Five ways luxury brands can create an effective digital experience
With digital influencing at least 45% of luxury sales, it’s vital that brands in the luxury space understand the shift in their customers’ values to avoid getting left behind.
At Maido, we work with some of the UK’s best known, high-end brands, helping them to grow their digital offering for both current and prospective customers. Here are our tips on how luxury brands can create an effective digital experience:
1. Be customer-centric
This is often described as ‘customer-first transformation’ — put simply, it means prioritising the customer and their experiences above all else. To do this effectively, you require a detailed understanding of customer behaviour, expectations, and lifestyle. It’s important to test different versions, using data to determine what works best for your brand and customers. For a luxury brand, this also means ensuring your bespoke services and the exclusivity of offering are still apparent online.
Look for ways to add value with special features which can only be achieved online — digital concierges, private member groups, and loyal customer perks for example.
Consider where you can add interactive elements that will allow people to use your product in an engaging way, such as letting them visualise themselves in certain outfits or scenarios with virtual reality. Bentley have created an app, Bentley Inspirator, which uses emotion recognition software to advise customers on their perfect Bentley car. By analysing facial and emotional reactions, Bentley suggests personalised colours and interiors whilst building a memorable brand experience.
Store and use customer information to be more targeted in how you continue to provide online services, based on their preferences. A smooth and enjoyable online experience designed around the customer’s needs is more likely to leave a great brand impression.
2. Bridge your in-store and online experiences
Online experiences and in-store visits should be seamlessly integrated. A brand’s digital presence should encourage customers to head to its stores; whilst in-store functions should drive custom to their online counterpart.
Digital elements can be used to enhance the in-store experience, allowing customers to search and test specific products, browse live streams, and share content — all from the shop floor. One example of this can be seen with Agent Provocateur. They trialled a Whatsapp-style service to offer discreet advice on purchase choices to loyal customers. Another can be seen with Ralph Lauren, installing interactive touch screen mirrors. They connected the online and offline worlds, allowing shoppers to change the lighting in the fitting room, request different sizes or items, and interact with sales assistants.
3. Importance of a strong digital brand
Luxury brands don’t just sell a product, they sell a lifestyle — one that can tell a story through imagery, colour, tone, and interactions. These are all great vehicles for evoking the aspirational emotions that feed our desire for luxury goods.
The growth of image-led social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest represent a huge opportunity for luxury brands to raise awareness and extend their influence through the use of amazing photography and footage. This will also appeal to people’s desire to share and display their status online. Chanel’s beautiful imagery has made it one of the most ‘pinned’ brands on Pinterest, with more than 1,244 pins of Chanel products pinned on the social network per day on average, without the designer ever joining Pinterest.
4. Speed is of the essence
The digital world allows us to be fast and responsive in how we use new insights about our customers or market. As a result, we should not focus on creating a complex digital infrastructure and handing it over completed. Getting a product to market quickly is far more effective — allowing us to test and refine it over time.
This does not mean rushing out an imperfect product. It means releasing an initial version faster, so that we can make decisions based on real data about how people are using it. This process ensures that we avoid the trap that many luxury brands fall into online — allowing style to triumph over substance. While creating visual impact is key, it is equally important that the website works smoothly across all devices, from PC to mobile. Everything that a user could want to do with your online service should be made apparent and simple, with concise messaging and clear ‘calls-to-action’.
Don’t overwhelm people with information and choice on each page. Make it easy for shoppers to search products or make a purchase in as few clicks as possible. This need not be dull. The Hermès’ website, for example, presents a more fun and whimsical side of their brand in the form of Hermès House of Scarves. Creative illustrations allow customers to click on different parts of the house, adding items to a wish list or a shopping cart.
It is also important to understand the value of strong search engine optimisation (SEO), as Google has a lot of influence in determining how many customers will discover your products, and make purchases.
5. Authenticity is key — tell your brand story
Smart luxury brands merge content and commerce to create an overall experience of which the products are just one part. Building a strong narrative around a brand brings it to life and makes it more memorable, encouraging customer loyalty. For many brands, their heritage is a large part of their appeal — people like to feel they are buying a small chunk of history. On Louis Vuitton’s website, there is a section called ‘World of Louis Vuitton’ which provides a detailed history of the designer, with insight into how the iconic brand came to be and its dedication to design and love of art.
Your customer appeal lies not just in your products, but in why you do what you do. People like to engage with brands they feel mirror their values and interests. Burberry’s website, for instance, features Burberry Acoustic, showcasing undiscovered musical talent from across the UK in videos showing the artists wearing clothing from the designer’s recent collection.
Pair beautiful imagery with aspirational content likely to be relevant or interesting to fans of your brand. This could take the form of advice features, blogs or interviews. A luxury brand’s online presence should create the aura of an exclusive in-the-know club.