In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the need for esteem and status comes right after the need for love and friendship. In the modern world, status and prestige are often associated with branded luxury goods and exclusive services, on which people are willing to spend enormously.
Luxury brands have long shied away from developing web and mobile apps, leaning heavily on their brand heritage and fearing that online retailing would reduce their sense of exclusivity. But changes in customer buying behavior coupled with the widespread adoption of mobile devices have made luxury brands think about creating mobile solutions.
More and more luxury brands are using technologies to promote themselves, drive sales, and build a strong community of loyal customers. In the future, according to a report by Bain & Company, the online channel will represent 25 percent of market value in the luxury segment.
Let’s discover what are the main benefits of the app development for you brand and how different luxury niches go mobile.
Why a mobile or web app is a win for your luxury brand
What are the real perks for luxury brands of creating an app? By developing a luxury app, brands can get:
Better brand awareness
Around 80 percent of all luxury goods sales are now influenced by online channels, according to Bain & Company. Consumers hit one or more digital touchpoints in their luxury buying journey. Branded web and mobile apps are excellent tools to keep in touch with existing customers, let them discover new collections and upcoming events, share news, and carefully warm them up for further online and offline purchases.
Chanel actively uses its app for such purposes. However, web and mobile applications can also serve as a perfect entry point for a younger and more digital audience who is reportedly willing to spend more on luxury brands than even before. According to Fashion United, Millennials drove 85 percent of luxury sector growth in 2018.
Increased customer loyalty
At the early stage of digitalization, most brands were focused on using technology to deliver efficiency to their business processes. But this direction didn’t fit luxury brands, which strive to build deep and meaningful relationships with their customers. Times have changed, and now users are looking for new experiences. It’s the perfect time for luxury brands to enter the digital world.
Fast performance, the ability to discover and buy goods in a few clicks and book and pay for services within minutes — all of this makes the relationship with a brand enjoyable and delightful. However, you can provide additional value for your customers to make their stay in your app even more pleasant. For example, Louis Vuitton has created a city guide app to give clients unforgettable travel experiences. This move helps Louis Vuitton demonstrate care for their customers and results in customer loyalty and advocacy.
The days when wealth was something the affluent wore proudly are gone. Today, the wealthy live behind walls and are increasingly inconspicuous. This has resulted in a decrease in offline luxury shopping and an increase in online luxury sales. Euromonitor International says that luxury goods sales are growing much faster online than in physical stores, accounting for 14 percent of all online sales as compared to 5 percent of all sales in traditional retail. Buying luxury goods or paying for services without leaving an application can not only make the lives of your users easier but also help you get more sales.
What’s your luxury niche?
The luxury industry includes various sectors: fashion, private transportation, travel, real estate, fine arts. The luxury market is prospering, as proven by recent statistics — Bain & Company estimates the market to be worth €1.2 trillion globally and says that it has shown 5 percent revenue growth from 2017 to 2018. Let’s take a closer look at several lucrative luxury markets. The markets for luxury cars, luxury hospitality, and personal luxury goods together account for more than 80 percent of the total market.
Personal luxury goods
This category includes clothing, footwear, bags, accessories, cosmetics, jewelry, and watches. Bain & Company states that revenue from personal luxury goods amounted to €260 billion in 2018 and showed 2 percent growth compared to the previous year.
In 2018, Statista created a list of top luxury brands worldwide, which included Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, Rolex, Cartier, Burberry, Prada, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Louis Vuitton has an application for both iOS and Android that helps users keep in touch with news from the brand, purchase luxury goods within the app, and pair smartwatches and luggage.
[Chanel and Gucci go mobile]
Hermes, Prada, and Burberry don’t have mobile apps. Instead, they’ve created their own online stores allowing users to purchase items in a few taps and read brand-related news. Rolex ignores mobile but has a website that serves as a marketing channel rather than a revenue source. The website offers no online purchases; instead, there’s news about the brand, information about store locations, and overviews of Rolex watches. Dior has an app called Dior Mag, where loyal customers and brand fans can find news and announcements. Dior TV serves the same purpose but has video material.
People are ready to pay extra to get maximum comfort while traveling. This is easily proved by the fact that revenue from the luxury hospitality industry surpassed €160 billion in 2018.
There are several types of apps within the luxury hospitality industry: concierge apps, apps for renting apartments and booking hotels, and apps for individualized trip planning with the help of a specialist.
Essentialist is a members-only app for travel planning. Every member of the community has a personal assistant, full access to VIP content, special offers, and invitations to special events for members of the community.
Luxury hotels now also provide web and mobile experiences for finding and booking rooms. Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels, and Marriott International allow users to book hotel rooms in a few taps and discover new promotions.
[Marriott Bonvoy is a great example of a luxury hospitality app]
Luxury cars is the most lucrative luxury niche, generating €495 billion in 2018 according to Bain & Company. In this sector, the aim shifts from online sales to delivering maximum convenience to car owners.
Though not all luxury car manufacturers seek to create an app, some have already benefited from branded app development. Tesla created a mobile app that lets Tesla owners control their cars via their phones. Audi owners have an app with the same functionality.
Lamborghini Unica is an app that keeps users in touch with the Lamborghini brand and provides access to exclusive events around the world.
Private jets and yachts
Aside from cars, people like renting luxury yachts and private jets. Several years ago, private jet rental companies provided their clients with three ways to book private flights: with a prepaid card, through fractional ownership, or via a broker. Now, when companies enable users to rent transport within a few taps in a web or mobile app, a car rental market prospers.
Takejet, Get Jet, XOJet (previously JetSmarter), and TakeHeli offer easy jet and helicopter rentals, while Sailo, TakeBoat, Get Boat, and YachtLife provide top luxury yachts for rent all over the world. Most of these applications have a marketplace business model, so they serve as a mediator between owners of luxury yachts and renters.
[XOJet and GetMyBoat invested in mobile app development]
Bear in mind that a platform-like business requires creating two apps: one for jet/helicopter/yacht owners and one for customers.
Tips and trick of creating an app for luxury brand
To best serve your customers, you need to understand their primary needs and incentives when buying luxury goods. So what do your customers want?
Feel like a member of a private community
A lot of people buy luxury goods or order luxury services to experience the feel of uniqueness and belonging to a private community. It’s important for a luxury digital product to give users this feeling. There are several ways to do that:
As a rule of thumb, luxury apps offer premium membership that provides users with exclusive content and offers. Some luxury apps require users to purchase a premium membership to get access to the service. XOJet, for example, has an annual membership fee of $2,500. It provides its VIP members with exclusive discounts, a concierge service, luxury partner benefits, and access to VIP events. Essentialist’s complete functionality is also available only after purchasing a membership. In Essentialist, a users fills in a registration form and schedules a call with a concierge. After a short onboarding, the user confirms their wish to become a member of the community. Only after a call and purchasing a membership does a user get access to Essentialist services.
[Premium membership on XOJet and Essentialist]
Mind you, to enable in-app subscriptions in your mobile app you should use either the Google Play Billing service or Apple’s In-app Purchase API, both of which handle subscriptions. These solutions also support automatic subscription renewal. For web apps, you can use popular subscription management solutions like Chargify, FastSpring, and Cleverbridge.
Some luxury applications offer invite-only membership. Take Luxy, for example — a dating app for millionaires who seek true love. Users can access the app only if they earn more than $200,000 a year or they’re voted in by 50 percent of the existing community members. To verify a user’s income, Luxy asks them to send pictures of their driver’s license or passport at registration together with a picture of their most recent tax return.
Online retailers have started using the invite-only model as well. Net-A-Porter has created NetBook, an invite-only social network app that allows users to create wishlists and connect with other shoppers based on those lists. Net-A-Porter has already invited fashion industry influencers to download the app. These influencers can invite their friends and colleagues, growing the network in this way.
An excellent user experience
What do most luxury brick-and-mortar stores look like? They have a welcoming atmosphere, fancy window displays, and attentive staff. Users expect the same level of customer service — or better — with your luxury digital product. This can be accomplished with an intuitive UX design, easy navigation, and responsiveness. If you’ve set the bar high in the physical world, you should achieve the same level of perfection in the digital realm.
As technologies continue altering consumer behaviour, customers no longer merely purchase products or order services; they hunt for the pleasant journeys and emotions a brand can give them. Let’s find out how to give your customers these emotions.
In particular, millennials, who are expected to lead in spending power by 2020, are looking for “individualized, seamless brand relationships akin to the relationships they have with friends and family members.”
A warm welcome is the first step toward customer satisfaction. For this, luxury companies use highly personalized user onboarding. After a user has registered in XOJet, a client representative offers to schedule a call with a concierge. The concierge explains how XOJet works and answers all questions. Below, we discuss in detail how a concierge service should work.
[XOJet's concierge team]
While some brands use their apps to present the newest collections, others go further and implement enhanced recommendation mechanisms. Big data is now the main technology that allows applications to deliver highly personalized content to customers. The Luxe Digital report states that 85 percent of luxury brand sales come from customers registered in a brand’s database. Big data analytics enables luxury brands to identify and connect with their affluent consumers, understand their lifestyles and purchasing behaviors, and build long-term engagement.
In the early days of the luxury era, Louis Vuitton hand-wrote recommendations to a customer for particular travel bags for a transatlantic journey to New York City. Today, big data and machine learning help brands identify spending power and preferences so that brands can recommend products and services that best fit each particular customer.
Advanced features for a deeper experience
The main bottleneck of online stores compared to brick-and-mortar stores is customers’ inability to touch and try on items. Augmented reality and 360-degree images can overcome this.
Augmented reality allows users to see how items will fit them. Cartier has an app where brides can use AR to check how jewelry from the latest collection will look on them.
With 360-degree photos, users can see how an item looks from different angles. This solution is useful for rental and hotel booking apps. For instance, Shangri-La Hotels offers immersive 360-degree discovery experiences to shape customer decision-making. Brands can benefit from 360-degree videos as well. For instance, in 2016, Dior used a 360-degree camera to record their Paris fashion show so viewers could take a front-row seat.
The luxury market has a large target audience all over the world, and you should provide a seamless user experience for every customer. Consider localizing your app to support multiple languages.
Don’t neglect the Chinese market. Bain & Company states that Chinese customers will account for more than 45 percent of the luxury market. Moreover, half of these luxury purchases will happen in China, which means apps will need to be adjusted for the local market. Localizing in Chinese takes a lot of effort, but we’ve got a comprehensive guide that may be helpful.
Most luxury brands are now comfortably selling their goods online. Today, online sales of personal luxury goods account for 8 percent of the €254 billion global luxury market. Moreover, online payments is one of the core features for luxury hotel booking apps and yacht, car, and jet rental services. If you’ve decided to enable online payments, implementing a secure and convenient payment gateway is a must. A poor checkout process can cost you in terms of reputation and massive customer churn. To find out more about integrating payment gateways, read our blog post on that topic.
Read also: Mobile App Payment Gateway Integration
Appealing UI/UX design
Black, gold, white, grey, and red were the trendiest colors in the luxury world in 2018, according to Aspire. We found that Alluxe, Luxury Estate, Gucci, Chanel, and The Luxury Closet use black as the primary color. Louis Vuitton, Ounass, and GetMyBoat use white as the primary color. XOJet prefers grey.
There’s actually no strict rule for the color palette, but neutral or monochromatic colors are recommended to direct a user’s attention to the most important content in your app: your goods. What’s obligatory, however, is the use of animations. Smooth animations not only make a design more appealing but also guide your users through the app. You can learn more about the benefits of web animations in our guide to mobile UI animations.
Be heard and supported
We all appreciate personalized and quality customer service. But consumers of luxury products accept no excuses when it comes to poor support and lack of attention to their questions. That’s why it’s important to make customer support your strongest feature.
Luckily for you, this is possible through integrating your app with real-time messaging so your customer support team or even a personal concierge can solve customers’ concerns around the clock.
Take HT Pro, HotelTonight’s concierge service, as an example. It’s a chat-based service where users can get a personalized consultation with a company or hotel specialist. A client can ask a personal consultant about where to go in a city or what the best restaurants are nearby. They can also ask for an extra toothbrush or a specific type of pillow. Essentialist provides members with a concierge who will answer all of their questions and plan trips.
[Hotel Tonight's HT Pro]
You can also offer your users to schedule a call with a concierge. This is a good option when a client has complicated questions and is looking for a detailed explanation. But this feature may be impractical if a customer has urgent issues.
To optimize the user experience, implement deep linking in chat. This feature allows users to quickly go to a particular website or app page or even see a preview without leaving an app. For an example, look at how HotelTonight has implemented deep linking in their concierge chat.
Providing a highly personalized customer experience requires additional human resources and efforts. First, you should hire and train a concierge team so they can serve your customers 24/7. Also, it’s essential to create an admin panel where your team can serve customers.
Get additional value
Entertainment. Most luxury applications have additional features that make their apps more engaging. Gucci offers users to explore the most fascinating sights all over the world in the Explore tab, add cute stickers to user’s photos in the Photobooth tab, and download wallpapers created by Gucci. Louis Vuitton has a separate app that serves as a travel guide.
Items finder. Image recognition is implemented in the Louis Vuitton app. With the help of the LV Finder feature, users can take a picture of one of the brand’s handbags and the app will transfer them to the shop page with it.
[Gucci Wallpapers and LV Product Search]
Shop in their favorite offline boutiques
Not all luxury applications allow customers to pay via web or mobile app, leaning instead toward encouraging customers to shop offline. For instance, in the Chanel app, you can only see the approximate cost of an item. To buy, you should call an advisor to confirm the price and reserve the item in a store. That’s why many luxury retail brands find it important to create lists of stores and pin them on a map alongside contact information.
Luxury brands also try to eliminate situations when a customer goes to the store for something but it’s out of stock. For this, Gucci has a Find in store button under each item: a customer can enter their address or zip code and the app will find the nearest store where this item is available. Or customers can order the item by phone. In this case, a consultant may offer two options: to book the item for pickup at the nearest store or ship it.
[Gucci allows users to find a desired item in the store nearby]
Another interesting technology that’s commonly used in retail is iBeacon. When placed in a boutique, iBeacons detect nearby customer devices and send them media, such as coupons and notifications on new arrivals. This is a great way to engage customers and make them enter your store. Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, and Moss Bros all use iBeacons to market to their customers.
Never miss a beat
Your luxury clients will definitely want to know about the hottest deals, special offers, upcoming events, and latest collections. You can let them know in several ways. The most popular way is to implement push notifications. Don’t go overboard with sending notifications, however, since they can annoy users. Like in the Channel app, you can let users choose how many notifications they get.
Learn more: Push Notifications Mechanism for iOS & Android
JetSmart has another option, Message centre, where a user gets messages about current flights, events, and discounts. Chanel and Louis Vuitton have News tap, where users can quickly find the latest information about their favorite brands’ new collections and events.
Crucial development tips
iOS development. Business Insider states that owning an iPhone or iPad is the number one attribute of a high-income person. That’s why some luxury brands develop a personal branded app for iOS only. Lamborghini, Cartier, and TakeHeli target only people who own Apple devices. On the other hand, Tesla, GetMyBoat, Dior, Essentialist, and Luxe Observer also take Android into account.
Fast performance. When a user wants to quickly find a jet to rent or a luxury villa to live in for several weeks, they don’t forgive slow performance and crashes. For the money they pay for your goods and services, luxury consumers expect your app to fulfill their needs in a few minutes. So it’s important to know that your app will work seamlessly. For that, you should choose the right web and mobile app development company who can pick the right tech stack according to your project requirements.
Data security. Data security is a top concern for all business niches. Luxury brands should be especially attentive, as there’s a lot of money at stake and companies tend to store sensitive data about their clients, including addresses and phone numbers. Choose reliable payment systems like Braintree or Stripe and invest in data encryption.
As your target audience spends more time online, you should go online as well. To create a successful luxury app, first you should understand the needs of your target audience. Customers of luxury brands are accustomed to highly personalized quality services and will accept no excuse when something goes wrong.
Developing a mobile app for a luxury brand requires a thorough marketing strategy first. It’s also good for luxury brands to invest in a reliable team. Give careful thought to your idea and share the details with us when it’s time.