— By Mac McConnell —
How to create a consistent luxury shopping experience across locations.
Imagine you’re a shopper who just stepped into a luxury goods store. You are greeted by a sharply attired, uber-friendly store employee who hands you a tall glass of chilled sparkling wine and offers to give you a guided tour of the newest inventory. “No thanks for now,” you say, explaining that you’d rather do some browsing first. As you stroll through the aisles, you take in the impressive sights: the finish of the fine woodwork, the soft uplighting that spotlights the opulent wares beautifully, and the comforts of the high-tech, climate-controlled environment. Everything looks and feels just right, providing you exactly the experience you’d expect.
Luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci find their continued success largely due to the premium environments and quality they provide their customers at each touchpoint along the buyer’s journey. And with so many brand touchpoints and customer experiences, whether in-person, in the media or online, creating a near state of perfection is certainly a challenge.
Every facility manager who supports luxury brands knows how essential the “brand uptime” of the facility and its equipment is to create an exceptional in-store customer experience. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics. A recent survey by Adobe found that 86% of consumers would pay more if they knew they’d receive a great customer experience. But for those who work in the luxury retail sector, just creating a great customer experience isn’t enough —what they curate needs to be unique and upscale, yet consistent across locations.
Facilities managers know that assets can break down at any time; in many cases, unpredictability is the name of the game. Maybe there is a broken lightbulb in the bathroom or there’s a delay on a work order for an HVAC unit. Slight delays with these work orders might go unnoticed by customers in a traditional retail setting. But in the luxury industry? You’ll bet that customers will take notice and adjust their brand impression accordingly.
So how do facilities managers prevent these slip-ups from happening? They should take a systematic approach that focuses on the following three tactics:
- Flagship Store Prioritization
- Brand Uptime & Asset Management
- Spend Reduction.
Let’s dive in:
Flagship Store Prioritization
Most luxury brands have a flagship store. This is the most important store in a chain, often carrying the highest volume of sales and located in a major city. While every luxury store requires high attention to detail, the flagship store should receive extra attention due to its significant traffic flow and the higher standards customers place on it.
How can brands ensure their flagship stores are maintained to exacting standards, 24/7? Technology is a key player. Consider this example: One global brand, a specialty retailer operating more than 4,000 stores in North America and 5,000 worldwide, faced challenges with its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, citing the management of its large number of internal providers as particularly frustrating. Work orders were assigned without any widely adopted processes, submitted randomly over the phone or via email. Without a centralized digital interface, the brand struggled to prioritize its flagship store work orders and keep maintenance activities running on schedule.
Enter contractor management software. Upon implementation, each of the brand’s internal service providers was set up on one centralized dashboard. They could easily be assigned to work orders, check up on statuses, and receive minute-to-minute updates through the platform. Team leaders could also evenly distribute work orders across their staff, reassign action items as needed, and even schedule contractors to non-peak hours or even non-store hours in order to not impact the luxury experience. With this new visibility into work orders, the brand saw vast improvements in response/resolution time and decision making. This was particularly critical for the flagship store, since a minute of wasted time at this location could exponentially increase the number of poor customer impressions.
For this luxury brand, contractor management software also allowed them to hold internal providers to a higher standard of performance. Access to historical performance data and benchmarking capabilities meant contractors could be more carefully monitored to ensure their quality of work held up to the industry standard — and was carried out efficiently. With this new, automated system in place, the luxury brand was able to gain a stronger grip on its flagship store, improve company-wide visibility into R&M activities, and spend more time improving the customer experience.
Brand Uptime & Asset Management
Brand uptime — the way a customer positively or negatively perceives a brand based on its physical infrastructure — is vital for the luxury retail space. Why is brand uptime so important in the luxury industry? Each consistent and positive customer experience contributes to brand loyalty and repeat buyers. Each fixture, piece of furniture and design element should speak to what the brand stands for — and these elements should be set up consistently across locations. Because luxury stores’ assets tend to be customized to the brand, it is important that the service providers who were employed to maintain them know how to properly do so.
To provide consistent brand experiences across locations, luxury retailers need smart maintenance technology that can store large quantities of detailed information and real-time data — such as maintenance management software. This eliminates the risk of failing to schedule routine maintenance by keeping track of which repairs need to be performed, at what frequency, and by whom. Automatically deployed work orders take the worry out of providing a consistent appearance across locations and make it easier for FMs to shift from a reactive approach to maintenance towards a forward-thinking, preventive strategy.
All businesses strive to reduce spend while maximizing profits. In the luxury sector, keeping FM budgets in check can be especially challenging due to the need to constantly keep facilities in pristine condition. This added pressure often means extra dollars are spent on emergency repairs and cleanups.
Fashion house and luxury retail company Louis Vuitton found itself in this situation, and realized it needed a new approach to its facilities program in order to prevent ongoing budgetary overrun. It decided to implement a service automation platform, prioritizing the system’s robust data analytics capabilities to gain insight into budgeting, cost containment and work order spend optimization.
This functionality proved to be extremely valuable: Louis Vuitton began to look at its existing data in completely new ways, taking advantage of spend analysis and identifying patterns that could easily be reversed. The brand applied these insights towards new store buildouts and equipment purchases while tracking ongoing maintenance spend throughout.
Another significant contributor to its success? The luxury retailer found itself saving both time and money on FM-related billing and invoicing after adopting the electronic invoicing and payment processing system built into the service automation platform. This, in turn, increased efficiency and helped to improve relationships with service providers. In fact, the Louis Vuitton finance team wound up saving 41 working days of their time per year due to the new, expedited payment and invoicing process.
Broken down equipment and facilities repairs are inevitabilities for any retailer. However, luxury retailers, must be ever vigilant that they address these issues with an even greater sense of urgency than your average corner store. After all, their brand image and reputation are at stake, not to mention possible sales due to sub-luxurious customer experience.
By giving your flagship store extra attention, consistently maintaining assets and striving to increase work order efficiency, you can be assured that customers will receive a consistent luxury shopping experience across every location. The only thing your customers should be worried about is how to transport all those wonderful new purchases safely back home.
— Mac McConnell is vice president of marketing at ServiceChannel, a San Francisco-based company that helps more than 500 brands to manage the performance of over 50,000 service providers across 300,000 locations in 63 countries. He is responsible for all aspects of global marketing, including brand awareness, communications, and demand and lead generation.