does it mean? Well it certainly is not just about addressing a client by name in an email marketing campaign. Surely that is the very minimum that we can expect of a luxury brand…

Another common misconception is that personalisation is solely about using crowed-based behaviour such as “people who bought product X also bought product Y” to make product recommendations to online shoppers.

“ An integral part of offline luxury marketing is that personal touch. Why would you not use the same approach online? ”

However, an integral part of luxury marketing is that ‘personal touch’. If that is crucial offline, why would you not use the same approach online? Luxury brands are champions at creating a compelling and personal journey through their real-life store, why not put as much effort into creating that level of experience online?

Personalisation can in fact be summarised as the delivery of the most relevant and engaging content – such as product information, images, articles – for each and every visitor to a website page in real time, or for each and every recipient of an email from a brand.

This begs the question of how we determine and set what is most relevant for an individual. The best way of doing this is to take inspiration from the service provided by a highly professional and qualified in-store Personal Shopper.

Storytelling on the Astley Clarke blog

So a key element in creating an equivalent luxury retail experience online is to use a combination of observations and predictions working in concert with the brand’s own merchandising rules to map out a personal journey through the online store for each visitor.

Personalisation might also be: I have been looking at a number of different products – take the last few products, what attributes do they have in common? What other products are like those? What have other people who have taken the same journey ultimately bought?

There aren’t many retail brands in general doing true personalisation let alone any in the luxury space. One of the rare exceptions is jewellery brand Astley Clarke. Unlike many other luxury brands they are not afraid, instead they have embraced the technology and have made it their own.

“ A key element in creating a personalised luxury retail experience online is to use a combination of observations & predictions ”

Perhaps this is easier for Astley Clarke than most as it a relatively young luxury brand and was in fact created with the vision of having ecommerce at its heart. A key part of their success in online luxury is that they have understood that it is not all about the technology.

So their online store is dedicated entirely to creating engaging online experiences. To achieve this, Astley Clarke uses predictive analytics for an intelligent search feature and product recommendations. Arguably the most significant point is that Astley Clarke marries the technology with the use of integrated marketing campaigns based on exquisite imagery, inspiring and educational content, storytelling etc.

Personalisation is a strategy of looking at each online shopper, understanding their context, situation and preferences and predicting relevant content for them, based on implicit and explicit information.

Astley Clarke’s eCommerce portal

With true personalisation the web journey behaviour of each visitor is stored and used to build rich and intricate customer profiles. With every click the predictive algorithms improve so that the online shopping experience gets even better over time.

There is a wide and varying range of personalisation technology available on the market from low-end, low-rent solutions to mega-solutions that require hundreds of billable consultation hours and large development teams and different brands take different approaches.

For example, a brand looking to offer personalised product recommendations in their online store can build their own recommendation engine, plug in a lightweight recommendations solution, or dedicate some time to implementing “personalisation” fully.

“ With true personalisation the web journey behaviour of each visitor is stored and used ”

To determine the best approach each brand must take into consideration these three main points:

1. What are your goals? Will spending too much time building a recommendation engine take you off track?

2. How important is the technology to your business? In the short-term a few lines of Javascript code and occasional manual data uploads might be sufficient but will this restrict you from innovating at the same pace as the rest of your business?

3. What performance level do you need? Is it essential to be able to review the implementation of the technology or test its algorithms? What about guaranteed minimum uptime level, redundancy systems, response times etc.?

We all know the statistics – targeted marketing campaigns produce results and simply speaking, personalisation is the purest form of that. Personalisation is not just the buzz word of the moment it is the key to being successful online.

To further investigate e-Commerce on Luxury Society, we invite you to explore the related materials as follows:

- Luxury Brands, Retailers & The Evolution of E-Commerce
- The Multi-Facets of Luxury Retailing
- China’s Luxury E-Commerce Market Heads In A New Direction