Buying Luxury Items Online: A Shopper’s Guide 

Buying luxury items in retail

This article takes a look at consumer habits when buying luxury items, as well as the best ways for shoppers and retail businesses to build mutual trust.

Since the pandemic hit, we’ve all had to become much savvier about our online shopping habits. Luckily most high street clothing brands and supermarkets offer services for online shopping, so the majority of shoppers’ day-to-day needs have been easily covered by the big brands that we know and trust. But where do you turn when you need to buy a luxury gift for someone special? Or if you simply fancy treating yourself? 

Buy luxury items from a trusted source

As with your everyday needs, the chances are that you’ll be much more likely to turn to the big high street brands for occasional treats or gifts as well. However, sometimes they may not have the item that suits your taste, or you may prefer to support a small independent business, particularly at this difficult time for so many. 

You may decide to stick to the trusted brand names you’ve heard of such as Rolex or Bulgari, or you may prefer to seek out something unique from an independent designer.

A little bit of research into local boutiques can reap great rewards. You may find that your local jeweller is in fact offering online ordering, so you can continue to support the shop you would have used anyway. 

On the other hand, you may discover somewhere new and have the opportunity to purchase the watch or engagement ring of your dreams from a boutique further afield than you might otherwise have travelled. Harry Diamond, Director of Cry For The Moon, an independent jewellers in Guildford, says, “After embarking on a project to take our business online, opening us up to a brand new audience, enabled us to continue to provide first-class service to our existing customer base.”

If you’re splashing out on a luxury item, you’ll want to be careful to check into the credentials of any online store you haven’t bought from previously, to ensure the item you’re receiving will actually arrive ‘as described’. Look beyond their own website for customer reviews to ensure you feel confident in your purchase. 

Check the shipping and returns policies 

Another way to feel peace of mind about purchasing luxury items online, such as watches, jewellery, or designer clothes, is to check the website’s shipping policies. You want to make sure they have a watertight policy in place for returns and exchanges in case you’re not completely happy with your item. You may also want to check that your purchase is covered in the event of accidental loss or damage in transit, and whether it is being delivered by a courier service, standard/registered post, or recorded delivery.

It’s a good idea to purchase from a company who offer a parcel tracking service too, so you can keep tabs on your delivery every step of the way. Also consider if the company you’re buying from offers free courier-collected returns or whether you’ll end up paying for specific postage or being liable if anything goes awry if you have to send the item back for any reason. 

Look for the details

We’ve all heard stories of the person who thought they were buying a full-size sofa, only to be delivered a piece of doll’s house furniture. It’s vital when buying anything online that you double-check the fine print, to make sure you’re getting what you think you are. Whilst most of us can’t go too far wrong with our clothing sizes, we don’t often know our jewellery sizes. If there’s no sizing information on the website you’re buying from, you can look up online sizing charts for rings, necklaces, and bracelets/watches.

A Google and Ipsos survey found that in the US and the UK, more than two-thirds of luxury shoppers would research items online before buying them, so the luxury market is well-versed in providing a high level of online service. With 57-69% of those respondents saying that the look and feel of the item was important to them, luxury retailers tend to now include several photos from different angles. 

With any luck they may even have uploaded a 360º video of the item, allowing you to see it from every conceivable angle, so you can make sure it’s exactly what you want and you won’t get any unexpected surprises later. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

If you’re parting with a large amount of cash, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask the retailer any questions you have before you commit to your purchase. Asking pertinent questions about sizing, materials, or sustainable sourcing will help you to determine whether to go ahead. 

If the retailer is well-informed and accommodating in their answers, and their website shows plenty of information about their background, you’ll feel more at ease buying from them, safe in the knowledge that you’re dealing with an expert in their field.

Many retailers now offer a direct chat service on their website, a contact form or email address, a phone number, or a link to message them through social media channels, so it should be easy to get in touch. They know that customers are likely to have more questions than normal at the moment, whilst they can’t see items in person, and it’s always easier to ask them in advance to confirm details than have to go through the hassle of a return further down the line.

What’s next for luxury retailers?

Shopping for luxury items is no longer limited to the big storefronts in high-end shopping areas, and more and more millennials (or HENRYs – High Earners, Not Rich Yet) are now turning to online stores for their high-quality products. 

Part of their reasoning is their desire for unique items from independent designers, and also that they can often get a better deal online without paying a premium towards additional staffing or retail shop rents.

Luxury retailers have always put a high value on offering the best customer experience, and their digital marketplace is no different. They know what’s important to their customers, and the best ones will always go above and beyond to ensure your shopping experience is as enjoyable and seamless as possible, whether in store or online.