On the rocks: designing content for hard luxury ecommerce

After many years of resistance, hard luxury brands – those that specialise in expensive ‘hard’ products such as watches and jewellery – are at last embracing digital channels.

In 2018, Yoox Net-a-Porter launched a dedicated platform for hard luxury products; targeting €100 million in sales by 2020, the online shop’s inventory includes products from Piaget, Cartier, Buccellati and Pomellato. In early 2019, Tiffany & Co. debuted their first collection of engagement rings for sale online. And watch vendors Hodinkee and The Rake, which began as online magazines for watch enthusiasts, have proven that pureplays can thrive in this segment.

But while McKinsey expects luxury ecommerce transactions to triple over the next seven years, the same report observes that the hard luxury sector continues to trail in terms of online sales growth. A big part of the problem is a lack of online optimisation from newly digital-facing brands. We explore the specific issues inherent in converting hard luxury customers online, and how content can help.

A problem of perception

According to research from Monetate, the average global conversion rate for ecommerce currently stands at 2.4%. This figure drops to less than half for hard luxury; last month Tobias Kormind, managing director of 77diamonds.com, revealed to the FT that his site converts “less than 1%” of its visitors.

McKinsey suggests that higher price points may be the issue, with consumers generally less willing to spend large sums over the internet. But while this may account for part of the problem, it’s not the whole truth. After all, many people ordering £3,000 Macbooks off Apple’s online store would balk at purchasing a similarly-priced ring from the Cartier site.

The issue, then, goes beyond the price tag and into consumer bias. Customers feel like they can take a computer spec at its digital word, but need to see and feel hard luxury first-hand. In other words, the requirement for pre-established trust is higher in hard luxury than elsewhere.

Trade information for trust

This suspicious attitude to hard luxury creates obvious problems in the context of ecommerce, where trust is fundamental to the bottom line. According to recent statistics from Survey Monkey, brand trust plays a role for 92% of Americans, 89% of UK residents and 95% of Canadians when purchasing a big ticket item. In fact, Interbrand finds a direct correlation between trust and purchase intent, with a rise in the first influencing a clear increase in the second.

The good news is that trust is not a lost cause; there are ways for brands to build significant relationships with customers online. The key is information. According to research from Label Insight, 56% of consumers would trust a brand more if it provided more comprehensive product information, while 3 in 4 (73%) are willing to pay more for a product that is presented with total transparency.

How can ecommerce businesses meet these expectations? In the hard luxury segment, where most items command high price points, a few bullet points are simply not enough. It is crucial to furnish the customer with in-depth, helpful product descriptions that detail measurements, materials and sources of inspiration, as well as the benefits, shape and texture of your product. Video product and how-to guides can also help navigate the chasm between the in-store experience and the online purchase journey, allowing customers to view products ‘first hand’ from the comfort of their living rooms.

Understand the needs of the multichannel consumer

A high-information approach to hard luxury product content is crucial for another reason. As is the case with most retail verticals, the luxury purchase journey is growing steadily more fragmented. The average US/UK luxury shopper now engages with brands over eight different touchpoints – in the case of Chinese luxury consumers, up to 15 – of which at least half are typically digital.

In this environment, many of the customers currently converting in-store will have first gathered information online. As a result, brands that provide strong, helpful product descriptions via their ecommerce site are sure to see increased conversion in-store as well as online.

Furthermore, luxury consumers are far more likely to be shopping over multiple devices than the average browser; 77% of luxury consumers own multiple devices, versus an average of 35% for non-luxury shoppers. While multi-device optimisation is a must for all ecommerce businesses as internet traffic goes predominantly mobile, it is particularly pressing for the luxury bracket, where only 1 in 5 browsers won’t be viewing your products on the small screen. See our infographic for Quill’s seven-step guide to mobile content optimisation.

Innovate with digital customer service strategies

One of the biggest concerns for high-end luxury etailers is the difficulty in providing in-person customer service online. Particularly in the case of hard luxury, where customers need to be assured of the (often hefty) investment they’re making, customer service is crucial to the conversion process.

In their quest to provide this level of service over the net, some watch brands have come up with surprising content-based solutions. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s chatbot, which operates via Facebook messenger, helps customers locate suitable straps for watch models. Meanwhile, Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen features prominent ‘contact concierge’ buttons on product pages, encouraging customers to discuss potential purchases with a human attendant over the phone.

As more hard luxury brands lean into their ecommerce channels and the way we shop online evolves, it will become increasingly important to provide on-demand information to customers at every point of the purchase journey. Those brands that embrace customer needs and find fresh ways of delivering content are the ones that will see increased online conversions.

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