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Learning from the rise of digital first brands

Learning from the rise of digital first brands

The luxury sector is not immune from the challenges of today’s world; this once-timeless and trend-proof sector has suffered from the recent political and economical unrest. Renowned brands are being forced into the future, so they can survive the present.

Meanwhile, millennials are getting richer, and the luxury sector can no longer pander to their traditional customer alone. Auction house Christie’s now runs marketing campaigns that are exclusively digital, as their ‘ancient, moneyed’ client base is gradually superseded by the 20-somethings.

Digital marketing strategies are becoming more prevalent, integrated, sophisticated and multi-channel. Where once Burberry stood alone in the digitally-savvy luxury hall of fame, now Alessandro Michele’s Gucci is a serious contender. Luxury firsts like Instagram memes demonstrate the value now attributed to a digital marketing strategy, and 50% growth in e-commerce sales are evidence of its impact.

As digital transformation takes over, e-commerce becomes an ever-more important weapon in the luxury sales arsenal. According to Bain & Co, 14% of 18-24-year-olds in the US made their first luxury purchase online. Whatever their age, the luxury consumer demands convenience and a tailored, personalised experience; the shopping cart is no different.

No matter what investment the old school brands make in telling their story digitally, the likes of Dior and Chanel are facing increased competition from the new kids. Just as those pesky millennials are creating waves in the workplace, so too are the digital-first luxury brands who don’t have legacy systems and processes holding them back.

Enter the digital natives

Glance at newcomers such as Away, Spoke and Warby Parker: everything about them screams “digitally-led”, and we’re not just talking about slick UX on mobile, though there is definitely that.

Let’s start with Away, a Maido favourite. Through video and beautifully art-directed photography, they tell the story of your nomadic life with their product. They then reinforce the sensory aspects that a digital shopping experience lacks - the scratch resistant quality of the material and the smoothness of the wheels. Through short, playful video loops they demonstrate the luxury appeal that you’re unable to test and touch online.

Away also offers a range of leather stickers, to allow product personalisation. But this level of customisation is insignificant compared that offered by other luxury newcomers. Mon Purse shoppers can add their initials and even an emoji to their bespoke handbag, selecting from preset colours and fabrics, and viewing a 360-degree 3D render of their design as it builds. Aubrie Pagano, founder of Bow & Drape says: “People are looking to be part of the process. For millennials, expression is such a core value of what we espouse and what we purchase.” Digital channels enable this to a greater extent than any other.

But it’s not just product and content; the newcomers have service nailed too. 24 Sèvres, LVMH’s first e-commerce venture, makes every effort to replicate the Parisian charm of its Le Bon Marché store in Paris. Online personal shoppers are available through live video consultation and a Facebook Messenger chat, offering up Parisian alter egos to help define your style.

If virtual shopping assistance isn’t convincing, Away and Spoke alike offer a 100 day trial, to alleviate the concerns of those more tactile shoppers. Likewise, Warby Parker built their whole business around the ability to try a selection of glasses on at home. These brands considered their digital customer first, and designed a service accordingly. Time and convenience are a luxury in themselves, so easing the journey from your phone to your door makes every e-comm experience all the more appealing.

But for those accustomed to a champagne reception on Bond Street, is postal delivery enough for the luxury consumer? September 2017 sees the London launch of Net-a-Porter’s “You Try, We Wait” service for their highest spending shoppers. Hand delivered apparel by a uniformed ‘butler’ who politely waits and takes your returns. Digital-first doesn’t always mean digital-only.

Even so, with McKinsey & Company predicting that online sales of luxury goods will triple in the next 10 years, and Net-a-Porter opening the doors to a brand new tech hub in London - “the first example of the luxury industry making such a big investment in tech”, they say - it begs the question: are you invested?


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