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- 19 Aug 2011
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Calculating the Risks of Not Participating in the Digital Revolution


Elizabeth Schofield of Fashion’s Collective, spells out how deeply disadvantaged those luxury brands will be left clinging to the artifice of the analog world

For many luxury brands deeply rooted in heritage, the digital age has presented a challenge in protecting a legacy more than it has presented an opportunity to evolve. As some brands elect not to participate in the digital evolution, it is rarely understood if this choice is an informed decision or instead the result of severe indecision.

In a previous article, we argue that when it comes to digital positioning, brands take on one of three roles, the Observer, the Challenger or the Pioneer. Brands that have chosen to pioneer this brave new world of digital marketing have seen both success and failure.

Gucci, for example, is now a brand that participates in ecommerce, Foursquare, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and mobile marketing. On Facebook alone the brand is approaching 5 million fans. But not too long ago, when the brand first launched its Eyeweb initiative, allowing users to upload photos of themselves to a lifestyle microsite, the response from the industry was that the site content felt diluted compared to the high-end image of Gucci.

 Purchase power is no longer left to those in-store or even relegated solely to an ecommerce website. 

As the natural pace of the web can be likened to a mode not dissimilar to warp speed, this has long been forgotten by customers, potential customers and even the industry itself. What we concentrate on instead is the brand’s digital footprint and its success in communicating globally through multiple channels online.

The rewards Gucci stands to reap go well beyond heightened global brand awareness and the long-term conversion of Gen Y aspirational customers to actual customers. As the web progresses, brands with solid digital positions across platforms will be prime to receive the dollars spent by the connected, demanding and discerning e-customer. Purchase power is no longer left to those in-store or even relegated solely to an ecommerce website.

As the web becomes more integrated and the ability to see, share and shop content becomes standard, it will be the brands with established ecommerce and social media presences that stand to suddenly monetize their audiences and allow their content to be shared with new individuals, thus feeding the growth/revenue machine that lies at the crux of every business.

According to a recent report by J.P. Morgan Chase, the following stats provide a dynamic picture of ecommerce:

- High-income shoppers (making above $100,000 annually) shop online most often compared to other demographics.

- People who shop online make a purchase once per month, on average. (According to Forrester Research, apparel is one of the top three categories purchased online.)

- Ecommerce revenue will grow to $680 billion worldwide up 18.9 percent from 2010 revenue. In the U.S. alone, online retail commerce will grow 13.2 percent to $187 billion. Globally, ecommerce revenue is expected to hit a significant $963 billion by 2013.

- Ecommerce alone provides brands ample opportunity to both serve the customer and make financial gains. Also significant is that having a functioning ecommerce system provides a solid foundation for brands to build on as social commerce becomes more lucrative.

 ‘Observer’ and ‘Challenger’ brands will find themselves in a difficult position when the full integration of Web 3.0 and social commerce take effect 

With ecommerce comes the challenge of technology, functionality, integration, information architecture, content, design, fulfillment, customer service and inventory management. With social media, the challenges are slightly different; brands need to define their brand voice, decide which platforms to be present on, engage in conversation, post content, run campaigns, and ultimately drive commerce and registrations.

Observer and Challenger brands like MaxMara and Dior will find themselves in a difficult position when the full integration of Web 3.0 and social commerce take effect in the coming years. It will be the competitors to these iconic brands, those who have had the time to learn, understand and perfect their brand and ecommerce positions that will flourish the fastest.

After all, each brand has a different story to tell, a unique offering that sets it apart from the rest. But telling this story online requires a different set of communication tools. It is with direction, practice and engagement that brands find their own voice in the new language of the web.


Fashion’s Collective is a resource focused on digital marketing for the fashion and luxury industry. A team of contributors experienced in global strategy for the industry’s top brands advises on digital brand positioning, social media, mobile marketing, ecommerce and relevant consumer insights.