Jonathan Holmes, founder of LuxDeco.com, details why luxury retailers are investing heavily in their online reputation & ensuring that digital revenue is a core part of the retail mix
Over the last few years, we have witnessed a dramatic change in the luxury e-commerce landscape. Not too long ago, the majority of luxury brands were resistant to e-commerce, believing that it could never replicate the luxury bricks-and-mortar experience.
This was shortly followed by a view that luxury products would have success online only when discounted, which, with success, led to the creation of e-commerce giants such as Vente Privee and Gilt Groupe, and opened a stream of much-needed online revenues.
Things have come a long way since! With recent statistics claiming that 98% of affluent consumers are shopping online and an increase in competition fighting for access to this valuable market share, luxury retailers are investing heavily in taking control of their online brand reputation and ensuring that digital revenue is a core part of the luxury retail mix.
“ Recent statistics claim that 98% of affluent consumers are shopping online ”
Over the next 12 months, the luxury e-commerce winners will be those that ensure their brands maintain their allure and integrity in a world that has become price-led and driven by unsustainable short-term gain – the opposite of what luxury should stand for: long-term brand value, heritage and rarity.
Luxury purchases differentiate themselves from day-to-day purchases by being driven by emotion rather than necessity. In some cases a decision may have taken years to come to fruition. Therefore, for luxury retailers to flourish and stand out from the crowd, they will need to implement vital strategies that engage users emotionally through personalisation and a mixture of content and commerce.
“ Luxury e-commerce winners will be those that ensure their brands maintain their allure and integrity ”
Over the last 12 months, personalisation has taken hold of the web and the success of websites such as Pinterest has demonstrated the need for individually curated content. Affluent consumers already expect to find the same incredible shop experience and exclusive service online as they do in a flagship store, so for them personalisation is even more important, if not demanded.
By delivering a feeling of exclusivity through recommendations based on preferences and actions, as well as replicating how an experienced assistant would know your taste, engage you in a conversation and help to educate and assist you with the brand and your future purchase, customers will be more loyal, more engaged and more likely to purchase.
A personalised shopping experience also holds appeal to high-end consumers by offering them more of a luxury that they do not have in abundance – time! For the cash-rich and time-poor, the ability to experience only what it is relevant and tailored for them or to easily find exactly what they are looking for is more likely to be engaging.
“ Affluent consumers expect to find the same incredible experience & service online as they do in a flagship store ”
While personalised choice is a vital driver for luxury sales, part of the online challenge is still discovering and building the dream around the product before the sale process begins. To bring this to life, a mixture of commerce and online storytelling should be incorporated to enhance the customer experience, leaving a huge impact on the effectiveness of a brand’s digital presence.
Luxury shopping is by nature a sensory experience. The heritage, smells, sounds and visuals that can be experienced in a luxury store are part of the attraction and the products themselves have high aesthetic values that need to be appreciated.
If this has been removed from the sale process then the luxury retailers have to compensate and concentrate on creatively delivering innovative storytelling, high-level editorial content and rich, engaging media about their products that portrays the story and the craftsmanship in the most effective way possible.
Gucci Style iPad Application
To this end, content is still king and brands and retailers should look to effectively integrate a mixture of content and commerce within their online retail strategy. Trusted editorial, shopping guides, insider access, shoppable video and and amazing photography are essential in encouraging consumers to further buy into the culture of the luxury brand – ultimately developing a longer-term relationship with consumers and encouraging subsequent sales.
Branded editorial platform magazines such as Nowness from LVMH and Swide from Dolce & Gabbana have demonstrated how luxury brands can build loyalty by thinking more like publishers, and companies such as Mr Porter and Gucci have both demonstrated how the iPad is likely to become one of the most effective cross-content and commerce platforms for luxury retail.
The iPad is an asset to luxury retail and one of the most exciting areas for retail growth. An affluent device in its own right, the iPad provides a unique opportunity for multi-sensory presentation across every device to be executed with the same control as would be expected in a retail store, from ultra-sharp photography and video to elegant touch interactivity – an experience that is not quite as easy to control on the web.
“ Brands & retailers should look to effectively integrate a mixture of content & commerce within their online retail strategy ”
Mr Porter and Gucci have used the iPad to great effect by giving an insider look in to their respective branded worlds with engaging editorial, video and brand content within their shoppable magazine apps.
Although the iPad experience is hard to beat, the luxury retail strategy should be multi-platform and retailers should be continuing to extend their storytelling and commerce strategies to mobile. While mobile may only account for a small percentage of luxury purchases, it is growing.
Customers can become easily frustrated when they are looking to discover, browse or buy on the go, and if brands are not controlling their own image on this platform, then who is?
For luxury retailers to offer a true experience of the brand universe online, they need to provide not only a great online shop but captivating storytelling across multiple devices, platforms and social media. By tailoring each of these platforms with product-focused content and site-wide personalisation, retailers will build stronger emotional relationships with their customers and reassure them that the luxury purchase is worth every penny.
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