Read Fadi Shuman’s (Pod1) very informative article
about ecommerce in the luxury market.
Fadi might be correct that “2010 will be the year that the majority of [the luxury] brands jump on the e-Commerce bandwagon
”. The latest purchase of Net-a-Porter.com by Richemont supports this statement. But I have yet to be convinced that these same brands have worked out a way to reproduce on the web what made them different on the high street: uniqueness, exclusivity, high quality, dream-making image, personalized customer services, refined and luxurious stores, best store locations, etc… As Marci Ikeler (Publicis) puts it in her excellent slideshow I referred to in a previous post
“How do we use the web to tell a luxury story?” Or “How do we recreate the sensorial experience of the brand online?”
Fadi refers to Faberge and its site with a very exclusive access or the ecommerce pioneer Burberry’s use of social media for an interactive approach around its catwalk shows. Marci does provide other examples or innovative online initiatives from several luxury brands but we have yet to see the same level of creativity and innovation with their ecommerce.
I have checked out several (ok not all of them, but let me know if I missed one that contradicts my point and that will be the exception that confirms the rule as we say in France) of the oldest or more recent luxury brands’ ecommerce sites (Cartier, Burberry, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Dunhill, Gieves and Hawkes ) and all of them failed for me at the first main hurdle, well before making the first purchase! And this is a key feature of a luxury brand store: the special experience starts with the shop windows and continues throughout your visit of the store through primarily excellent customer service, even if you end up buying nothing. Before leaving you might have exchanged a lot of valuable information with one (or more) sales staff. You might have given for example your contact details, your preferences, your sizes (for clothes). You might have been told specific details about products of interest, what is in stock, what is about to arrive or about to run out, what is very popular, etc… I am assuming here that you are a new visitor to the store, not yet a customer of the brand.
Now, what did I mean by stating that the luxury brands failed this first hurdle related to the pre-sale experience? Well, let’s start with the fact that for most of the sites I visited and browsed the products available to purchase online, my visit has only contributed to the website analytics but the brand does not know I – as a specific person – visited its site. This is simply because my credentials were to be requested only at the purchasing stage. Worse, in most cases even though I was willing to provide my details, there was no way to do this without buying something! Gieves and Hawkes, Dunhill and Louis Vuitton did cater for a pre-sale registration. However, in both cases the benefits of doing so are limited and lack creativity. Typical facilities available once registered are:
- Create and share your personal wishlist
- Expedite the check-out process
- Receive special updates and promotions
- Modify your account details at anytime
- Check the status of orders
- Recording alternative addresses
- View past orders
These are basic services that most non-luxury sector ecommerce sites have been offering for years. Luxury brands should do much better to create a more personalised and special online experience.
For instance, once logged in I would expect a personalised experience wherever my web browsing takes me within the brand’s online world. So my account should follow me around so that I do not need to log in/register again on different pages. Of course, another benefit could be a personalisation of the content on each page based on my preferences (I have other ideas but wont give them out for free!).
For example, Gieves and Hawkes has a Corporate Blog on its site. This is good but unfortunately, even though I was logged in on the main site, I would have had to enter my credentials again in order to leave a comment. This lack of integration is not just about a lack of user friendliness, it does also highlight a lack of or poor multi-channels and multi-media CRM strategy. In the luxury business, knowing your customers well and your customers to know you well is so vital for competitive advantage that it is starting to defy belief why luxury brands are following on the FMCG brands footsteps rather than lead the way.