Cracking the Code of UX in Luxury Retail and Travel: Advice From Three Luxury Influencers 

Lorraine Ryshin

September 3, 2019 | 8 min read

Last Updated: Mar 11, 2020

The luxury industry can be a tough puzzle to decode as far as user experience (UX) is concerned. The lavishness of the industry is clearly presented in the messaging of luxury brands. But underneath all that glitz and glamor lies a very serious issue for brands, one that ultimately affects their conversions: user experience on their digital platforms.

You’ve read correctly. Even the top dogs in luxury retail have to contend with UX optimization if they want to forge ahead. They have to engage their site visitors every bit as much as non-high-end industries like grocery, cosmetics, gaming and general fashion.

A lackluster digital experience on a luxury website will be reflected in the key performance indicators of luxury businesses. It will doom a business’s swath of KPIs with underperforming ROI.

So what can luxury brands do to improve their digital experience? We consulted with three influencers in the multi-faceted vertical of luxury to weigh in on how its UX can improve. From what ticks them off, to how brands can perfect their UX, we’ve garnered a bundle of insights from these three content creators in the luxury space.

Desktop or Mobile: What is the Luxury Device of Choice? 

User experience starts with the preferred mode of entry to a website; in this context it’s the device used. We spoke with three influencers in the luxury space: Patrick Van Negri, a content creator and social media influencer who operates his namesake website, which provides lifestyle content on fashion, travel, fitness and more. 

Aftab Pathan is an influencer in the luxury travel  space, who documents his traveling adventures on his website Fresh & Fearless. The site offers insight on the places he’s visited with suggestions on the activities and services of his sojourns.

Marie Olin runs Luxury Travel Diva, a website in which she shares her luxury travel adventures and advice on a bevy of worldwide destinations. Her trips span across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe and her posts review exclusive properties, along with covering travel tips for those seeking extraordinary experiences. 

In the ongoing digital battle of desktop versus mobile, each of our interviewees gave their own takes, demonstrating that even one’s own preference on device usage isn’t always so clear-cut. Patrick made the case for desktop, because of faster load times, a higher-resolution screen and better control of the experience. However, he admitted that he’s been increasingly shopping on his phone, shining light on the potential of mobile conversions, which are unambiguously low. According to our industry benchmark data, the luxury conversion rate on mobile sits at a meager 0.62%, despite its healthy traffic rate of 66%.

While Aftab generally prefers using his laptop, he admitted that a lot of his shopping was done on-the-go. “I don’t always get time to sit down to shop, so I often find myself scrolling through my favorite fashion apps in preparation for my next travels,” he told us. “Especially as I thrive on looking my best when traveling.”

Marie opts for desktop, proving that this device is still a strong digital contender when it comes to digital shopping, even in a mobile-first world. A computer, she reasoned, allows her to “blow up the photos and see the products more easily.” 

Courtesy of Patrick Van Negri

Pet Peeves in the CX of Luxury Retail Sites

When we asked our three influencers to name some of their pet peeves on luxury sites, their answers pointed mostly to a dissatisfaction with the products themselves; or more to the point, with how they are presented. For Patrick, one cause of annoyance is “making sure the size is correct and how the product feels once you have it in your hands.” 

So how can this be rectified through changes to the CX? Brands should offer clear photos of the product in clear lighting, so that once the customer has the product, it doesn’t fall outside their expectations. Making sure you add clear size and size comparator charts will also go a long way to reassuring visitors. And if your brand has a presence in more than one country, consider helping your customers navigate different sizing standards so they can easily find their fit. 

One of Marie’s biggest peeves is missing out on a bargain because her size has sold out. Notifying visitors of low stock is a good solution to this problem, as well as providing the option to be notified once a sold-out item is back in stock.

Patrick, like many other shoppers, hates “going back to the post office for a return or exchange.” This is another area where retailers can make a difference: a pain-free return policy is today a key component of a positive experience.

Aftab chimed in with a joke, referring to the obnoxious prices in luxury. But while one of the defining characteristics of luxury is that the prices are as exclusive as the products, it’s interesting to note that some brands are adopting a “pay what you want” strategy on certain products, giving customers greater control of the shopping experience.

In earnestness, he referred to the lack of diversity from certain luxury brands as worrisome. It seems that, when it comes to inclusive marketing and campaign diversity, many luxury companies are lagging behind more mainstream retailers.

Courtesy of Fresh and Fearless


Courtesy of Fresh and Fearless

The Digital Luxury Experience, Best Sites & Apps

But while they had great insights to share on the experience gap, our three interviewees also pointed out that some luxury brands are really getting it right. Patrick singled out GQ, Farfetch, Nordstrom, and Dolce & Gabbana. “I love the style inspiration, user experience, and the info I get prior to my purchase,” he said.

That’s why digital teams ought to consider the weight of the content when designing their UX, as it can resonate with users so much so that it leads to a purchase. The purpose of content, after all, is to not only grab attention /entertain but to establish connections that resonate. 

It’s not surprising then that brands invest heavily in content to boost ecommerce conversions. But according to our data, 68% of luxury content never gets viewed, putting tremendous pressure on the  32% of content visitors are interacting with.

Aftab credits Mr. Porter as his ultimate luxury app and his partiality for this brand highlights the need for and positive outcomes of a mobile-first approach to UX. “It gives me all the latest luxury fashion essentials right to my phone, without needing to browse through various sites and spend hours finding my size,” Aftab said. “It stands out to me because it provides luxury fashion tailored towards men, and there aren’t many online stores like them, or with an app,” he concluded.

For Marie, a seamless navigation, one that shortens the path to product, takes center stage in her choosing of favorite luxury site, as well as the ease of making returns and quick order reception. “I love, she said. “It has some great designers, the site is easy to navigate, orders are sent quickly and no quibble returns. Aesthetically pleasing too!”

Courtesy of Patrick Van Negri

The UX of Luxury Travel 

The luxury space is not limited to luxury retail or shopping; plenty of brands render niche offerings that obviously deal with the digital space. Since Aftab and Marie are both laser-focused on the travel niche in the luxury space, we grilled them on this subsector.

We begin with their more high level takes on luxury travel: what the best parts of it are. Aftab praised personalized service and luxurious interiors, doubling down on the former by noting the importance of “attentive service” in one sentence. 

And personalization today is an omnichannel affair — consumers want tailored experiences both off and online. Behavioral analytics allow brands to deploy a deeper personalization strategy than ever before, one that takes into account more than just demographic data and enables meaningful experiences tied to context and intent. 

Additionally, he raved about “my one true love, branded bathroom amenities. Nothing makes me happier!” Providers in luxury hospitality take note.

Marie also ascribes the scenery as the highlight of luxury travel, along with other particular likings. “My favorite aspects of luxury travel are obviously luxurious surroundings but just as important are the staff,” she said. “Luxury travelers want to have everything running smoothly and have competent and polite staff. A Butler is my favorite treat in a top hotel.”

Zeroing in on the UX of luxury travel itself, Aftab cites the need for wish list function for a smoother, more convenient UX.

“I would like to see more travel sites allowing you to save packages and bookings in the form of a “wish list”, the same way you can on many fashion sites. Sometimes you don’t want to book the flight, hotel or both instantly, and want to revisit it at a later date (and for the same price!)”

Whether it’s to avoid longer bookings or to have easy access for a later session, the use of a wish list is crucial, and as we’ve seen in previous research, the converting power of the wish list is proven.

Marie goes for a more general rule of thumb for luxury sites that look to improve their UX, stating the necessity for user-friendliness. She pointed to the specific examples of attaining this: by providing up-to-date information with appealing and functional (clickable) links.

Luxury travel providers, especially those in hospitality, should also make specific types of hotels or other sojourning options readily visible, perhaps with left-hand navigation categories. This is because finding them can be as struggle for users — inevitably leading to their frustration. 

Aftab attests to this: “I’m very specific about the kind of hotels I choose for my travels. Often enough, I find it difficult to find a five-star hotel that fits my “vibe”, which is suitably located, and includes all the amenities/services I require during the dates I want to travel,” he said, following with a jest — “I know, total first world problems!” 

Marie’s biggest frustration in booking luxury travel stays is difficulty in navigation, particularly when there’s “too many boxes to tick!”  Additionally, a poor UX for her involves the insistence on certain dates of travel. She suggests luxury travel sites show an entire month of prices per one page for both convenience and even affordability. This is so — in her own words — “I can go on the cheapest date! Luxury travelers like a good deal.”

Courtesy of Luxury Fashion Diva


Courtesy of Luxury Fashion Diva

Advice for Luxury eCommerce Retailers and Content Creators

Lastly, we sought out advice from these influencers for luxury retailers in the digital space and content creators alike. 

According to Patrick, creativity and originality are at the helm of an optimized user experience. Creators need to be able to find their own voice and style and steer clear of duplicating what other content creators do; if they don’t avoid the latter, it’ll stunt the growth of their brand (whether that’s a business or their own media presence).

“Just like any other content creators, stay authentic because that is the only asset you have. Also, do not try to copy what other influencers are doing. You will look cheap and unoriginal, and your potential to grow is non-existent,” he said.

He closes off with: “Innovate and do not be afraid to try new things and concepts, even if they scare you and the risk is too big. That is the only way to stand out and get ahead of your competition.”

“Don’t ever start content creation for the sake of earning money or getting “famous”, it defeats the objective of being a genuine, and sought-after content creator,” he said. “And when it gets tough, or you lose inspiration, remind yourself why you started. Let your creativity run wild!”

Alongside focusing on community-building and common interests, Aftab also believes in the need to have a unique offering, whether that be in sales or content:

“If I had to share one piece of advice, it would be to be completely true to yourself. It’s easy to get consumed with what other luxury content creators are doing around you, but the main thing is that you create content that fits your brand, aura and truly allows your personality to shine through.” 

As they deal with the subject of luxury, Marie suggests that content creators in the luxury space make the content itself luxurious. “Make the content really luxurious, stand out from the ‘ordinary’, be extraordinary.”

Furthermore, she advises on the need to appeal to the target market, meaning those most apt to buy, or at least take interest in the luxury space.  “Someone recently commented that my website was luxury and not for ‘ordinary’ people. This made me happy because I aim to target the luxury market!”

Closing off, she proposes that luxury travel sites ought not forget the older travel market. “Remember the older travel market!  We are the people with time and money to spend on luxury trips. Older travelers want luxurious Business Class flights, top class accommodation,” she said.