Thanks to developments in digital habits, and to a clientèle of avid new technology consumers, luxury brands have made the web their new medium for expression. Here are a few trends which will appear in 2011.
Digital tools to promote storytelling
The Internet has widened the realm of possibilities and allows brands to tell full and detailed stories over the time. Dior, for instance has managed to arouse the interest of Internet users with its Lady Dior saga, orchestrated from the Internet. The success of this campaign was due to several factors: the saga used an Oscar-winning actress who was the brand's muse – Marion Cotillard –, short films of high cinematographic quality directed and photographed by Lynch, Dahan, Leibovitz, Lindbergh, etc.), and episodes spaced out over 2 years which were located in 4 different cities. Dior proves that content and orchestration are the ingredients that create the contemporary myth of a luxury brand.
Social networks, creating an ever stronger link
Luxury brands have taken advantage of the opportunity offered by social networks. Burberry, which is very active on Facebook, thus had the idea of broadcasting its fashion show live on the social network, thus allowing Internet users to react to the brand in real time, by commenting on the show, and adding a “click-to-buy" button sending them directly to an online sales platform. The brand also created a capsule collection to say thank you to its 3 million Facebook fans, which lifted it to the 1st position of most “liked" brands on the social network.
We might also note that the Hyatt hotel chain offers a concierge service that is accessible 24/7 via its Twitter account, and which allows future, current and former clients of the hotel to ask questions, but also to book a table for dinner, or a spa session.
Finally, Jimmy Choo, the luxury shoe brand, orchestrated a treasure hunt through London using the Foursquare geolocalisation network, which allowed mobile users following the race to enter to win a pair of shoes via the operation's “Catchachoo" Twitter account.
The experiential e-commerce
Luxury brands took a long time to think about how to handle e-commerce: How do you protect exclusivity, an essential element of their DNA? How do you compensate for the lack of a sales assistant? How do you communicate the brand emotional experience using a simple screen?
Some of them have started to address those challenges. Longchamp, for instance, offers a service for personalising its bags on its online shop, or Gucci, which is selling a pair of trainers exclusively via the iPad.
TagHeuer, the watchmaking brand, has developed a dedicated website for its prestigious Monaco V4. An iconographic section dramatizes the brand's past, reveals the making of the watch, introduces the craftsmen and offers interviews of the TagHeuer team. The website also features a personal assistant to support the customer in his or her shopping decisions.
The digitalization of offline sales outlets
Luxury brands have become experts in integrating digital tools with their offline sales outlets, in order to push the brand experience further. Shiseido is innovating by offering the “Realtime Make-Up Simulator": a mirror which scans the client's face, gives her personalised beauty advice (according to her type of skin, the shape of her face, of her eyes, etc.), and allows her to apply make-up virtually. Once the virtual make-up session is over, the device prints out a sheet of product recommendations for the client to go shopping with. A good case of innovative tryvertising!
As for Ralph Lauren, it has set up interactive screens outside its shops, which allow people to place orders without even going into the shop: clients select the articles they want to buy, place their order, enter their email address and their phone number, pay online once they have received an email or a reminder call, then the articles ordered are sent to them. As well as being an innovative purchasing tool, the screen attracts people's attention and livens up the area by broadcasting Wimbledon tennis scores, Ralph Lauren fashion shows and the like. This tool thus allows the brand to increase the interest of existing clients and to attract new ones.
Having kept their distance from the digital world for a long time, luxury brands are now being innovative on the web, by continuing to make their visitors dream, and expanding the brand's emotional experience. Yet we can still ask ourselves this question: is luxury still luxury in the digital world, or is it becoming a mass-market consumer product?
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