Luxury fashion brands have always excelled in two areas: high-quality products and customer experiences that are a cut above. Whether it’s the sacred hush inside Valentino as soon as the front doors block out the rumble of Fifth Avenue or the glass of champagne you’re handed when you walk into Prada, you’re treated like royalty the minute you walk in — so you’ll spend like a royal before you walk out.
The internet, however, is the great democratizer. It brings all brands to the two-dimensional, with the screen serving as the divide between brand experience and customer. Luxury brands have split into two camps when it comes to e-commence: Either give in and sell online, or maintain that luxury-brand hallmark of exclusivity by selling in stores only. Whether they sell online or not, luxury brands can’t ignore sophisticated e-commerce tools that will help them educate consumers, plus find and capitalize on amazing user-generated content.
Luxury brands that ignore e-commerce are missing out big time. McKinsey & Co projects that online sales in the luxury sector are set to triple in the next decade — and when you’re dealing with high price tags in the luxury market, those profit numbers stretch well into the billions. By not participating in the digital sector of the market, luxury brands are missing opportunities to connect with two major consumer demographics: digitally-savvy millennials (a demographic with the potential to become the largest spending generation in history by 2035) and international clients. With the rise of globalization, markets in countries like the UAE, India and China are exploding — yet have limited access to in-store experiences with luxury brands. You need to connect with these customers in an exclusive, top-of-the-line manner that builds a relationship between them and your brand. The iconic luxury jewelry brand Tiffany & Co, which offers a limited selection for online purchases, just partnered with luxury e-commerce retailer Net-A-Porter as their exclusive e-commerce partner. This partnership boosted Tiffany’s e-comm presence from 13 countries to 170 through Net-A-Porter.
So how can a luxury brand maintain exclusivity while moving forward into 2017? You have to excel in both e-commerce and brand experience for the customer — whether you sell products online or not. A few brands are paving the way, setting the example for what works and what simply does not.
Good content is key. In fact, it needs to be stellar, luxe, plush, and show the customer a side of the brand they would not get in-store. Net-A-Porter is absolutely crushing the game, showcasing the many high-end brands they sell in magazine-like, editorial spreads online. Burberry, like a few other standalone brands, is building brand familiarity and connection with customers with their just-released “Tale of Thomas Burberry,” which looks like the trailer for a feature-length film about the founder (unfortunately, there are no plans to actually make the film at this time). It was released a few weeks ago and already has more than 11 million views on Youtube.
User experience needs to reign supreme. You can have the coolest graphics on your site, but if it’s difficult to navigate, people will turn away. With the rise of shoppable Instagram products like Like2Buy, it’s clear that the future of good visual marketing lies in seamless user experiences. Farfetch just launched a holiday campaign that’s pure gold: an interactive video showcasing dancers in outfits that are shoppable. The best part? The user only needs to tap the article of clothing as the video plays, and at the end, a wish list of all the items the viewer tapped shows up in shoppable icons on the side. It not only allows for the user’s viewing to go on uninterrupted, but it also turns the video into an interactive experience, making you pay more attention to the video in the end. Brilliant.
A personalized shopping experience cannot be absent, as it is one of the quintessential aspects of luxury fashion brands. In place of a personal shopper or store clerk giving you their utmost attention and catering to your wishes, the luxury fashion e-comm sector needs to offer personalization of products wherever and whenever possible. Brands like Burberry and Louis Vuitton are taking cues from longtime e-comm proponents like Nike to allow for complete customization of products online. Louis Vuitton offers a full line of customizable bags, wallets, passport holders and luggage, where you can choose interior and exterior detail colors and add a monogram if you so please. LV even offers complimentary shipping to your door or a store near you as a nice perk at the end. Sure, it’s not a salesperson refilling your empty champagne glass, but it does offer that personalized element that many feel is absent from the online shopping experience.
By offering customers a luxurious, personalized experience both in-stores and online, progressive luxury brands are harnessing the power of e-commerce and tapping into a global customer base.
Another luxury brand doing it right? Harry Winston. Although they don’t sell their engagement rings, diamond necklaces or luxury watches online, the brand partnered with Curalate to power the jeweler’s Like2Buy page — offering 665,000 Instagram followers the ability to see detailed product information and make in-store appointments.