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Art+Logic is a software development firm that designs, develops, and delivers high-level tech solutions for their clients. The company  specializes in mobile apps, web software, desktop software, IoT, and has recently branched into product development where they are putting their software expertise to use contributing to the evolution of new ...

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Kai McGinnis

Disrupting Luxury: How Concierge Service eliteUSA and Software Developers Art+Logic Built an App that Shook Up Haute Couture Shopping

Art+Logic’s app solution for a highly customized luxury shopping experience finds resonance in the face of a pandemic

Before COVID, personal shoppers would bring clients into the boutiques of high-end fashion and luxury brands. The face-to-face interaction and the white glove service were integral parts of what made a purchase, beyond the desirability of the item itself. Yet all this changed as boutiques closed and travel stopped.

The current pandemic has accelerated a pre-existing trend that upended the slow, in-person sale, a trend powered by apps and an ethos closer to DTC shopping. Consumers worldwide have discovered that when they see what they want on the wrist or feet of a friend or relative, there are ways to buy quickly and easily, without heading to Dubai, Milan, or Paris. Thanks to some new players, they can find just the thing or catch that elusive color or pattern before it’s sold out.

eliteUSA is one of the startups defining this trend. Launched as a one-woman business by a work-from-home mom in the Detroit area, the concierge service for luxury shopping has grown to a globe-spanning network of staff and logistics centers.

“A friend and I were chit chatting and she mentioned that she couldn’t find these Valentino shoes she loved in her country,” recalls founder and CEO Ella Dark. “I told her I’d find a pair. I did, bought them, packaged them up, and sent them to her. She was so overjoyed, she told her friends and family about it. That’s how it started way back in 2013.” Soon, Ella created an Instagram page and was shipping 15 boxes or more a day, all by herself. With roots in the Middle East, Ella grew a substantial customer base in the region.

As business boomed, Ella convinced her engineer husband Muaz Rabah to come work for eliteUSA. To better engage customers and streamline operations, he eventually turned to software developers Art+Logic to create two custom apps, one to help them manage their personal and concierge shoppers around the world, and one to serve clients -  a single hub for requesting, purchasing, and receiving orders from the world’s most exclusive brands.

They needed something that out-of-the-box solutions couldn’t provide, thus necessitating their turn to the customizable software that Art+Logic provides. “We became leaders in the market in the region and we knew we had to be a step ahead of everyone else,” Ella explains. “We wanted a custom mobile app, as everyone just wants to shop online on their smartphone.” Ella and Muaz had a clear vision for how the app should work and what features it needed in order to connect with clients. Clients can snap a photo of a sought-after purchase, chat with a personal shopper, arrange payment, and explain any shipping details or other requirements in a single spot. “It feels more personal and engaging,” Ella notes.

These kinds of ecommerce apps may seem simple, but there are complexities - in particular with an international clientele and high-end purchases - that Art+Logic’s team had to address. The biggest challenge: Frictionless, cross-regional payment. “Customers can use their preferred local payment platform for purchases,” says Art+Logic software developer and project lead Colin Gordon. “However, interfacing with these platforms can be tricky, as an American team may not be allowed to open an account with them. Customers can pay via a Kuwaiti payment system, for example, in dinar. We had to make sure that system and all the other key platforms worked with what we were building.”

“We went with two other companies before we began working with Art+Logic,” reflects Rabah. “It can take several trials to get it right. We knew we had to keep trying until we found the perfect team.”

The worldwide nature of Elite’s business made international communication a must, something that’s grown ever easier in recent months, as everyone has jumped on video chats to live their everyday lives. This byproduct of isolation has, in effect, shrunk the business world. “For a decade or more, I’ve worked with developers all over the world who had no problem using tech to collaborate,” says Gordon, who like all of Art+Logic’s team, works remotely and has for years. “Having the ability to do this with the general public, with non-technical people, is wonderful. When we did have an issue to resolve with a payment company, we could get on a call at the drop of a hat. It makes things way easier.”

The pandemic has accelerated remote luxury shopping as well, with a supplementary cultural shift in the way luxury brands interact with customers. Ella has noticed a seachange in luxury brands’ attitudes toward a more digital approach to finding the perfect item.

“Luxury brands, like Cartier or Chopard, the very French, traditional prestigious brands, are not used to this approach to personal shopping. They are used to having a client there in the store,” Ella recounts. “When we shopped on behalf of a client in the past, we’d often hear, ‘Bring the client in.’ Our client was thousands of miles away and wanted us to get something specific for her. We’ve watched that mentality and perception in luxury retail change. After COVID, boutiques are happy we exist because we kept the sales coming in. It helped them, even as they had to keep boutiques closed.” All because of an app that connects a world of luxury shoppers with the brands they adore.