Luxury Client Experience Board Meeting Highlights Promise and Pitfalls of Technology in the Customer Experience

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - January 26, 2016) -  At a recent meeting of the Luxury Client Experience Board, a co-founded board with The Ritz-Carlton, executives from top retailers and major luxury brands, along with industry consultants and technology service providers, outlined the numerous ways in which technology touches the customer experience today, and has the potential to do so in the future, highlighting numerous myths and realities of applying technology to today's luxury market. The key message from industry practitioners is that rapid advances in technology have the power to transform the sales process, but can only improve business results with the proper human skills in place to leverage the technology. 

"Less can indeed be more, with technology serving as a tool to tighten employee and customer relationships," says Milton Pedraza, LCEB co-founder and CEO of the Luxury Institute. "Company culture and the quality of employees trump technology every time when it comes to producing improved business performance."

Technology is transforming luxury retail both externally and internally, with companies developing customer-facing applications like e-commerce via websites and mobile apps that offer greater personalization opportunities, as well as using technology to help store associates improve client acquisition, retention, and relationship development.

"Great service sells, and at the center of great service is the store associate," says former eBay executive Bill Tarbell, currently executive vice president of product and strategy at retail technology firm Tulip Retail. "Technology alone cannot create and nurture relationships with authenticity, creativity and good taste, so retailers should use it to preserve and augment the human element in retail and never to diminish it."

On the consumer-facing front, executives caution that consumers may be tech-savvy, but they tend to resist having technology solutions forced on them without clearly understanding how their lives will be made better or easier. At all points where customers experience their brand, companies need to remember that technology should serve to enhance the client experience with an upgraded level of interaction that does not supplant familiar ways of doing business with a more encumbering process. 

"The key to a successful omni-channel strategy is defining a Customer Journey around each channel, then designing and adapting technology around each step of the process accordingly," says Lorenzo Benazzo, CEO of the retail CRM firm Clientela. "The goal is to design the most compelling experience for customers first, then identify the right technology to engage them with a coherent message across channels."

Some successful ways that luxury firms have employed technology to enhance customer experiences include setting up loyalty programs and making the client feel special by remembering important dates, sending non-product reminders or general messages and other personalized gestures.

Along with personalization of service, customization of products is another area of customer-facing interaction in which luxury firms are currently leveraging technology with successful results.

"Technology has played an integral role at Awl & Sundry in providing the unmatched quality of product and customer experience traditionally reserved only for the ultra rich," says Nikunj Marvania, CEO of Awl & Sundry, an online platform that allows customers to design their own premium quality shoes.

Awl & Sundry's experience also illustrates how good service sells itself, with a little help from social media: the two-year old start-up has spent only $2,000 on marketing to date. Sales have boomed as celebrity clients post pictures of their shoes on social media, and satisfied clients refer friends and family.

"Clients will do the marketing for you, we allow their feedback to guide the evolution of how we use technology to enhance their shopping experience and find creative ways to leverage innovative technologies to provide personalized experiences," says Marvania.

Technology is also playing an increasing role in new product development at luxury firms. The "wearables" category is one of the most active areas of innovation, and it goes far beyond smart watches to items like handbags or suitcases that charge and interact with mobile devices. Future wearable technologies in development include alarm clocks that automatically wake you up early if traffic is bad, provide weather forecasts, local news updates, read your email, and notify you of your to-do list, or if meetings or calls were cancelled.

The challenge for companies is to focus on products that provide true benefit for the customer, and that means having creative people drive the process and technology experts taking a backseat.

"Fashion and electronics are two very different industries and they have not yet found a way to communicate and collaborate, and this is what is holding back widespread adoption," says technology and apparel executive Michael Reidbord, vice president at Kloog, Inc. "Most devices address the needs of mature consumers with expensive watches, designer-fit tracking bands and vibrating jewelry pieces, but they lack the cool factor."

Overall, technology has enabled a vast array of opportunities for luxury firms, and the key for companies is to put it to efficient use in a way that augments their brands. Externally, technology can make customer's lives easier, and internally it can certainly improve operations, but it cannot run businesses by itself. Human beings still need to manage customer relationships, to "treat people like humans" by anticipating their needs and providing empathy in every experience.

About the Luxury Client Experience Board

Luxury Institute announces the Luxury Client Experience Board (LCEB), a membership association of luxury industry practitioners co-founded with The Ritz-Carlton to enhance the education and development of leading luxury brands. The LCEB provides members with ongoing education and training opportunities on industry best practices through primary research, educational events, and training across industries to deliver exceptional, seamless, and measurable omni-channel client experiences on a daily basis. The LCEB unites luxury executives from all fields and internal departments dedicated to creating these exceptional experiences and building long-term, high-performance relationships with clients.

For more information on applying technology to luxury industries, and on becoming a Luxury Client Experience Board member, visit, or contact us directly with any questions.

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