While the rise of digital marketing and e-commerce has provided luxury brands with new ways to reinvigorate their revenues, there’s an increasing gap between customers’ expectations of luxury and the level of service that digital platforms can offer.
Luxury businesses and fashion houses have shown that they are willing to embrace digital marketing – Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope have been mainstays at this years’ various fashion weeks – and consumers have shown that there is an insatiable appetite for content and clothing. The problem for brands is that there is a disconnection between their digital output and the demand for products – highlighted no less by the highly publicised changes to the fashion calendar by major brands – but also by the restrictive nature of social platforms when it comes to converting followers into customers.
The limits of social
As great as social media is for connecting brands to fans, it’s far less successful at converting fans into customers. For example, brands on Instagram are often reduced to directing would-be buyers to a link in their profile bio, whilst Twitter only offers a one-size-fits-all‘Buy’ button; a particularly crude call-to-action when shopping for luxury goods.
In many cases, the user journey from social media to an online store is clunky and complicated – certainly not on par with the luxury experience that brick-and-mortar shoppers receive – so it’s not surprising to see brands like Chanel with over 10 million followers on Instagram whilst offering no option to purchase through their website. While this gap is probably part of a wider strategy to retain an air of exclusivity, it will at some point become logical for businesses like Chanel to monetise their loyal online following. JJ Martin, editor of Wallpaper* has her own hypothesis to why brands aren’t making more effort:
The brands are petrified. They know they need to embrace digital and they don’t know how – JJ Martin, editor of Wallpaper*
The problem these brands face is that it’s currently very difficult to deliver a luxury, digital shopping experience – and no amount of HTML or CSS can change that.
One company hoping to bridge the gap between digital media and e-commerce is Cinematique, a video sharing platform which offers ‘shoppable videos’. The concept is simple: viewers tap or click on the products they like whilst watching a video which adds it to a sort of “video basket”. The user can then open their “basket” to see the information of the products they’ve selected and buy directly through the video.
Having raised over $5m in recent funding, Cinematique already boasts Net-a-Porter, Diane Von Furstenberg and Harpers Bazaar among its users and it is one of the first of a new breed of platforms designed with e-commerce at its core. Websites such as Grailed maintain a thriving e-commerce space for second-hand luxury goods, whilst developments in AI and messaging applications have begun to push the boundaries of personalisation and truly opened up two-way digital communications with customers. However, until recently there has been a significant lack in the development of an online e-commerce system befitting of a luxury brand.
Technological developments represent a huge opportunity for luxury brands to get closer to their customers. Burberry and Coach have had success with their organic Snapchat campaigns, putting their brand in the palms of millenials worldwide, but there’s no doubt that at present these efforts are more of a branding exercise than a sales drive. Increasingly sophisticated CRM software, A/B testing and research can optimise the platforms available at the moment, but a gap remains between the tangible nature of luxury goods and the sterile digital world.
However, where there are gaps there are opportunities. With technology becoming more tactile and immersive than ever (VR fashion shows, anyone?) it’s inevitable that someone will crack the code. It’s just a question of who and when.
There’s never been a better time to be in fashion, there’s never been more of a need for storytelling in fashion. I call it the digital campfire, which is the ability to tell stories in a more successful and direct way. Who’s doing that? – Business of Fashion’s Tim Blanks