Luxury content: how to deliver a premium online customer experience

Not so long ago, experts contended that luxury would always be a bricks-and-mortar business. Even as high street outlets began to embrace ecommerce in the Noughties, many of the world’s more exclusive brands remained reticent, relying on the familiar territory of the personalised in-store experience over the emerging convenience of online shopping. It wasn’t until 2015 that Chanel finally launched its online store. Even today, only 8% of high-end goods sell over the net, compared with 17% of all retail goods.

Now, however, the state of play is changing. Online luxury sales are expected to triple over the next seven years, reaching €74 billion (£66bn) by 2025. The primary driver of this transformation is, of course, the changing consumer. In 2017, Gucci’s ecommerce sales rose by 86%, with millennials accounting for around 50% of revenues. By 2025, millennials and Generation Z will collectively represent at least 40% of the luxury goods market, compared with around 30% in 2016.

As the new generation of consumers grows in spending power, the expectation of convenient online shopping experiences will inevitably drive high-end brands to lean more and more into their digital channels. In this environment, how can exclusive labels with a bricks-and-mortar heritage deliver the experience and service implicit in a luxury purchase – but online? The answer is content.

Give product descriptions the premium treatment

Building a frictionless online purchase journey is a vital step in providing your digital customers with the same high quality of service that they would experience in-store.

An often-overlooked aspect of the purchase journey is the Primary Content that visitors interact with immediately prior to purchase – including product descriptions as well as style and buying guides. Much like a knowledgeable personal assistant in-store, this content can be hugely influential in consumer decision-making, helping to increase conversion rates and basket size while simultaneously reducing product return rates and protecting brand integrity.

In the same way that you would train in-store staff on product provenance and key collection details, it makes sense to invest in online product descriptions that offer more information than the bare minimum. Help consumers understand the unique heritage, craftsmanship, cut, fit, feel and benefits of your products, using language that reflects your brand’s unique identity.

Finally, prioritise mobile – on which more than half of luxury-aimed searches are made – by reducing loading times and adopting best practice readability guidelines for mobile content (e.g. reduced sentence length and greater use of formatting features like bulleted lists). Not only will your customers enjoy a superior experience, but your SEO metrics – including organic traffic and rankings – will also improve, in the context of Google’s mobile-first indexing.

Use personalisation for deeper engagement

When a consumer walks into a high-end store, they are usually greeted by a customer service professional poised to answer their specific needs, whether that be picking the perfect gift or perusing new arrivals. Online, this touch is often lost – but it doesn’t have to be.

According to research from Walpole, personalised online experiences will be one of the major trends driving luxury ecommerce over the next few years, with 45% of luxury consumers reportedly seeking more ‘bespoke’ services and a majority (54%) of ecommerce companies currently developing personalisation functions to aid growth and sales. 

One personalisation tactic now emerging more frequently is the dynamic landing page, which serves visitors with bespoke content in line with their preferences, or even location. These types of pages can work particularly well in conjunction with PPC campaigns: rather than clicking on a paid ad and arriving on a blanket landing page, based on a single campaign or set of keywords, the page is dynamically customised to display header or body copy tailored to the user’s individual needs. Increasing the relevance and personal resonance of landing page content can, according to Periscopix, increase conversion rates by up to 25%.

Other new personalisation technologies employ big data and social networks to create consumer-specific content on the fly. Take the 2016 ‘Shades of Me’ campaign, created for John Frieda.

By encouraging users to connect their Instagram accounts to the John Frieda site, then analysing the aggregated colour information from users’ posts using a custom-made algorithm, the haircare brand was able to serve personalised videos to customers, showcasing their most-used shades – and revealing what these shades say about them. 

John Frieda’s example proves that, with enough data and intelligence, personalisation can help produce online experiences that genuinely delight – a feeling that shouldn’t be reserved solely for physical stores or salons. 

Attract attention with high-value creative luxury content

On the high street, luxury shopping has always been, first and foremost, a sensory experience. When consumers splash out, they expect to be rewarded with unique sensations – the luxurious feel of a new cashmere knit, or the superior aroma of a rare wine.

Of course, it’s very difficult to replicate this experience online, but creative visual content can go some way towards elevating the engagement potential of static ecommerce sites: in a 2013 report by Google, online shoppers rated video and highly graphical websites as the most effective method of luxury advertising.

Multi-label online department store 24 Sèvres (part of the LMVH group), which launched in 2017, combines a highly visual ‘storefront’-style homepage with a digital Personal Shopper service.

The latter, staffed by real professionals in Paris, is enabled by interactive chat and video technology. The result is a highly personalised, high-end shopping experience that helps the customer feel like they’re in France – all within the limited bounds of a browser window.

To take another example: Chanel, though famously shy of ecommerce, is an online content powerhouse. The brand focuses particularly on video content that immerses the viewer in the world of Chanel, including aspirational how-to beauty videos, shot in cinematic style with high production values. This approach is at least partly responsible for their vast online following, which in 2017 generated almost twice the number of social media interactions as any other comparable luxury brand.

As the latest data illustrates, consumer appetite for luxury fashion online is only growing, presenting an enormous revenue opportunity. The brands that are able to tap into this opportunity by connecting up their online and offline channels – and delivering a consistent, high-quality, convenient customer experience – will be the ones that continue to thrive for decades to come.

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