[INVESTIGATION] The world of luxury. 2023 review, 2024 outlook and new fields of exploration – Part 4/5: Retail and the elevation of the relational game

The dream is eternal and knows no limits, and the luxury industry is its most fervent ambassador. And yet, faced with a volatile customer base, increasingly solicitous and jaded by long-distance relationships, brands are redoubling their imagination to put technology at the service of the dream customer experience, in store… and beyond.


As luxury begins to normalize, capturing customers – whether aspirational or affluent – is proving increasingly complex. To achieve this, the sector is capitalizing on technologies such as artificial intelligence. These technologies are no substitute for higher standards of customer experience.


In fact, the real war is not so much about technology as it is about customer service, and the need to improve the skills of sales teams is at the heart of the concerns of the sector’s major players.


More than ever, the elevation of luxury goods in 2023 (price, offer, communication, positioning) will also require a reasoned use of technology, far from mere buzzwords.


Now that we’ve seen the impact of inflation on the annual results of luxury players, the new commercial and organizational tactics underway, and the new capitalization on an extended family as a new narrative in a climate of growing global polarization, let’s turn to the sinews of luxury’s war: its retail experience. A field in which Prada is committed to investing 1 billion euros over the next five years!


The beginnings of artificial intelligence


Corinne Thierache and Adrien Bansard note that “the luxury goods industry has been particularly vocal about Web 3.0 in 2023. Valentino, LVMH, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, Alpine and Maison Margiela are just some of the major Houses that have seized this opportunity head-on, with a variety of intentions (interaction with their community thanks to influencers, exploration of the virtual world, accessibility or innovation), sometimes in partnership with a specialized company.”


While NFT and metaverse were more discreet at the end of the year, artificial intelligence – in particular generative intelligence with Chat Gpt for the textual part, and Midjourney and Dall-E for the visual part – took the spotlight, notably with projects for Guerlain, Revolve, Coperni and, more recently, Etro. Whether to create point-of-sale animation around the House’s heritage or to create a communication campaign ex nihilo.


Discreet integration of in-store technology


In the midst of hyper-digitization, retail has managed to retain its credentials by capitalizing on a personalized customer experience, as much through a greater emphasis on the expertise of its sales advisors as through the usefulness of technology.


”As Rémi le Druillenec, CEO and co-founder of brand experience agency Héroïne, points out, artificial intelligence has taken center stage, and will again be at the heart of relational and experiential issues this year. For him, “artificial intelligence will restore the human approach to business. Especially in the context of the talent crisis in the luxury sector, tomorrow’s salespeople will need to be augmented by AI to meet rising customer expectations and focus on the relationship, beyond the transaction.”


To meet these new challenges, Héroïne has developed the My Force 10 Cruise ritual of discovery for jeweller FRED, creating a unique, emotional experience with strong storytelling. An experience that also serves sales teams by facilitating access to information and to the company’s collections.


Customer relations, a strategic asset of growing importance

In a group like LVMH, sales advisors make up more than half the workforce.

Given the importance of this role, the number one in luxury goods has grouped them together under the name “Customer Experience”, to the extent that they, like craftsmen, were entitled to their own stand at the third edition of its You & ME travelling recruitment and career fair, dedicated to the Professions of Excellence. A name that is to have its own dedicated venue, La Maison des Métiers d’Excellence, in the heart of Paris in 2025. For its part, Gucci has launched in 2023 the second promotion of its Gucci Grade, a 24-month management training program dedicated to retail professions.

The role of sales consultant is all the more strategic as talent is in short supply, especially in non-English-speaking countries. To overcome this shortage, the Houses are increasingly focusing on personalized career paths, whether through sequenced managerial promotions, in-house training campuses or, above all, internal mobility, offering an unparalleled playground for a large group with multiple Houses and markets.

This point-of-sale technology serves both the customer and the sales ceremony, and is even integrated into sales team training, as at L’Oréal. The One Retail mobile application, for example, gives Beauty Advisors in 45 countries access to a collaboration and learning platform to learn about all brands, products and technological devices. This “augmented salesperson” dimension should also help attract new profiles to anticipate the desires of a particularly demanding clientele.

A boutique to awaken the senses

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Front page photo, from left to right: Fred pop-up store in China, Gucci Salon in Beverly Hills, Infiniment Coty, LVMH You&Me edition 2024, Suite 1755 by Vacheron Constantin and Valentino Eyewear.

Picture of Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin is a journalist specializing in luxury, HR, tech, retail, and editorial consulting. A graduate of EIML Paris, he has been working in the luxury industry for 9 years. Fond of fashion, Asia, history, and long format, this ex-Welcome To The Jungle and Time To Disrupt likes to analyze the news from a sociological and cultural angle.

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