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Luxury retailers need to improve online shopping to keep up with mobile-savvy consumers

Feb 04, 2013 Dave King

Shoppers looking for luxury goods may be more apt to use their mobile devices to make payments with prepaid ACH cards, debit and credit cards, but retailers beware. They're expecting more service than many luxury stores currently provide, a new study warns.

The annual Luxury E-Retail Satisfaction Index released by analytics firm ForeSee showed that more than 3,500 luxury shoppers use smartphones and tablets frequently not only to pay for their purchases, but to research products, compare prices and use a company's mobile application. Survey responses were based on visits to websites of luxury brands during November and December 2012.

However, ForeSee found luxury consumers are also less satisfied with e-commerce, because stores at their level are not providing as positive an online experience as mainstream retailers. On the study's 100-point scale, the research showed that mainstream stores garnered higher scores than the aggregate rate of 77 for luxury retailers. Tiffany and Coach achieved the highest scores, at 80 points, among the purveyors of high-end goods, while was rated lowest at 72.

"Luxury retailers have some catching up to do with mainstream retailers in terms of measuring the customer experience across all channels and using that data and analysis to impact strategic, tactical, and operational decision making at the highest level," said Larry Freed , president and CEO of ForeSee.

Upscale shoppers more mobile
What compounds the dilemma is that upscale brand shoppers are adopting the mobile channel faster than consumers of non-luxury goods. As a result, high-end retailers will have to step up the services that these consumers are seeking,  such as adding price comparisons and product reviews, said Eric Feinberg, ForeSee's senior director of mobile, media and entertainment. It's the only way to keep those customers in the brand's fold and to ensure that they continue to buy across all channels.

The index research showed that 41 percent of visitors to the websites of luxury brands found prices too high, while 71 percent expected better merchandise and 43 percent wanted to see improvements in the websites themselves. By improving those two areas, the retailers could expect to increase customer satisfaction, Freed said.

The index was based on a survey of 13 luxury retailers, including websites that specialize in gift items, national chains including Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, designer shops such as Ralph Lauren and stores named for their brands, including Brooks Brothers.