Shopping is increasingly done remotely, but when it comes to luxury goods, appealing to high-end consumers requires personalized digital connections and a memorable experience, Zornitza Stefanova, founder and CEO of global luxury-shopping platform BSPK told PYMNTS. Whether that comes in the form of video, live chats or being on a first-name basis with a personal retail adviser, it’s all about personalization and the relationship.
Stefanova, whose firm recently raised $7 million in an oversubscribed Series A round, said the digital shift was happening in the luxury segment even before the pandemic, but has only intensified since the outbreak began.
“Most of the engagement is happening digitally, even more so now during COVID,” she said. “People didn’t have the time to go to stores. They didn’t want to go to stores, they had digital channels and a lot of competing options.”
And now, shoppers have more choices than ever, Stefanova said. “You’re no longer bound to the few brands you engage with,” she said. “You really have a myriad of options, whether you’re engaging with somebody on Instagram, [shopping with] a new brand or a B2C brand. For luxury now, all of a sudden there [is] competition.”
Stefanova said that what’s happened over the past eight months of pandemic is that global luxury brands have realized how important it is for them to personalize the shopping experience, “because that’s where luxury is different. If you personalize your relationship with your client, you’re no longer competing with Amazon. You’re no longer competing with a B2C newcomer in the way you otherwise would.”
Demand For Luxury
Stefanova said pent-up demand for luxury goods has been strong lately, especially from wealthier consumers looking to treat themselves to something special after months of lockdowns, working from home and highly curtailed social lives.
She said BSPK has seen growth accelerate throughout the crisis as clients with limited or no access to stores “[look] for other ways to connect and have a great experience even though it’s a remote engagement.”
Stefanova said that to “create the magic,” BSPK has empowered its personal-shopping advisers to tailor-make experiences that connect with each customer.
“This is where there is a very big difference between mass retail and luxury, as well as premium,” she said. “In mass retail, we’re all looking for the most efficient possible shopping experiences, and that’s where Amazon rules.”
But she said that as much as one-click purchasing is powerful in any segment, the human touch matters in the luxury market, where passion and love for brands runs deep.
The Market’s Latest Entrant: Amazon Luxury Stores
Amazon recently became a huge new entrant in the battle to attract high-end consumers with the launch in September of Amazon Luxury Stores, its own high-end shopping initiative.
While Stefanova said it’s too early to write off efforts from a massively disruptive company like Amazon, she’s not convinced the firm can create the type of experience that luxury clients and brands are looking for.
“Amazon is optimized for mass [retail], it’s optimized for efficiency [and] the mindset and a DNA of the company is reach,” she said.
For example, Stefanova said changes that Amazon has made to Whole Foods Markets since buying the chain have made it “like a warehouse. The experience of luxury is the exact opposite.”
Coming Up: More Staff And An Improved Platform
Northern Light Venture Capital led BSPK’s recent $7 million fund raise, and Stefanova said she’s going to use the money in two key areas — scaling up her team and further developing the company’s platform.
She expects BSPK to double its headcount from 20 people to 40 in 2021 to better support a growing customer base and provide premium shopping experiences.
Stefanova also plans to invest in improvements to the BSPK platform, which was launched in 2017. As she sees it: “We’ve only scratched the surface of what it means to offer a personalized digital experience.”