Luxury shopping has long called to mind leisurely browsing in minimalist, stylish storefronts, perhaps sipping a glass of champagne as eager sales staff hand-pick personalized items tailored specifically to the customer’s preferences.
Providing a glamorous, personalized shopping experience is just as important to many luxury brands as the product itself, and that focus on image often doesn’t translate to the convenience-driven world of ecommerce, where consumers abandon carts hoping for a coupon and browse Amazon with one eye out for good deals and the other attempting to weed out knock-off merchandise masquerading as the real thing.
But luxury and ecommerce can absolutely co-exist in the same space, though until lately, many brands have been too scared of cheapening their high-end image to try. Last year, ecommerce made up just 9% of luxury sales. Here are a few of the luxury brands daring to test the waters of ecommerce–with some pretty amazing results.
Farfetch, a service that creates a single ecommerce platform for a number of luxury brands, made headlines recently when the company filed for its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange and could potentially be valued at as much as $6 billion.
The idea seems simple enough, but the secret to Farfetch’s success lies in the execution. Last year, Farfetch’s one million customers placed nearly two million in orders, with an average cart total of $620. Instead of attempting to recreate the feeling of boutique shopping in the digital age, Farfetch opts instead to take its cues from Spotify, using consumer data to suggest products tailored to customers’ interests. The result is almost like having a personal shopper, albeit one you never have to make small talk with.
Possibly the biggest threat to Farfetch’s domination of the luxury e-commerce business is newcomer Threads, which offers highly-personalized product recommendations to a mostly female audience of luxury-loving millennials through messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Instagram. Instead of operating through a website or app, Threads relies on its audience to indicate preferences via chat, and then a team of stylists offer personalized recommendations. While it remains to be seen whether consumers are ready to shop via Snapchat, the company did recently raise 20 million in funding and boasts partners like Dior and Fendi.
Diane Von Furstenberg
One designer leading the way in the evolution of luxury ecommerce is Diane Von Furstenberg. While the DVF iconic wrap dress is symbolic of 70s fashion, the brand’s ecommerce strategy is focused on the future.
To improve its ecommerce experience, the brand focused on mobile by adopting Qubit Aura, a product that personalizes product recommendations based on user behavior. The move was a success. The company recently reported that not only was mobile driving half its web traffic, those users were converting to the tune of 20% among target customers.
After years of declining sales, UK-based luxury fashion brand Burberry decided to focus on ecommerce, and early adoption of in-house ecommerce strategy has been a success. Contrary to industry trends, Burberry has instead opted to focus on its core fans, using data and analytics from a global audience of 50 million to build experiences that speak to customers through both digital and augmented reality. Last year, the brand partnered with Apple to use mobile cameras and AR technology to decorate fans’ spaces with Burberry products, a smart move for a brand that owes 40% of its revenue to mobile transactions.
High-end fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff was another early adopter of luxury ecommerce and unique customer experiences merging online and offline experiences. For example, years before other brands were experimenting with in-store pickup for items purchased online or mobile communication with fans, Rebecca Minkoff stores were text messaging customers to let them know their fitting rooms were ready and had installed mirrors where customers could request different sizes and even make purchases without ever leaving the comfort of the dressing room.
As millennials and Gen Z develop a taste—and an income—for luxury goods, the means of shopping for those goods has to change with the changing demographics. In 2017, younger generations accounted for 85% of growth in luxury markets, and 75% of those new customers say they shop online for convenience. Brands that neglect their digital presence in favor of their brick-and-mortar image could be missing out on their best hope for driving future sales.