E-commerce isn’t the future anymore: it’s the here and now. Brands from all industries are leaping aboard the online shopping wave with zeal and fervour, reaping the rewards that a global marketplace has to offer.
Luxury brands have traditionally been slower to embrace e-commerce. Wary of losing their exclusivity in a democratised sphere, they are cautious in their approach to the platform. Thankfully, we are now seeing more and more high-end brands like Hermès and Burberry launch online stores with considerable success.
Maybe you’re a luxury brand dipping your toe into the gilded e-commerce fountain for the first time? Or perhaps you’re a seasoned high-end veteran of the digital marketplace? Either way, there are some things that you need to know if you want to do online luxury right. Read on…
1. Create a coherent story about your brand
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of the luxury online experience is storytelling. You need to distinguish yourself as a brand, not just from your competitors, but from the everyday products on the market. Telling your brand’s story through your content is a vital component of this.
Think about your brand. Perhaps you have a heritage rooted in years of dedicated craftsmanship, or maybe you’re a fledgeling luxury brand making waves on the scene? Whatever your story, use creative crafted content to tell it. Use video, photography and long-form blogs to give your customers insight into your brand and who you are.
For example, take the British fashion house Burberry. They offer a variety of online content providing glimpses into their label, its history, and the ‘Burberry Experience’. Alongside candid photography are fashion week videos with strutting models, the flash of cameras and, shots of a steely Anna Wintour cooly appraising the catwalk silently confirming Burberry as the household luxury brand that they are.
2. Omnichannel is omni-crucial
The typical luxury customer is in a highly paid but highly demanding job, such as law or finance. They’re always on the move, jumping from meeting to meeting with hardly a moment to spare. Therefore they’re going to be using a variety of devices to do their shopping, and that includes mobiles and tablets.
So what does that mean for you? Well, you need to embrace an omnichannel approach. Luxury brands need to offer a user-friendly experience, wherever they’re shopping from. 125 million US consumers own a smartphone, and 56.6% of worldwide internet traffic came from mobile devices. That means your site needs to be responsive, offering the same high level of quality and usability across a variety of devices.
Recognising this, the French fashion house Chanel created their own app, Chanel Fashion.
Image App Store
Offering the latest developments in the fashion world along with behind-the-scenes interviews and peeks at upcoming collections, it ties in visually with their website’s aesthetic too. This creates a seamless brand experience for users, regardless of their device. And on the subject of user experience...
3. Looks are everything in luxury
It might seem obvious, but your luxury online store needs to look luxury as well. An excellent high-end brand conveys their exclusivity as soon as the customer lands on their homepage. A company that perfectly captures this is the Italian jeweller Giampiero Bodino.
Image Giampiero Bodino
Exquisitely detailed baroque imagery sprawls across the page, transporting you to the Italy of the 16th century. Such a setting leaves the customer in no doubt that Giampiero Bodino is synonymous with luxury. If they navigate to your site and see budget photography and *shudder* Comic Sans, you can bet your customer will go elsewhere.
You don’t need to go as all out at Giampiero Bodino though. Merely ensuring your store looks suitably tasteful is enough. Take luxury scarf designer Jane Carr’s website:
Image Jane Carr
This site doesn’t require the intricate work we saw on Giampiero Bodino. Built simply with Shopify, it uses minimal copy and a single bold, high-quality image to create an elegantly subdued homepage which still embodies the brand’s class.
4. The importance of packaging
Luxury isn’t just fancy soaps and personalised perfumes. It’s an experience. It’s everything, from the product right down to the packaging. And the way something is packaged is a crucial aspect of the luxury customer experience. It’s all very well selling an 18k white gold diamond ring, but if you present it in an old cigarette box in a tatty paper bag, then it tarnishes the experience somewhat.
So when it comes to presenting your product, you need to communicate to your customer the exclusivity and expertise that your brand has to offer, and packaging is your medium. Think about how you package your product. The materials used, the shape, colour, design, copy — all these things come together to create an unspoken statement about your brand. Your customer needs to feel the luxury when they open their purchase.
One brand that nails this (and then some) is La Secchia, who produce handcrafted balsamic vinegar. Despite being essentially just a condiment, their packaging screams luxury. It comes in a uniquely-shaped glass bottle with a cork stopper in a presentation box, complete with a cookbook. If the first taste is with the eyes, then it tastes very, very good.
Image La Secchia
Stuck for ideas? Check out Lovely Package for some inspiration for packaging that will wow your customers.
5. Service with a smile and a sparkle
As I said before, luxury is an experience, and a luxury brand needs to have luxury customer service. Your customers need to feel exclusive like they’re the only person in your store. Obviously, you can’t greet your online shoppers at the door with a glass of Moët and a personal shopper, so you need to translate impeccable bricks-and-mortar service into the digital world.
To do so, you need to let your customer know that you are at their beck and call. Any query they might have, from sizing and sourcing to pricing and returns, you will answer it. Respond to customer enquiries quickly, and offer them a variety of contact methods. Phone, email and onsite query forms all let your consumer know that their every need can be attended to. And remember, customers appreciate it when a brand goes the extra mile, so why not offer bespoke delivery options or even complimentary shipping?
You can highlight your customer service commitments through your marketing campaigns too. Use automated marketing software to deliver slick and attentive campaigns at the touch of a button. You don’t need to be a tech wizard to do this, and you don’t even need to break the bank either. There’s lots of easy-to-use software on the market which offers easy to use tools to create dazzling marketing campaigns.
6. Embrace social media
As cautious as they were with adopting ecommerce, the luxury industry has been just as reluctant to engage with social media. However, those that have, are doing so with aplomb.
Social media is a useful tool in driving ecommerce sales, and high-end brands are crafting formulated social marketing efforts to capitalise on this. For luxury brands though, it’s not just about sales. It’s about consumer engagement. Reaching out to customers where they are most active serves to reinforce brand image by offering them a glimpse behind the curtain.
Ferrari, famously reticent in its advertising strategy, has a strong Facebook presence, posting regular and exciting content in line with their brand values. And Hermès manages a gorgeous Instagram account with video and photos not just of their products, but of the craftsmen and women who create them. Hermès uses social media as a stage from which to show the world the love and dedication that goes into their brand.
Image La Secchia
If you want to make waves in the world of ecommerce, learn from the masters. Know your story, and tell it well. Deliver customer service which sets you apart from your competitors. Create an online store which reflects the luxury that your brand embodies. Do this, and do it right, and you’ll see your ecommerce store grow from strength to strength.
Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. For all the latest on developments in e-commerce, marketing, and design, check out her blog, Victoria Ecommerce. Victoria has a drive for helping store owners get the best return on their e-commerce ventures.