Luxury online: a subtle balance between aesthetics, innovation and practicality

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The web is wonderful if you are happy to be transparent, collaborative, everywhere, fast, free and fluid.  Moreover, it’s better to have low resolution videos and images for faster load times.  Taken individually and, worse, as a group, these are not the most likely qualifications for a luxury brand.  And hence, the challenge of creating a luxury online strategy. Yet, digital is everywhere, unavoidable and, better still, a vehicle of innovation.  If only 8% of fashion retailing is done online, the opportunities for luxury are there for the taking.

Challenges of luxury online

The challenges for luxury brands going online are multiple:

  • Where a luxurious look & feel might involve beautiful images and videos, the challenge is to make the web (or mobile) interface load up seamlessly and quickly.

    Luxury online, The Myndset Digital Marketing

    Finding the right digital luxurious touch….

  • When the screen is small, the challenge for online luxury is to find ways to allow for space and silence.  {click to tweet}
  • When luxury brands prefer to control the whole experience, how to enable discovery and enhance the consumer journey (without creating dead-ends and frustratingly uninteractive pages)?
  • Where luxury brands need to establish premium value, how to maintain exclusivity and a proprietary space?
  • When innovation is as much in the message (“story”) as in the product itself, the challenge is to stay ahead where barriers to entry on the internet are very hard to construct.
  • And the challenge in eCommerce continues when a luxurious surfing experience needs to be matched by extreme practicality when it comes to the check-out process.  {click to tweet}

The balancing act

Such are some of the challenges that luxury brands face in dealing with the inevitable digital transformation.  I see three distinct criteria that luxury brands need to blend together to have an effective extension of their brand in the digital space:

  1. the online luxury brand needs to express itself via an exquisite aesthetic design that caters to the codes of luxury, such as beauty, refinement, space and speed… {click to tweet}
  2. the digital space is a fantastic avenue to demonstrate innovation by revolutionizing navigation, introducing new functionalities…
  3. where a luxury brand may wish that the customer experience on the web and mobile may incite exploration, delight and astonishment, the trick is making sure that the mundane matters — notably the check out in eCommerce — are treated with extreme pragmatism and practicality.

The competitive set

The issue for many (if not most) luxury brands is that third party upscale retailers such as Netaporter and Gilt are doing a better job in terms of practical matters: product images, search effectiveness, easy navigation, seamless check-out, a friendly mobile experience.  Even some lower end brands are providing better customer service and a better online and mobile experience than their luxurious counterparts.  When looking specifically at the mobile (as opposed to the tablet) experience, the constraint of the small screen and slower bandwidth make the challenges even more important for luxury brands.

I’d be glad to hear of your opinion about which luxury brands you believe are making the digital grade!