Despite uncertain economic times, the luxury goods sector continues to flourish. According to the UK Luxury Benchmark Survey, produced by Walpole and Ledbury Research, the British luxury sector is forecast to experience double digit growth over the next five years, with the market expected to reach £7.4 billion this year and £12.2 billion by 2017.
Meanwhile eCommerce is growing at a substantial rate, six times faster than that of high street sales. Considering that UK shoppers make up the highest proportion of online sales in the world (approximately 13%), it is no surprise that digital innovation is top of mind for the majority of British luxury brands.
But whilst there is no denying that the case for selling online is compelling, making a successful transition from the high street to the web requires the same degree of thought and attention to detail as that which is applied to the launch of a new retail store. With this in mind, here are 10 top digital marketing tips for luxury brands launching online.
1. Start small, technically
Before investing in advanced eCommerce functionality, focus on the fundamental building blocks of content, brand building, user experience and customer service. With fashion retailers attracting a wealth of private investment, brands are forced to compete for the attention and loyalty of the luxury consumer and, as a result, customers have come to expect nothing less than rock-solid highly polished service.
Moreover, customers expect to be delighted and charmed as investors increasingly turn their attention to innovation within the sector. Spend time defining the qualities, both functional and emotional, that are differentiating and ownable and subsequently use these to craft an online experience that is truly distinct.
Once you have built a successful online business, then take advantage of advanced functionality such as bespoke offers, tighter integration with the core business, improved fulfillment workflows, integration with affiliate networks and so on.
2. Be responsive to the trends in mobile usage
Mobile commerce, or mCommerce as it has been nicknamed, is reported to bypass eCommerce sales by 2015 according to Gartner. There are many ways to cater for mobile devices and responsive design is one which offers substantial benefits to both your brand and your business. Responsive web design allows developers to focus their efforts on a single development platform with designs that are tailored to the dimensions and orientation of the user’s screen. By doing so, brand owners can implement changes or extend functionality quickly and efficiently and respond, in almost real-time, to the demands of customers.
3. The answer is in the data
Embrace Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and put in the homework required to understand the data. All of the answers to what is and, more importantly, what isn’t working can be found there.
4. Content is (still) king
Leverage the authenticity, authority and heritage of your craft to create content that differentiates you from your high street competitors and which customers will value, share and respond to.
5. Curation, curation, curation
The web is made up of more than 30 trillion pages so websites that aim to simplify the shopping experience can be extremely valuable. Curated sites aggregating an overwhelming array of products into professionally curated collections. However, just as quickly as the web has become saturated with retailers, so to will the market become crowded for curators. Be prepared, therefore, to offer a unique angle and exploit the credentials of the curator to gain exposure.
6. Be socially selective
Choose your conversations wisely. Social media requires a great deal of time and resource, both of which can be quickly drained by focusing attention on the wrong areas. Instead, assess the desires of your customers and do something that really gets them talking.
In 2011, Burberry chose to stream its Spring show live from London Fashion Week. In addition to live-streaming the event on its website, and numerous other influential sites, the company invited customers to view the show from their local flagship store. Afterwards, store employees distributed iPads to participants where a native app allowed them to view and purchase the items from the runway before the collection was officially released in stores.
The real value in Burberry’s execution was not their willingness to embrace social media or the instant gratification it is commonly associated with. Rather it was their ability to tap into the exclusive nature of luxury fashion at a crucial moment when the customer is engaged, inspired and acting on impulse. Social media, and digital marketing generally, provided the ideal platform to empower customers to buy something that was otherwise unobtainable and to make a public statement in the process.
7. Pictures tell a thousand words – don’t scrimp on product photography
A luxury product must look worthy of its price tag and evoke the same feeling as physically holding the item in store. Display multiple views, including the product in situ, and be sure to capture any unique selling points which differentiate the product. Don’t be afraid to go big – present the product in all its glory and allow customers to take a closer look, inspecting the intricacies and craftsmanship of the item.
Packaging too remains a vital component in the experience of purchasing a product. If your packaging stands out amongst the crowd, why not include this in the alternative views? If you offer suggestions related to particular products, hand pick each related item much like you would in a gallery and help the customer bring their purchase to life.
8. It’s about value, not cost
Invest in the marketing channels which generate the greatest return on your investment and monitor the analytics for proof of success. The higher price point that is inherent to luxury goods makes it an ideal candidate for pay-per-click advertising. But before venturing into unchartered territory, measure the conversion rate of your website so that bids can be limited to a rate which is most likely to be profitable.
Email marketing can be also be employed to drive customer purchasing behaviour. Continuously clean your database of contacts and work hard to develop it. Targeted email, i.e. email marketing that is tailored to the recipient, should convert better than any other marketing medium.
9. Place emphasis on customer service
Pre-empt your customers’ concerns by including detailed product information, sizing charts, delivery charges, returns policies and shipping options. Luxury consumers value personal service and will invest time in researching their purchase before they buy.
According to a recent Interbrand report, delivery charges remains the number one reason for abandoned purchases online. Customers have come to expect free mainland delivery on purchases in excess of £100 and so it is fair to assume that one buying a high ticket item expects the same. If delivery charges are necessary, and cannot be easily absorbed by the brand, pay careful attention to the way in which this is communicated.
10. Don’t be ashamed to name drop
Reinforce the quality of craftsmanship by including guildmarks, accreditations and endorsements. Accreditations provide instantly recogniseable references for the customer which encourages trust by association.