I found this article particularly interesting…
Is the Internet Suited to Luxury Brands?
Customers enter the world of Vuitton in a Vuitton store, a prestigious and aesthetic experience. The luxury shopping experience differs entirely from the conventional shopping experience in that customers require a high sensory interaction with the products by experiencing the touch, feel & smell of the item.
Then through qualitative print advertisements, customers are reminded of the brand’s glamorous image and latest products driving footfall to the store. The brands control the customer experience in a very limited number of touch points and that is what makes them successful high-end luxury brands.
More interestingly, internet penetration is on the rise at a high pace in most countries. In 2005, the United States’ online penetration reached a whopping 69%. On a European scale, Sweden is considered the highest in internet usage with 75% of its population online, the UK & Germany also have also high online usage with 62% and 59% respectively. It is worthwhile to consider that the UAE is catching up its online predecessors with 36% of online penetration, the highest among Middle East countries, and this number is at rapid increase.
The retail experience has varied in its character. The introduction of online retail has significantly changed the overall shopping experience. The term e-tail encompasses so many experiences such as grocery e-tail, auction e-tail, specialty e-tail and so on. A new experience has been added to online shopping which is the rise of e-luxury.
The demand for online luxury is on the increase. Recent reports indicate that the wealthy are almost all online. We are all quite familiar with Saks Fifth Avenue, Chanel & Louis Vuitton, but have we heard of e-luxury.com, ice.com or mondera.com? Marketers of luxury in the States & Europe have embraced these sites as part of their communication platform, yet online in the GCC, where the number of residents who can afford luxury brands are almost double than abroad, is still underused and almost completely ignored.
It is understandable from their point of view that the Internet makes the process much faster and in the world of luxury, where the control of retail experience is paramount, Internet can come across as a scary medium, quite understandingly. The online experience can be misconstrued as being too mass, or too public, lacking in the individualized luxurious experience that most of these brands demand.
Ironically, if the internet was a one way communication medium, luxury brands would embrace it with no fear. We can say that even though the right audience is online and luxury brands can target their exclusive market with great precision in addition to offering a stunning visual experience equal to in-store, the brands are still leery of the interactive nature of the Internet.
Yet by looking at the exponential growth of the Internet in the GCC & Middle East, Brand Managers understand that it can not be disregarded anymore. The challenge for those brands on the Web is… re-create the retail customer experience.
What’s amazing is… it’s possible. Luxury brands can re-create a similar online scenario as in the offline world. They can communicate the brand messages through high-end creative emails, online ads and page sponsorships and build a luxurious virtual presence through a website or micro site.
The sensorial customer experience is then re-created and controlled on the website: thanks to the visual and sound experience, the usability, customer service and customization, all key when making a luxury brand’s venture on the Internet a success.
The only difference is the speed…Actions on the Internet happen faster. But in today’s world, all things occur faster. Therefore speed and accuracy will be highly appreciated among the online users.