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Romina Simon
Focus | 17 juin
3 mn

Waiting for luxury...
In retail waiting is a torture. Champagne, magic or comfort: all you need to know to take advantage of this moment feared by both the customer and the retailer.

Dans le retail, attendre est une torture. Champagne, magie ou confort : tout ce qu'il faut savoir pour tirer profit de ce moment redout par le client et le vendeur. © Bendik Kaltenborn
The luxury industry has a particular relation to time. Valuing slowness as a symbol of craftsmanship and care, time is a most valuable component for numerous luxury products  Patek Philippes famous Calibre 89 required 9 years of work to be assembled, Remy Martins Louis XIII Cognac, offers a 100-year-old beverage crafted by several generations of cellar masters.
Beyond this intrinsic value, luxury brands do not try to reduce waiting times to access products, up to a few years for some bags or cars, as a way to convey a rarity and exclusivity message to consumers and nurture their desire to purchase the product.
Creating hurdles to prevent potential customers from acquiring products as quickly as possible goes at the exact opposite of conventional marketing efforts, yet still proves to be successful for luxury brands. This special antagonism is even more salient in the context of exponentially fast developing omni-channel retail, where efforts to facilitate and fasten product access distinguish winning retailers.
Owning a privileged approach of time, luxury brands tend to underestimate the negative impact of some specific waiting times on their customers experience and satisfaction. This aspect is particularly visible in luxury retail. Indeed, queuing to enter a luxury boutique as one queues to enter a plane, waiting up to 10 minutes for a staff member to bring the right shoe size, waiting to pay and get the purchase wrapped, etc. are negative waiting times that can harm the shopping experience.
Champagne, magic or comfort: all you need to know to take advantage of this moment feared by both the customer and the retailer. © DR
Champagne, magic or comfort: all you need to know to take advantage of this moment feared by both the customer and the retailer.
One noticeable exception though is Japan, a country where queuing to get served is part of the experience; a cultural exception that led one of the greatest Jewelers to exclude this market from its time-reduction strategy in the bridal experience. With the exception of such cultural specificities, the general consensus is that once the product is available for purchase, it is key for a brand to ensure the smoothest, most efficient and pleasant shopping experience for its customers; as a first reward for the potential long waiting time and obviously, the high spending.
Some premium and fashion players have addressed this issue by reducing the actual waiting time  for example, Burberry introduced a See-Now-Buy-Now system, in which customers can order a product from the second they discover it on the runway. Obviously though, fashion acts on a particular seasonal time cycle that is very different from the time of luxury mentioned above, in which the notions of Savoir-Faire and craftsmanship often overcome the fashionable dimension.

Perceived time longer than real time

One might notice that reducing actual waiting times does not directly increase customer satisfaction. Indeed, knowing that the waiting time is one of the principal causes for customers to abandon their purchase intention (57% of consumer abandon an online transaction after 3 seconds of waiting time, according to WebPerformanceTodays investigation), retailers are merely reducing the waiting time to avoid the potential loss of sale. In order to boost customer satisfaction, it is key to address the perceived waiting time.
A recent study relayed by the New York Times determines that the perceived waiting time is on average 36% longer than the real duration! Indeed, time is most precious and this perception is exacerbated within the Millennial customer generation, characterized among other by its high impatience and desire to optimize shopping timing. As the general retail industry strategically curbs the perceived waiting time, customers have high expectations towards luxury brands and these needs have to be fulfilled to avoid customer neglect.
Improving (and obviously reducing) the perceived waiting time can be done in 3 main ways for luxury brands:
1. Reset the clock  Entertain customers by interacting with them and keeping them busy during waiting times. Offering a glass of Champagne or a similar little attention is a refined way to reduce or even erase the perceived waiting time in luxury retail.
2. Create some magic  Take the opportunity to immerse customers into the brand universe with dedicated storytelling and specific experiences. Brands creating a dedicated customer experience are interacting with them and ensuring they are never getting bored.
3. Improve the process  Multiply opportunities to book appointments and organize a welcoming hostess or Greeter during rush hours. These process optimizations address the waiting problematic and provide a reassuring framework to customers; by informing customers about their upcoming waiting times, the reduced insecurity also reduces their perceived waiting time.
Measures to reduce perceived waiting time can seem quite trivial, yet they are not easy to implement within a luxury retail environment and need to be well thought out and specifically aligned with the brand DNA and shopping experience to be successful.
By shrinking their customers perceived waiting time during the purchase act, brands will allow customers to enjoy their finally acquired product and trigger them to renew their experience, getting back to the positive waiting  dreaming and imagining their next purchase.
Romina Simon
Consultant MADnetwork
Romina joined MADnetwork, a consulting firm specialized in retail & customer experience for luxury brands and department stores, in 2015. She supports brands in the optimization of their points of sale from an image, commercial and customer experience perspective to define with them the most inspirational and efficient retail concept for their customers.
Crédits photo : DR, Bendik Kaltenborn
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Article paru dans le numéro #139 ARTIFICES
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