How Exceptional Customer Service Helps Luxury Brands Stand Out

A digital earthquake has been felt in the luxury goods industry, and its impact is indisputable. There’s a host of new opportunities available to brands: new user behavior, product innovations, and particularly, exceptional and innovative customer services. As Cécile Robin, Head of eCommerce EMEA at Shiseido, explains that the luxury market’s cornerstones are its services.

Cécile Robin, Head of eCommerce EMEA at Shiseido

With expertise both in marketing and sales, Cécile Robin began her career in supermarket distribution at French retail company Carrefour, before turning to luxury. With 15 years of experience, including eight years in eCommerce at Sephora, Cécile is now the Head of eCommerce at Shiseido. She is in charge of business development for the group’s eCommerce sites across EMEA and works on eCommerce acceleration for the Shiseido Group.

Here’s what she has to share about how luxury brands can bring their history of exceptional customer experience online:

 

The Shiseido Group launched its European eCommerce site in October 2019. How did the launch go?

We launched six Shiseido-branded eCommerce sites in late 2019 (France, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Benelux).

The crisis we’ve been going through since the beginning of the year has been a major accelerator for eCommerce. In April, we outperformed the sales figures for the entire first quarter! As with any site launch, we keep it in an “incubator” to analyze our customer journey, spot potential friction points, and find out about performance. So, we accelerated the process and developments, and now it’s a success story that we are closely monitoring because, in these unprecedented times, the rules are changing every day.

 

What was the aim?

Shiseido is the group’s eponymous brand! So, it was only natural that we wanted a premium, distinctive communication channel with our customers. It was a vital cornerstone in our regional eCommerce strategy. We have a clear desire to increase our digital footprint, and with this in mind, we don’t see our sites as a simple sales channel but as a window display for the brand. We aim to showcase our products, with as wide a range as possible and exclusive products, to promote our brand DNA and, of course, to offer distinctive, quality content.

 

So, it’s like a flagship store, but online?

Exactly. That’s our eCommerce sites’ mission. We have our products on show, but much more on top of that: previews, services, and very specific offers.

 

What’s changing online in luxury this year?

It is the development of decision support tools, without a doubt. This technology isn’t that new, but the crisis has accelerated its rise. With the situation we’re going through now, we can’t just try out a lipstick or foundation tester like we used to. How can brands help with this? How can we support our customers and reassure them that they’re making the right choices?

We can see an apparent increase in the use and development of decision support tools by luxury brands. Take the virtual try-on tool, for example, which is very quickly becoming more and more widely used. 

 

What tools do you have to teach customers more about your products?

We’ve prioritized many developments to meet our customers’ expectations of our different brands: the virtual try-on I mentioned is one of them; we have our solution, but we’re also working on online skincare diagnosis and virtual beauty consultations. You can now book a beauty appointment via Zoom. Through this online consultation tool, advisers can help our customers find the product best suited to their beauty needs. The fundamental issue is how to remain close to our clients (while still physically distanced from them), how to listen to them, and how to surprise them, wherever they may be. 

Taking that support we offer in-store and reproducing it online is crucial for the luxury industry.

 

Is exceptional customer service the key to luxury brands offering a unique experience?

Of course, that’s undoubtedly one of the critical points. To offer exceptional customer service that helps us stand out, we need to provide a frictionless experience throughout the journey, minimizing any frustration or obstacles. Our service has to run smoothly from the first contact right through to home delivery (if the aim is to encourage a purchase). It’s also important to support customers in their decisions (e.g., access to information, finding products, and testing) and to anticipate their questions (through FAQ pages or proactive emails about delivery, for example). Customer service must be premium too, in line with our brands’ values, but it also has to be state-of-the-art, by offering interaction via chatbot or virtual agents, for example.

 

How do you see the luxury market in Europe changing?

I think we’re on our way to becoming much more socially responsible. This is a requirement we’ve identified from our consumers, who are increasingly considering brands’ environmental impact. One of the prominent examples is what we use in our packaging: tissue paper, stickers, colorful high-quality packaging, etc. 

Brands are going to have to rethink their products and everything associated with them. I think there’s a great story to be told here.

 

Have you already launched any new initiatives on this front?

Yes, that is central to the group’s priorities and is reflected at every level: for example, we have days when employees spend their time working for charities. This approach goes far beyond the products themselves.

As far as eCommerce is concerned, if we take a look at packaging again, we’ve stopped adding printouts to our parcels, so customers no longer receive a paper invoice or returns slip, for example. The challenge is to get our consumers to accept these changes, as our value proposition is still a unique experience. Similarly, while price remains by far the most important consideration for product delivery, the top three criteria also include speed and meeting delivery times. So, communication is critical if we want to take longer with delivery for less environmental impact.

 

Shiseido has historically been well-established in physical stores. Has digital transformation taken priority?

The digital maturity of the Group’s brands varies from one country to another, but digital in all its forms has become a priority throughout the value chain. From expertise to investment and throughout the whole organization, every area is embracing the digital revolution. That’s what will make a difference! Being part of an international group with a presence in several countries is an incredible learning and sharing source. We have regular discussions between the different regions and brands. We have access to a vast pool of knowledge. And then, of course, we can localize and adapt. It’s a fantastic asset.

 

“Dancing Outside of Your Comfort Zone”: How Sur La Table is Cooking Up Memorable Experiences

If you’ve baked banana bread or slaved over your sourdough starter in the last six months, you’re not alone. With restaurants and businesses closing their doors when COVID-19 hit the US,at-home cooking and baking experienced a bit of a resurgence in 2020. Americans were forced to eat at home with their families and get crafty in the kitchen to whip up new and exciting meals to fight the monotony of quarantine. 

For many, this newfound love of cooking is a behavior that’s sure to stick around, even in a post-COVID world – especially as indoor dining still faces restrictions around the country and the weather gets colder.

One company that has benefited from people’s renewed interest in home-cooked meals is kitchenware retailer Sur La Table. While they were able to reach an entirely new audience during the pandemic, they had to address their own share of challenges as well. One of which was shutting down the signature in-store cooking classes. 

We spoke with Natalie Brown, Head of Marketing for Sur La Table, to learn more about the kitchenware retailer’s recent shift to omnichannel expansion, and how the company was able to revive their in-person classes by going virtual. 

Here’s why she views the pandemic as an opportunity for her team to bring “the art and soul of cooking” to customers in new ways:

 

How did the Sur La Table team pivot to bring your unique brand experiences online during the pandemic? 

Leading up to the start of COVID-19, we were pivoting as a company to become a more product-led than a catalog-heavy retailer. Our DNA was very much about being a place where cooks could get hard-to-find things and a paper catalog was very important to our business. 

We wanted to build something that was far bigger than a catalog and that was more about an omnichannel experience. Our cooking schools have always been at the heart of what sets us apart as a brand and makes us different. We weren’t necessarily just about how you buy all these interesting things, but how you actually use them. Our company mission is more about creating happiness through the cooking and sharing of food.

We weren’t necessarily just about how you buy all these interesting things, but how you actually use them.

When COVID happened, we had to shut all of our stores so we could only sell products online. But more importantly, we had to close down our cooking schools. 

We’re very lucky because we have a beautiful office location with a giant kitchen right in our lobby where they do recipe development. As a team, we actually sit, meet, eat, and cook together there ourselves, but we were lucky enough to have this space that we could leverage. The team was really amazing. As we were able to go back into the office, we sent our chefs in and started doing cooking classes over Zoom. We grew this grassroots online cooking class program with our chefs. Since then, we’ve grown and expanded the program. 

As things have opened up, we’re opening up our local cooking schools within our stores again, but with smaller class sizes. We’re able to supplement that with online cooking classes, even in locations where we can’t open the classroom up to the public yet. It’s been pretty amazing because we can now scale the program. If you don’t have a Sur La Table or your closest store doesn’t have a cooking school, you now have access to this amazing part of the brand. 

As a company, we’ve learned a lot from bringing out cooking classes online. While our chefs are used to teaching, they aren’t necessarily used to teaching on Zoom, on camera, and to a class of 40 people, when previously they were only teaching 16. To make the class more immersive and easy to follow, we use two cameras. A far-away camera to let the chefs introduce themselves and answer questions and a closeup camera so attendees can actually see the chopping and techniques like you would in an in-person class. The chefs had to learn how to adapt to the two camera situation. We’ve all had to get on board, be nimble, and adapt to the needs of the online cooking class world. 

Sur La Table's online cooking classes landing page

Sur La Table’s online cooking classes landing page

 

What is the key to digital experience success?

For me, it’s putting the customer first and solving around the customer’s problems. That solution is a two-part solution. It’s understanding your brand value and why your customer is coming to you. Once you understand that, to truly put your customer first, you need to literally walk their journeys in their shoes. 

To truly put your customer first, you need to literally walk their journeys in their shoes. 

Put on your customer hat and pretend you’re seeing your experience for the first time. If you can put the customer first across all of your customer journeys, you’ll not only have an effortless digital experience, but you’ll also have effortless omnichannel brand experiences that are seamless across both your brick-and-mortar and digital executions.

 

What has been a silver lining of the pandemic for you?

I’ve been saying this to our team for quite a while now, but this is like a reset button. You always say, “Let’s do things differently,” but don’t always follow through. COVID forced us to look critically at everything we’ve done to keep the good, throw away the redundant, and rethink the stuff that wasn’t working. I just keep telling my team this is like a forced reset. It’s a luxury we always wanted to have. Now, let’s capitalize on it. 

COVID forced us to look critically at everything we’ve done to keep the good, throw away the redundant, and rethink the stuff that wasn’t working.

I also believe COVID has given us this notion of an “Experimentation Hall Pass.” Customers understood that the world was changing in a lot of ways, they came along with us for the journey and were very tolerant to try new things. I think there’s still some runway there. 

If there are ideas that you want to go out and pressure test, you can do it and you can do it scrappily! It doesn’t have to be perfect and beautiful.

If there are ideas that you want to go out and pressure test, you can do it and you can do it scrappily! It doesn’t have to be perfect and beautiful. It doesn’t have to be the most fantastic end-to-end thing. As long as the customer has a good experience and you’re doing your best to bring them a new solution to a problem, they will be tolerant and come along for the ride.

 

How has Sur La Table taken advantage of new customer behaviors and the spike of at-home cooking? 

It’s been very interesting for us. The huge surge in home cooking started over the summer. Raise your hands if you didn’t make sourdough or more recently banana bread! Now as the weather’s getting colder, we’re seeing a huge interest in slow cooking and braising take off. We’ve responded in a few different ways and it’s really been a journey. 

During the onset, when people started working from home, businesses were shut down, and restaurants were closed, we realized that people were going to have to cook at home every night for themselves and their families. That was probably really daunting for some people. 

We’re lucky because we’ve got chefs and tons of content. We quickly regrouped and put up a page that was about cooking together, but apart. It’s our community. You’re not cooking with us in our cooking schools, but we’re here to help you. The initial question we asked ourselves was “How do we leverage what we know?” Should we share tips on how to plan a whole week of meals? How to cook ahead and store food? Simple, easy dinner recipes? We wanted to be there as a resource for our customers. 

As we’ve come out of it, we’re still trying to be a resource for people but our approach has become more inspirational. We’ve been able to use user-generated content (UGC) to keep people enthusiastic and inspired, while still staying in touch with what’s happening in people’s lives and the changing of the seasons. 

Now as we’re headed into Thanksgiving, we’re keeping in mind that this Thanksgiving is going to be very different and gatherings will be smaller.

Now as we’re headed into Thanksgiving, we’re keeping in mind that this Thanksgiving is going to be very different and gatherings will be smaller. We have to keep that in mind when we’re planning what to do in our cooking class programs and with our content strategy to help our customers. How do we again set them up to succeed? How do we give them the tips they need for this different Thanksgiving? That customer-centric thinking guides our storytelling framework and how we activate around the product to present a unified package for our fans and our customers alike.

 

What has been Sur La Table’s biggest success this year? 

Definitely our online cooking classes. Not just because it gave our customers a place to learn, but also because it helped us bring people back and keep them employed. Any company that can point to the fact that they’re able to still provide jobs for people is winning this year. Being able to leverage our in-house chefs and provide great content to our customers was a big win.

Also, I think it’s been really great to see everyone come together as a team in this crazy time. 

Not only that, but we’ve found we’ve inadvertently created a way to bring our customers together. Friends and families from across the country will sign up for the same online class and when it’s over, they’ll get on their own personal Zoom calls and enjoy the meal together. Those special moments might not be in the Sur la Table classroom, but they’re eating and enjoying the food and experience with their loved ones, which goes back to our mission: the art and soul of cooking. 

 

What is the best thing you’ve learned in quarantine?

Don’t ever underestimate your team. People are amazing. When they have a challenge thrown at them, give them the runway to come to the table with solutions. If you trust your people and acknowledge they are good at what they do, you’re going to be impressed and amazed by the results. As a leader, I learned to trust my team and let them run with their ideas. Let your team surprise and delight you.

 

What advice would you give other industry professionals? 

To piggyback on what we were just saying, remember that you’re not in this alone. We’re all struggling with similar questions, it’s just how it applies to our industry or specific business model where the difference comes in. Those fundamental concerns are the same for all of us. So, first and foremost, know that you’re not in this alone. 

Secondly, don’t be scared to ask for advice. Obviously, we can’t share proprietary information, but we can talk about best practices and give help and advice in ways that are meaningful. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers and ask. 

Next, stay curious. A curious mind is always finding new things. You can find ideas and inspiration to solve problems in unexpected ways. 

Magic happens when you’re dancing outside of your comfort zone.

Lastly, I believe that magic happens when you’re dancing outside of your comfort zone. So, get outside of your comfort zone and find a place to make some magic!

 

This interview is an excerpt from a recent Digital Changemakers event. Digital Changemakers is the CX industry’s only community dedicated to fostering digital innovation through an open exchange of expertise, ideas, and of course, experiences. Click here to join and receive access to our members-only resource library, community, and events.

5 Tips on How to Digitally Transform Your Business in 2020

For the last five weeks, we’ve been welcoming digital leaders from top brands like Tile, Walmart, Columbia Care, and e.l.f. Cosmetics to discuss all things customer experience as part of our Summer Camp series (mosquitos not included).  Our digital experts shared what they think the future of digital holds for eCommerce, how their companies and teams are adapting in uncertain times, and tips on how to digitally transform your business

Whether you’ve been following Contentsquare Summer Camp since day one or are just joining the adventure now, here’s a recap of what we learned along the way:

 

1. Understanding Customer Needs and Expectations

with Head of Category Management Paloma Garcia de Letona Ysita and Head of eCommerce Trade Marketing Olivia Urriolagoitia of Walmart

The team at Sam’s Club Mexico relied heavily on data to inform their strategy during the pandemic. While grocery delivery had always been on the company’s roadmap, the team worked to speed up the service rollout to help customers get necessities from the comfort of their homes. Based on the early success of the program, Sam’s Club expanded the service to serve 117 stores, instead of the original 60. 

So how did the team achieve such a swift and seamless rollout?

When it comes to building an exceptional customer experience, the trick is understanding customer needs and expectations. “We put ourselves in the place of the customer to address their pain points,” Paloma and Olivia explained. “Thinking about how people were actually using the site helped us improve the user flow.”

Paloma and Olivia said the speed and success of the project wouldn’t have been possible without support and buy-in from teams across the organization. “Everyone is involved in decisions. It gives us the ability to shift and adapt,” said Paloma. “We approach decisions as a business, not just as an eCommerce business.” 

A consistent brand experience, team alignment, and reliable customer intelligence are some of the ingredients that go into Sam’s Club formula for digital agility, and that have helped the business meet their customers’ needs over the past few months. 

 

2. Using Data to Inform and Evolve Your CX Strategy

with Kathy Ando, Head of Growth Marketing, Direct-to-Consumer and CRM at Tile

Covid-19 has made it more apparent than ever than brands need to be able to pivot and react to changing customer behaviors and needs at the drop of a hat. For Tile, the creator of Bluetooth trackers that help you keep track of your belongings, digital agility is second nature. Their secret? Data. 

In her session, Kathy urged businesses to invest in tools that give teams constant access to reliable data. Only then, can teams make informed decisions and fix issues in real-time. “Coming in with an assumption never plays out — decisions need to be made based on data,” said Kathy. 

“Coming in with an assumption never plays out — decisions need to be made based on data.” — Kathy Ando

For her last tip on how to digitally transform your business, Kathy urged campers to embrace new metrics. “A lot of brands look only at sales results but the secret is understanding the middle part of the journey — the friction points, the frustration, the hesitation,” said Kathy. “In other words, the experience. That’s where the future lies.”

 

3. Shifting Your Digital Mindset to Be Customer-Centric

with Jesse Channon, Chief Growth Officer of Columbia Care, and Harvey Bierman, former VP Global eCommerce Technology & Operations at Crocs

Even before the pandemic, cannabis-based health company Columbia Care faced its fair share of challenges. Luckily, that’s kept the company on its toes so when the pandemic hit the Columbia Care team was ready to adapt. Even though cannabis was declared an essential business, many dispensaries were still shut down. “We had a decision to make: are we going to lose that engagement with our patients and customers or are we going to adapt?” said Jesse. “What we did was we spun up the virtual care platform, which is the only virtual shopping experience in cannabis.”

“Companies have access to data that shows us a more complete picture of the customer journey than ever before.” — Harvey Bierman

Harvey also thinks customer connection is all about providing the experiences your customers need and want in the moment.  “Where I see successful businesses moving is to what I’ll call a non-channel business or a customer-centric business. That’s really hard to do organizationally, technological, but not hard to do data-wise,” said Harvey.  The good news, he says, is that “companies have access to data that shows us a more complete picture of the customer journey than ever before.” Harvey said companies need to capitalize on this data to better target and personalize experiences for key audience segments. Identifying and resolving friction points along the customer journey is a key step in how to digitally transform your business and will help your brand deliver a seamless digital experience that inspires loyalty and repeat business.

 

4. Building a Lasting Connection with Your Customers

with e.l.f. Cosmetic‘s VP of Digital, Ekta Chopra

For those unfamiliar with the brand, e.l.f.—which stands for eyes, lips, and face—started selling high-quality cosmetics at affordable prices online. Few beauty brands understand the importance of digital as much e.l.f., which decided to close all of its physical stores in 2019 to focus on building a digital-only experience for customers. This digital-only mindset helped the team adapt quickly when the pandemic hit. 

For Ekta and her team, customer experience is always their top priority. “Data is the currency that drives the digital ecosystem. If you think of the three legs of a stool, they are your product, content, and consumer insights. You need all three to look holistically at the customer experience,” said Ekta. Only then, can you serve your customers in the way they want to be served.

To keep up with evolving customer needs and behaviors during the onset of the pandemic, Ekta and her team launched two new site initiatives: e.l.f. Cares and e.l.f. Discovery. E.l.f. Cares shared how the company took action to fight the pandemic, keep employees safe, and stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. While e.l.f. Discovery featured tutorials, lookbooks, application tips, and product finder quizzes to help customers discover and learn more about e.l.f. products. They leveraged their digital presence to bring about change, build a positive connection with customers, and give visitors the information they need to learn about and try new cosmetic products.

 

5. Personalizing Your Digital Experience

with Vab Dwivedi, the Director of Digital Customer Experiences at Dell

Personalization doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be intimidating, Vab urged campers. “Sometimes we think of personalization and the data that powers it as something that is straight out of the matrix or science fiction,” says Vab. While personalization is complicated, it’s not unattainable. Companies just need to take advantage of the wealth of customer and website data they have to build customized experiences for their various audience segments. 

If that still sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Vab shared a simple explanation: “Personalization is a collection of different actions and experiences that you set up for your customers so they’re seeing the most relevant thing, at the relevant time during their journey.” The website experience for customers simply learning about your brand, looking to make a purchase, or needing to contact support would all look extremely different. Showing customers what’s most relevant to them at that moment is what helps set your brand apart and give all visitors a great experience. 

Lastly, Vab left us with one piece of advice on how to digitally transform your business by increasing your digital agility. “You have to get in a mindset that your customer’s problems are your business problems” he said.

“You have to get in a mindset that your customer’s problems are your business problems” — Vab Dwivedi

In order to give your customers the most valuable experience you can, your business has to use data and user research to understand their perspectives, needs, and behaviors. Only then can you understand the underlying customer problems that are holding your business back and solve for them.

Craving even more digital experience insights? Lucky for you, all our Contentsquare Summer Camp sessions are available on-demand. Click here to view past sessions and start learning how to digitally transform your business today. 

Lapeyre Chooses Contentsquare to Boost its Customer Experience Strategy

French homeware giant Lapeyre chose Contentsquare to help accelerate digital growth and implement a data-driven customer experience strategy. Here’s a closer look at the reasons why…

Main objective: Continued Growth, Customer-Centricity and a Data-Driven Organization

Lapeyre, a subsidiary of the multinational French corporation Saint Gobain, has partnered with Contentsquare to bolster its digital strategy with actionable insights into digital customer behavior. Lapeyre.fr is at the heart of the brand’s customer experience strategy, and the digital team was looking for a solution to measure visitor behavior and help improve customer journeys across the board.

To stay ahead in a highly competitive market, Laypeyre’s goal was twofold: maintain the double-digit growth of its online sales while guaranteeing a seamless omnichannel experience for customers thanks to a data-driven organization.

Contentsquare, a Logical Choice for an Optimized Customer Experience Strategy

There are several reasons the popular homeware store decided to partner with Contentsquare, not least the platform’s ability to capture and analyze millions of visitor sessions, and to provide actionable recommendations without the need for a tagging plan. Accessibility and ease of use were also key decision factors.

Immediate ROI and continued UX improvements

Using the journey analysis feature and the zone-based heatmaps, Lapeyre was able to start leveraging Contentsquare recommendations right away.

This allowed teams to prioritize optimization efforts but also had an impact on the testing strategy, generating uplift with fewer, more focused tests.  

The objective: continuous improvement of the User Experience (UX) on ideal purchase journeys and a steady conversion rate optimization.

The AI Alerts feature was a key decision factor for Lapeyre.


Interview with Yann Guillaud, Head of E-Commerce at Lapeyre

Contentsquare : What commercial challenges is Lapeyre facing today? Is the competition fierce?

Yann GUILLAUD : Yes, there is heavy competition. Lapeyre exists in a complex and competitive environment, at the crossroads of many different types of brands. There are the DIY/home improvement giants (Leroy Merlin, Castorama), the specialized stores (kitchen outfitters, carpentry and joinery specialists, etc…) and the furniture brands (Ikea, But, etc).

Today, Lapeyre’s goal is twofold: to grow revenue and to offer a seamless, omnichannel user experience. This is a necessity for all brick-and-mortar brands. We are focusing our efforts on acquiring revenue-generating traffic and we’ve already significantly increased our conversion rate.

We also encourage our customers to head in-store to benefit from the expertise of our sales associates, particularly when it comes to bigger home renovation projects (such as kitchen or bathroom remodels) or for tailor-made products (windows, doors, staircases). That’s why drive-to-store and in-store appointments are also an objective for us.

Courtesy of https://www.lapeyrestair.com/

 

Contentsquare : How does Contentsquare fit into your sales strategy?

Yann GUILLAUD : Contentsquare is perfectly aligned with our growth objectives and our customer experience goals. Thanks to Contentsquare and the AI alerts feature, our team is not only capable of identifying short-term and long-term growth opportunities, but also to streamline the user experience on a daily basis.

 

Contentsquare : Which teams use Contentsquare at Lapeyre?

Yann GUILLAUD : The Contentsquare platform is mainly used by the eCommerce teams, and that’s why we chose this solution. Its ease of use, which requires no prior expertise (code, etc) was a key factor in our decision.