The Realities Of User Experience Design Within The Luxury Industry

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Adopting technology and embracing a digital presence through platforms and initiatives, the luxury industry today is tackling the challenge of designing an unparalleled user experience (UX) online. In this article, we’ll present a case study and share observations on the peculiarities of the UX design of a luxury lifestyle service platform and its mobile apps.

Some time ago, 415Agency teamed up with VERITAMO to design a digital UX for its platform, which enables luxury service providers and lifestyle-management companies to deliver personalized services to its clients. Among the services offered are travel arrangements and bookings, luxury shopping experiences, gastronomy and more. A typical client of the platform is either a provider of high-end services or a lifestyle-management company that serves affluent clients. The company offers a back-office solution, together with integrated white-label mobile apps for use by its clientele.

The goal was to enable service providers to deliver a unique UX journey to a very particular type of consumer. We were extremely curious to solve the challenge of creating an upscale mobile experience in a time when digital personalization and customization are available to anyone.

User Profile

According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, modern luxury consumers have become “highly digital, social and mobile,” with 75% already owning several digital devices. They are known for putting less value on owning physical high-end items, focusing instead on the authentic and special experiences that luxury companies offer. Moreover, they want their experience to be smooth, omnichannel and available 247, but at the same time only when and where they want. Based on research by Bain & Company, the profiles of luxury consumers today are very diverse, both demographically and geographically, covering many different segments of people. With the changes and expansion in the luxury customer’s profile, mindset and habits, luxury companies and service providers have to experiment at the intersection of technology, culture and commerce to keep their devotees interested, informed and entertained.

For our project, our primary understanding of the luxury service’s end users (their demographics and psychographics) was based on insights from VERITAMO’s customers. Based on their observations, we were able to frame the initial end user’s profile and make it the baseline for our further work. The insights highlighted the following important areas:

  • prospective audience,
  • user behavior patterns and rhythms,
  • context of use of concierge services platforms (web, mobile),
  • potential drivers of user behaviors and reactions,
  • implicit user goals.

These initial findings covered the core user research questions: whowhatwhen and where. We used this data to set early hypotheses on the peculiarities of the digital luxury experience and on ways to address it in our design solution. We expected end users of luxury lifestyle services to be highly detail oriented; to be willing to learn and participate in all stages of service requests, search and the booking process; and to anticipate the highest and the most transparent level of customer service, with an exclusive and extra personal touch.

We focused on investigating the missing why and how: understanding customer incentives and the steps they needed to take within the app to reach their goals. Additional surveys and user interviews were conducted iteratively during the design process. Some of our initial assumptions and the methods we selected turned out to be incorrect or inappropriate, so we had to adjust them along the way.

Expectations

Our initial assumptions about the digital luxury experience spun around highly personalized service delivery. At the beginning, we believed that swift customer service and elevated human-to-human interactions were key to offering efficient mobile tools to connect luxury consumers with their service providers. We believed that these aspects alone were enough for service providers to lure discerning, busy consumers to the mobile apps created by VERITAMO.

As it turns out, we were wrong. App usage statistics across the spectrum of service providers showed that there was no significant difference in the rate of orders from clients who downloaded the app and those who didn’t. Furthermore, mobile user retention suffered dramatically when service providers did not make any effort to market their apps.

We formed several hypotheses to explain this. With so many apps out there competing for real estate on users’ phone, incremental improvement to interaction with service providers was not enough. After all, consumers already had communication channels established with their service providers — even if they were brittle and inefficient.

Based on feedback from digital product managers and client services managers at the biggest concierge companies (including AmEx Centurion, John Paul, Quintessentially, Ten Group, LesConcierges, Aspire Lifestyles and several others), we learned that luxury service providers were seeking better management of and greater transparency with client requests. We decided to make this our key design motivation.

Service Discovery Process

Initially, when working on the service discovery process, we offered mobile users a vast variety of search options, including multiple search criteria, filters and instant browsing. The initial design contained a flyout search menu (via the famous hamburger icon), which confused users about the navigation. They browsed only the current category selected, without understanding that other search options were available.

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