Luxury with Digital: A way forward

What image comes to your mind when you think ‘Luxury’? If you are thinking about your last luxury good purchases or luxury vacation experience, you might associate luxury with timelessness, grandeur, aesthetics, personalization, exclusivity etc. Now, for a moment consider experiencing the same in your next digital purchase, as you maneuver through your next digital application. Does this even qualify to exist?

Hari Nallan & Mohita Jaiswal

These are a few images that come up when you use Google as your search companion to uncover what luxury means. Do these resonate with your idea of luxury?

How do luxury and digital come together?

Historically, traditional luxury brands have always been reluctant to sell items online, due to the fear of online retailers selling counterfeit products and an old-age myth that consumers will not buy luxury goods online. Art, design and exceptional customer experiences have been considered a thing evident only in physical stores. 

However, in the new age digital reality, online sales share in the luxury sector is expected to grow to  25% by 2025* from the current 8%. While both departmental and mono-brand stores are predicted to see a likely drop in sales share percentages. More users (and the growing digital natives) share that they are influenced by online interactions before making a purchase, making it a compelling reason to invest in UX design and improving web performance for luxury.

*Source: EMarketer

Many luxury brands have been swift to adapt and overcome their fears, but this industry has many unique challenges around user experience and website design. 

More than ever, we are convinced that the next challenge for many luxury brands will be on-site engagement.- Chapel’s senior executive

While investing in UX to boost on-site engagement and conversion, discerning what drives users to either participate in optimal experiences on their websites or hastily leave their platforms, would be crucial.

What challenges jeopardize this marriage?

1. Embracing e-commerce and competing with a plethora of online players

Compared to other verticals, luxury faces a challenge of longer customer consideration cycles. When shopping online for a $5000 dress, it would indicate users to do more research before the purchase as compared to when buying a $20 handbag. Also, statistics reveal that out of 56% share of mobile traffic in the luxury sector, 90% of users leave the website without converting. As more online luxury retailers enter the market, like Net-a-Porter, FarFetch, and The RealReal, heritage luxury brands stand to lose if they do not shift their focus to online shopping experiences to match their digitally savvy customers.

2. Balancing User Experience and Branded Content

Too often, luxury brands fall victim to one of two scenarios: they offer high-quality images and videos but lack the functionality for customers to make an online purchase, or they have the functionality but lack a compelling design to enable conversion. In a recent benchmark study of the top luxury e-commerce sites, 25% have zero product storytelling, and 60% do not have in-situation product images*. If you are shopping for jewelry online, not only will you want to see the details of the item, such as the diamond cut, but you also want to see how it’s worn or used by a person.

*Source: Luxury e-commerce in 2018

3. Creating the right User Personas See-Now-Buy-Now Consumer

Luxury has traditionally been exclusive and has carried an implicit entry barrier due to its price point. Luxury e-commerce sites have three user personas: Whales, Middle Class, and Window Shoppers. The challenge is – how does a brand create a user experience that is personalized for each persona? And how does it keep the exclusivity of the brand alive?

4. Enabling superior Customer Service

While almost every consumer owns a smartphone, luxury consumers are especially digitally affluent* and carry higher expectations than the average consumer. Luxury customers are accustomed to posh and personalized shopping experiences and expect the same exceptional experience with customer service. Of course, there are particular aspects of the in-store customer service that are not possible to emulate online, such as offering a glass of champagne or having plush white sofas. The challenge is to simulate digital experience equivalent to these.

*Source: Forrester


How to associate luxury in digital – Best practices and solutions

1. Embed timelessness in digital

Luxury brands stand for their heritage and values which give a certain timelessness to the brand and allows customers to engage while connecting to these. Hence it becomes essential that the digital experience is also aligned to the brand strategy, brand promise and personality, ensuring that those aspects manifest through digital storytelling. Preference should be given to emotional benefits over functional and transactional elements. While the pricelessness of the brand can be highlighted through showcasing celebrity guests’ experiences and reviews and user-generated content.

Digital storytelling enumerates trust and authenticity

2. Simulate exclusivity to make a difference

Luxury is often stated synonymous with grandeur and exclusivity, so why should the digital experience not be the same? Some experts suggest the average number of touchpoints as high as 15 (half or more being digital) for luxury retailers, more than twice the average of touchpoints for non-luxury retailers. As a result, digital strategies, such as SEO, retargeting, and email marketing, require more investment for luxury companies. Other than touchpoints, including heavy high fidelity imagery and videos, clean interfaces that are clutter-free add to a perception of uniqueness and resplendence of a luxury brand.

Bold imagery and clean UI ensure easy to find elements and smoother interactions

3. Take care of the aesthetic details

As aesthetics play an important role in luxury, descriptions are equally essential to balance functionality. Descriptions provide an opportunity to pitch sales while evoking an emotional connection with the consumer, resulting in a higher conversion rate. Rather than focusing on a list of features and technical details, descriptions tend to be more persuasive when they entail what the product/service encompasses, how it was brought into existence and how it could be best experienced. Visual branding, focus on elements and detailing, choosing the right color palette, and thought-through typography could pave a way to providing an immersive luxury experience.

Generous Depth & Width of Content creates immersive experiences

4. Shoot for personalization which feels addictive

The concept of having a personal stylist online has become possible in recent years. Luxury users prefer a seamless experience, with minimum effort and hence it becomes essential to take care that every interaction flows with maximum virtual assistance and ease of visual discovery. It also adds charm when the digital experience is customized for your user and navigates them through their journey while taking care of their preferences and demographics. Although we cannot serve our customers with cuisines, yet anticipatory and guided UI, virtual online assistance, greetings in customer language, and opening of the page where they left off, are some examples which could easily help you simulate that continuous experience, and one which users can also associate with the brand!

Guided tours and 360 degree videos, smooth navigation design ensure continuity of browsing experience giving customers a personalized virtual experience

A digital future awaits

For Saks Fifth Avenue, a luxury brand,  if a customer’s favorite personal stylist is in the Atlanta location, but they live in New Orleans, they have the ability to shop online with the Atlanta personal stylist online. Such interventions and innovations for luxury in digital are just around the corner. Legacy brands who continue to rest on their laurels to drive their sales will quickly find themselves behind the pack.

With the power of information and the luxury of choice available to consumers today, a digital future for luxury brands is impending!
Hari Nallan

Hari Nallan

Founder and CEO of Think Design, a Design leader, Speaker and Educator. With a master's from NID and in the capacity of a founder, Hari has influenced, led and delivered several experience driven transformations across industries. As the CEO of Think Design, Hari is the architect of Think Design's approach and design centered practices and the company's strategic initiatives.

Mohita Jaiswal

Mohita Jaiswal

Research, Strategy and Content consultant. With a master's from IIT Delhi, Mohita has diverse experience across domains of technical research, big data, leadership development and arts in education. Having a keen interest in the science of human behavior, she looks at enabling holistic learning experiences, working at the intersection of technology, design, and human psychology.


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