Festivity Avant-Garde: The Battle of Cyber Luxury

Gift shopping? If you are a luxury brand, this is the apt time to turn to e-retailing. And if you are the luxury enthusiast, then no need to leave the warmth of your blanket to shop for your loved ones now!

By: HH Alexandra Orloff, CEO, Sacha Orloff Ltd

Posted on: December 10, 2010

Gift shopping? If you are a luxury brand, this is the apt time to turn to e-retailing. And if you are the luxury enthusiast, then no need to leave the warmness of your blanket to shop for your loved ones now!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ... No need to leave the office or home to delve into the bitterly cold streets and queues the length of a football pitch. The festive season is the ideal opportunity to stay warm behind your laptop, sip tea, and ingest in some well deserved online shopping. While online shopping has existed now for a number of years, the face of the internet has changed, particularly luxury goods online shopping. Yesterday it was Ebay, today it is Burberry – which, by the way, was awarded the first ever Award for Digital Innovation at the recently held British Fashion Awards where we were invited.

The internet has become your oyster with luxury brands making dreams come true with their extravagant online and application experiences. The virtual has become the reality of tomorrow.

From Dior to Dolce & Gabbana, inboxes are now bombarded with holiday season discounts from the crème de la crème of high-end designers. A growing number of luxury companies and retailers have started emailing as part of their marketing sales. How will this affect our perception of luxury, when lowering prices seems to be becoming the norm, not exclusivity? While some do not believe that it will have a significant threat to luxury brand equity, others hold certain reservations about such tedious strategies.

From one continent to another, the experience is rather different. Many European luxury brands originally built their websites for their own continental customers, who will navigate, and have different purchasing habits than their counterparts in the States. European luxury brands enhance their websites by offering a full heritage tour experience - contributing to a richer design with flash-heavy websites which are flanked with evocative media content. Trans-atlantic, our American neighbours wish for a website design and content which is straightforward. Navigation has to be easy to cater to a busy schedule (no time to browse - window shopping is so last year), with no desire for attention to beautiful details. However, consumer research has shown that with some negative experiences, and a poor customer response in the U.S, many luxury brands have re-implemented their web strategies to offer more commercial orientated products and layouts.

Should you be too lazy to e-shop from one brand website to another, why not browse luxury retailer’s websites? From Net-a-Porter to Google’s Boutiques.com, via HauteLook deals, surfing becomes as strenuous as walking on Oxford Street and Bond Street. If daily trend-spotting becomes a job on its own, one can recommend a Facebook account to follow the latest deals or, to support the millions of Gucci fan’s who compete against Burberry (online of course) to make it become the biggest, the largest, and best luxury brand on the face of the world. Twitter will also give you a taste of ‘real time’ action and trends. Facebook, in particular, is becoming an imperative piece of brand strategy. If you are not out there to accumulate ‘likes’, the brand will be left behind in the cyberspace nothingness. Likewise, Twitter is becoming a must-do platform for engaging the consumer. Anything happening on Twitter is a commitment from the brand, not a campaign. Longevity is paramount as engaging a customer obliges the brand to commit in time and value. Action and reaction are important.

Going a step forward now, use your mobile device and e-shop in the train, at the airport, or at a coffee place while waiting for a friend or your next business meeting. All depends on the apps (application programmes) on your latest iPhone, BB or iPad. Even if the mobile space is still in its infancy, it offers a wide range of opportunities for adventurous luxury brands where risk is not an option. We have all noticed how everyone is glued to their mobile phones and brands have to target this enormous market. Take the example of Saks Fifth Avenue, who is driving foot traffic to several of its locations as part of a cross-promotional effort with InStyle magazine by integrating the mobile social game Foursquare. Even Giorgio Armani presents some of its accessory lines via interactive video sites. Hence brands should be inventive in tapping online videos to reinforce their status with consumers on the Internet and should remember not to lose their charisma.

If you are the happy owner of an iPad, you can follow Mercedes-Benz or read about the 75th anniversary of Jaguar with an interactive iPad application. In terms of practicality, from The Economist to Vogue, one doesn’t have to get a paper version of his/her favourite publications. All is under control in one gadget. The consumer tends to make such purchases a habit rather than a one-off, and the price stays more or less the same.

Most of the times, the product knowledge is missing in the website of the brand. What traditionally defines the value of the name of the brand is the quality of the product, the concept, and the service. Websites and applications are starting to take tentative steps towards delivering an experience to the consumer that go beyond a glamourous layout or clip. The aim of the brand, whatever the means and point of sales, is to sell desirable products with an excellent service that portray exclusivity, bespoke and personalized service. If brands successfully manage to capture this in new technologies and consumer habits, the online experience will be in symbiosis with the physical boutique, sustaining the exquisite uniqueness luxury consumers seek.

Russian and Spanish aristocrat, HH Alexandra Orloff, is the CEO and owner of Sacha Orloff Ltd, a consultancy offering services and products in luxury jewellery, watches, and fashion industry. Having worked in numerous prestigious luxury brands, she has enormous expertise in strategy development for luxury brands across emerging markets. 

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