When we worked with JetSuiteX and Tesla (as well as a few other luxury and enterprise brands) we picked up a few things along the way. In many cases, building a digital product for a luxury brand is similar to anything else. However, there are actually a few noticeable differences that separate a “normal” experience and a “luxury brand” experience.

We discovered many of these critical factors during our client interviews and extensive brand deep-dives, so I wanted to share them with you. Some are obvious, and some… not so much.

Let’s start with the first factor that is well known but not fully embraced.

TIME AND CONVENIENCE ARE EVERYTHING (PRICE IS NOT)

Let’s say you’re at a physical retail location and the product you’re buying costs $49, and another customer tells you that you can get the same product 15 miles away for $39. Would you buy the more expensive item or would you trek it across town to save $10?

For affluent users and other busy professionals, most would pay the extra $10 to buy the same, but more expensive product.

Why?

Time is everything. Time wasted equals money lost. Plain and simple.

So, what do you do with that knowledge when building a digital experience?

Optimize speed-to-desired-action Get the user to their desired action as soon as possible. A great example of this is Tesla’s core user buying experience. You can go to Tesla.com on mobile right now and purchase your customized Tesla using Apple Pay in less than 2 minutes from start to finish.

Give them what they want already For digital experiences, you want them to look at as many products as possible, but you also want them to check out quickly and without issue. Always show them the preferred path to checkout. Amazon Prime with the 2 day shipping is a great example of getting customers what they want as soon as possible.

Discounts on products aren’t always the answer It doesn’t drive sales and it has a bigger chance of ruining your perception as a luxury brand. Although it’s tempting to discount to the lowest price possible, that’s not always the answer. Saving luxury customers time is the best discount you could ever give them.

SIMPLICITY AND PERSONALIZATION SELLS

If you ever walk into a Louis Vuitton or Jimmy Choo store you’ll notice something almost right away: there isn’t much stuff there. These retail locations utilize space to signify their focus on a few items.

Here’s what you can do when creating a luxury experience in the digital world:

Make the decisions for them, but present them with personalized add-ons When it comes to luxury, no one wants to buy something that other people already have. You want to make it easy for customers to buy the main item, but offering add-ons that are relevant to them drives client satisfaction, which yields higher revenue and loyalty. That’s where they feel special. In luxury, a higher basket size and cost is what makes the purchaser feel special. Give them what they need, when they need it. As mentioned before, it’s not about getting the lowest cost.

Dream of what’s possible, but only do what’s necessary — This is an extremely important part of all our luxury projects. We don’t want to be minimal for the sake of being minimal. We want to think big because our clients think big.

When we ideate on the core features of the digital experience, we start by writing down everything that’s possible in the digital and even physical customer interactions with the brand. We ask ourselves questions like, “How could a new digital experience in a physical retail environment drive revenue or increase brand loyalty?”

From there, we prioritize based on timelines and the effectiveness of our ideas. When the end results are personalized recommendations that the customers never thought of themselves, then you’re onto something great.

MAKE THE USER FEEL SPECIAL BY CREATING “WOW” EXPERIENCES

As Ralph Lauren once said, “I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.”

For Tesla, JetSuiteX, and a few of our other high-end clients, customers are buying a product that gets them closer to the dream, so they want to feel like “they are there”, even when using a digital platform to purchase a physical product or activity.

Flying on a semi-private Jet that can be booked on an app, that is normally only available to the ultra-wealthy, is a huge feat in technology itself. So the booking experience needs to be magical and make users feel special for every transaction.  

Here are a few things that stand out when it comes to creating wow experiences:

High-quality imagery is everything — One thing we loved about working with Tesla is that the imagery of the cars were always top-notch. Fast-loading (and high-quality) imagery changed the whole experience. It allowed the users to visualize what they were going to test drive.  

Use immersive experiences whenever possible — Using Augmented Reality for certain experiences can really get someone deep into a brand experience. Stubhub did this for their apps which allows potential buyers to see where their seats are.

MASTER THE MERGER OF DIGITAL AND PHYSICAL

In 2014, McKinsey published a report suggesting that digital now influences at least 45% of all luxury sales. In 2018, McKinsey states that it’s nearly 80% now. 80%!

When we built Tesla’s in-store marketing digital platform on iPads, we made sure the digital presence complimented the in-store presence. Allowing the staff to project custom videos onto the big screen using this platform was a huge experience add-on to the physical location. The staff could show different experiences on the big screen to individual customers, making it a much more personalized experience.

Warby Parker and Rent the Runway, both digital-first experience companies, also do the physical aspect really well with their “try before you buy” experience.

On Warby Parker’s site, a customer can choose 5 glasses to get sent directly to their home. Now, of course, that was never a thing for traditional luxury brands. Customers could never ever expect to take home something, try it out, and only keep the one you want. But now, it’s entirely possible.

You must think about how your digital experience will interact with the physical one. I know how big of an impact digital has created, but don’t be fooled into thinking physical locations or physical interactions with the brand are going away.

NEVER COMPROMISE ON ENGINEERING. BUILD EVERYTHING AS IF IT’S MISSION-CRITICAL

When we built an airline booking engine from scratch with JetSuiteX, engineering principles were top-of-mind.

Here are a few of our principles:

Focus on (and master) core features Errors happen. I get that. But, errors while a user is in a checkout flow, or something that is critical to the brand experience, is simply unacceptable. We solve this with strong product management and feature prioritization up-front.  

Simple up-front; complex behind the scenes. Engineering must make the customer experience seamless — The digital experience must be seamless by the end user, regardless of the moving parts behind the scenes. When we built the JetSuiteX site, many parts had to be flawlessly integrated to increase booking on a gorgeously branded new site. To get the full booking experience, we integrated our product with a Reddix, a well-known industry specific booking engine used by many other major airliners, including JetSuiteX. We had plenty of options to choose from, many that were simpler in development terms, but this platform gave us more flexibility in creating a full-scale digital airline booking experience.

When it comes to building experiences that make an impact, many factors come into play. For both Tesla’s retail digital experience used around the world at their retail locations, and a brand new semi-private jet booking site, we applied these tips to build something great.

Building both of these experiences required collaborating with global teams across development, IT, and marketing to deliver a world-class product. UI/UX, design, photography, and a complex backend CMS system were all integrated to enable a digital experience that delivered on speed, exhilaration, convenience, and luxury.


Also published on Medium.