Luxury brands are defined by price, quality, exclusivity, and experience. They are high-quality products offered at prices that are inaccessible to many. These prices are justified by the high quality, lower, exclusive availability, exceptional standards of service and experience, and the emotional connection that they have with their customers.
They exist to define social status. Luxury brands don’t want to sell to everyone. They want to sell to the right people, hence the lower supply levels.
Luxury brands have been reluctant to enter into the online space, fearing that it would dilute their image and sense of exclusivity. After all, anyone can visit a website. The compatibility between exclusivity and the mass market nature of the internet was questionable.
“There’s a serious disconnect between luxury client experience and digital. Luxury brands bring in external digital experts who have driven success in other industries, but they don’t understand luxury or luxury consumers. They think they can use the same strategy and tactics, but they tend to flop.”
The rules are different. Rather than selling as many products as possible, luxury brands need to maintain the expectations of high end customers that has allowed them to reach the status that they have (more on that later).
As such, there are some brands that still aren’t entering into the ecommerce space, Chanel for example. As Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s President of Fashion, explains:
“Our position on ecommerce is the same. We want to connect our customers with our product and our boutiques are the best way to do so.”
Customers can browse collections on chanel.com, but if they want to buy the high end items, they must visit a boutique or make an appointment with Chanel.
And many other luxury brands initially only set up showcase sites or apps for their branding and communication strategies.
Versus Versace was once one of the first fashion houses to offer its collection online, just minutes after its catwalk debut.
- According to the McKinsey Digital Luxury Experience Study, digital sales in the luxury goods sector have shown growth rate of +27% since 2010 compared with in-store sales, which grew by only 7%. This upwards trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
- Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts that by 2025, one fifth of luxury brand sales will be made online.
- 85% of millennials expect luxury brands to have an omni-channel presence, and together with GenZ shoppers will account for 70% of all luxury sales by 2025.
So the majority of luxury brands now offer the option to shop online through their directly operated websites. According to Luxe, Gucci was the hottest brand online in 2022 followed by Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermès.
Some, including Chanel, are still resisting online sales. For example, Rolex doesn’t sell online, and Louis Vuitton only sells through its owned multi-brand retailer 24 Sèvres.
When looking at how to translate premium brands into the online space, we should look at what they expect from luxury brands in general.
Luxury customers expect an immersive experience in store. So they should get this in their user experience online too. Luxury brands should immerse the user in the product. Why? Because over-explaining and telling the customer too much cheapens the experience (think big flashy bold signs and pushy shop assistants). So they should keep the product page design simple:
- Layout: Use big, high res product imagery that shows details. Keep it minimal with less products per row and plenty of space.
- Colour: Use black and white to contrast with product imagery.
- Typography: Use typography that compliments the imagery or shifts attention to it, not away from it.
- Imagery: Again, show the user, don’t tell them. Let users zoom in, use video, show different angles, and highlight important information.
- Motion: Make for a smooth browsing experience while focusing on the product. Keep it subtle and functional.
See more of our website design tips here.
Maintain the feeling of exclusivity and quality by personalising users’ online experience. Create dynamic landing pages based on previous behaviour (previous purchases, most visited pages, email subscribe lists).
LVMH’s 24 Sèvres enables personalised shopping through technology. They use live video chat to give shoppers a bespoke style consultation tailored to their needs. On the app, customers can chat with a stylist and browse the store at the same time.
Saks Fifth Avenue does something similar with its website and app providing access to professional stylists, editorial content, and interactive events.
Saving and setting products aside
When shopping luxury goods, it’s a big investment. So customers take time making purchase decisions. Which means its vital to allow users to come back to their browsing. Luxury brands should therefore ensure they are allowing users to save products and then send email notifications at the correct intervals (every 1-3 months is good starting point at the beginning of the month when their pay check arrives!).
As mentioned above, one of the reasons that people shop luxury goods is the status symbol that it affords them. So validate this feeling in your online user experience. Show events that are exclusive for customers on the check out page. Or congratulate and welcome them to the brand community with an email or landing page that highlighted exclusive gated content.
Interactive brand content
Social media is key for luxury brands. Although not everyone in their massive audiences can afford their products (and they wouldn’t want them to (note previous points on exclusivity).
Chanel is leading this space with an engaged social media audience of 90 million.
Not only does this allow brands the power of word of mouth, and therefore keeping them top of mind for those with the purchasing power to invest, it also gives customers the opportunity to express themselves and give feedback, rather than brands pushing a narrative (Kristin Maa, Senior Vice President of Growth at Saks).
Here are some initiatives that some of the world’s biggest luxury brands have been investing in online.
Exclusivity and premium experience is key for Chanel, hence its stubborn reluctance to ecommerce. This is exemplified in initiatives such as their invite-only private boutiques that they are rolling out in Asia in 2023 for their top customers.
Louis Vuitton boasts the largest traffic volume to its website with an average of 13.2 million visitors per month. They launched their standalone mobile app, Louis: The Game in 2021 and they are also experimenting with NFTs, inviting players to solve puzzles in the game to earn the right to enter a raffle of different NFTs.
The brand has considerably increased the number of products available on its official website and have a curated selection of high-end watches available exclusively on Mr Porter.
Whilst it has taken a while for luxury brands to get online, it is only a select few who are still resisting. And it makes sense considering the numbers mentioned above. But in order to maintain their exclusivity and positioning as luxury, brands must be careful with how they present themselves, ensuring the premium experience that customers expect in store extends into the online space.
If you’re looking to take your luxury brand online, or improve your positioning online, get in touch. Propeller is a luxury fashion digital marketing agency specialising in ecommerce. We create beautiful e-stores, with a backend admin that makes getting your business online easy.