Published October 23, 2015. Updated September 19, 2022.
Retail can be separated into two distinct camps: high-priced luxury brands that give high-touch, personalized service and no-touch, stack-it-high-and-let-it-fly discounters; many of them online as direct-to-consumer or DTC.
Discounters are seen as no-frills, no-service stores where customers only return for a cheap price, not for the quality, not for a relationship, and not for the experience.
The luxury brands do it better… or so you’d think.
In a recent press release, the Luxury Institute shared some startling facts:
Most luxury brands lose 80-90 percent of their customer base annually.
Those same brands are deficient in retaining even 50 percent of their top customers.
Only 10-15 percent of a luxury brand's customers state that they have a relationship with a sales professional (brand ambassador) and can name that person.
Again, customer attrition rates in the luxury industry are at an astronomical 80-90 percent.
Contrast those findings with the upside in the premium market, “Customers who have a true human relationship with a brand ambassador typically buy double from that brand and stay loyal longer.”
Yet we have proof that many very important customers slip through premium brands’ hands every year, every month, every day – every hour. Why is that?
As I’ve said before, luxury retail is ready for a reboot – BIG TIME! The 1950s sales practice of intimidation, feigned indifference, and servitude aren’t going to deliver anything but a silent store.
Everyone agrees that luxury spending had been strong until a few months ago, but how much more could they have gotten if they'd changed their sales training?
Customers now know a lot about any product they are considering - your Four Cs aren't cutting edge; they're already known.
Selling is not just pulling out a calculator and figuring out the discount they can give the customer.
Selling is selling the merchandise by selling themselves first.
Especially at the top end.
Since many miss on this, it isn’t that surprising we find the odds are 90 percent of customers not coming back because the salesperson hasn’t made the relationship personal and they’ve lost the key to the customer’s wallet. It isn't more product knowledge they need; it's retail sales training.
How to sell luxury retail:
1. Have a Treasure Trove
Your salespeople must have a million ways to develop trust and sell your product. The one-size-fits-all approach that might work for someone working in a department store will not work when selling non-essential goods. Customers who purchase the best brands have stronger personalities, are self-assured, and are just like the most exclusive luxury goods - no two are ever alike.
2. Have Four Versions of Stories
Yes, stories and product details are what make your luxury goods unique, but the four basic shopper personalities demand that the story be shaped to their individual styles. That means to shorten the story, so Driver types quickly see why it’s the best, and stretch it out with reams of information so Analytical types know how it’s the best. Expressives want you to explain its uniqueness, and Amiable types want to know how popular it is and which celebrities have endorsed it.
3. Address Smartphones
Luxury customers are busy with multiple demands on their time, even when shopping. This is where your intuition, personality style training, and patience have to kick in. While a coffeehouse can put up a sign, “Please finish your call before ordering,” you can’t, so come up with a way to deal with the probable interruptions. Even though every interaction/interruption will be different and there will be no one “right” answer, you must discuss these situations with your crew using past experiences as material for role-playing. Otherwise, a customer's insulted feelings might kill the sale.
4. Know All The Brands
Whether you sell cars or cashmere, today's luxury buyer is a player; their connections, brains, talent, or looks got them their money. Salespeople must notice the brands these customers are already wearing, from the Jimmy Choo shoes on her feet to the Omega Seamaster watch on his wrist. Premium customers appreciate talking to people who know the difference in feel, in smell, in taste, and in service. If they don’t sense this shared appreciation, those customers won’t respect any advice or goodwill-building the employee offers. They’ll remain nameless.
Goodwill building is what is typically missing for many retailers. Increasingly, premium brands are turning to me to help them upgrade and reboot their customer experience.
If you are such a brand, contact me and let me help you using my retail sales training program to create exceptional experiences for your customers like I've done with many premium brands, so you can keep your customers returning.