Four ways to improve your user experience for luxury shoppers

  1. Insight

The luxury retail sector is now thriving online as brands invest in their digital appeal to resonate with the modern customer. What can hospitality learn about improving their website user experience for a luxury audience?

Who are luxury shoppers?

Typically, we consider luxury shoppers to be mature high earners with a large disposable income. Park that.

The digital space has created a shift in customer base for luxury products. Millennials and Gen Zs are arriving as a more tech-savvy audience who have high expectations for online experiences.

Bain and Company found 14% of those aged 18-24 completed their first luxury purchase online, with website traffic of luxury brands double that of in-store footfall. This emphasises not only the arrival of the younger generation in the luxury market, but also the shift in mindset to shop online.

Luxury brands need to evolve their user experiences to tap into this expanding audience. And fast.

What drives a luxury shopper to purchase?

Design ‘guru’ Don Norman brands design into three categories – the visceral, behavioural and reflective. Luxury products tend to build upon the reflective – tapping into the buyer’s emotions to create a heightened desire for a product. So, whether booking a hotel, reserving a restaurant table, or purchasing a luxurious handbag, excitement should be sparked, driving a desire to buy.

Previously considered impossible to replicate online, many luxury brands pushed websites to the side. However, as the younger, digitally native shopper comes through, companies are being forced to shift their views and reconsider how to replicate luxury experiences online.

Nielsen Norman Group only re-emphasise the importance of getting this right, stating that a poor digital experience can “damage customers’ perception of a brands’ professionalism and attention to detail - qualities that luxury brands strive for.”

In summary: do it now and do it well.

What do luxury shoppers expect online?

With that in mind, what are luxury shoppers expecting from your website?

An experience – they expect to feel the same sensation of buying a product (or stay) online as they do ‘in-store’. It’s Don Norman’s ‘reflective’; that feeling of accessing something exclusive, and the excitement and status that comes with it.

A quick result – luxury shoppers are often time restricted. They want answers quickly. This means short user journeys and quick payment methods to buy a product or book that break. Simplicity and transparency are well respected.

Clarity and consistency – if something is good it doesn’t need selling. Shoppers simply want to clearly see the product and know the basics (the information they need to make an informed decision), laid out in a consistent manner that is easy to digest.

Fast purchasing – Think ‘one button approach’. After careful consideration up to the point of purchase, shoppers want a quick and effective route to buy. Mobile wallets and no delays.

Delivering this for your shopper

So… we know who is purchasing, why they are purchasing and what they expect. Now it’s time to deliver. Here are four ways to improve your user experience online:

Tailor your online presence

While there are universal principles that apply to good UX, anything luxury often calls for a more tailored approach. Compare your website to building a house – instead of buying off plan, work with an architect to build from scratch. This helps to replicate those in-store experiences by tailoring each touchpoint to your brand.

Journey’s agency team has experience deeply rooted in hospitality. We build hotel websites that mix your story with ecommerce tactics to convert browsers into paying guests. When coupled with our ecommerce platform, your website is sure to deliver a smooth user experience while staying on brand.

Use data to build engagement

Each design should stem from a deep understanding of the user’s needs, behaviours and expectations. Why are they visiting your website? How do they travel through the site? What can they reasonably expect to find? According to Google research, data can help brands find a competitive advantage online, resulting in fast growth in conversion rates and sales. By harnessing its power, design can evolve beyond subjective preferences (or ‘false-consensus effect’) to anchoring choices that will make a measurable impact.

Journey looks at data from your existing website to help shape the information architecture, prioritising features and content that will have the most impact. Once live, we constantly review performance to identify areas for improvement, ensuring your website is always working hard for you, so you can focus on the guest.

Optimise for performance

As of Q3 2023, around 96.5% of global users access the internet via mobile phones. Google’s algorithm also ranks mobile-friendly sites higher. So, it’s critical to design for mobile. But more than that, mobile-first layouts align with luxury shoppers ‘less is more’ desire. By offering less retail space, unnecessary noise is stripped away, leaving quick loading times and media-rich experiences.

Journey’s websites and ecommerce platform are built mobile first. And the benefits are clear. The highest revenue income stream through ecommerce is via mobile devices. Over 75% of traffic and 65% of bookings come from mobile alone. And our homepage typically loads in just 1.4 seconds.

Make it easy to purchase

In a recent survey, 60% of shoppers had abandoned an online purchase of luxury goods because they couldn’t see enough of the product to make informed decisions. Don’t fall into the same trap. High-res imagery, full product information and prices should be displayed. A clearly signposted shopping basket that can hold items across multiple departments is a must.

Journey’s ecommerce platform helps hotels combine spa, dining, rooms and retail in one basket. By doing so, shoppers enjoy the simplified experience they crave, and staff benefit from the efficiencies of joined-up booking systems.


With all this digital focus, it’s important to remember a website’s place in the guest’s journey. The real world won’t be replaced. People are unlikely to start holidaying solely in the metaverse. Hotels will retain their position, but on-site services can and should be reflected digitally as it sets the tone for brand engagement.

By getting the basics of UX design right, luxury companies are now able to shift their online presence from merely functional to sleek, tapping into the buyer’s emotions, whilst making the user journey simple and straightforward.

Discover how our websites and ecommerce platform are helping luxury hotels and resorts provide five-star experiences online. 

Journey won “Best Website” for their development of The Elms Hotel & Spa website at Hotel Marketing Association Awards, 2023.

James Slater

Design Director

James is a Design leader with UI, UX and Product Design expertise. James has worked for retailer Superdry and multiple leading design agencies.

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