Retail & Ecommerce

Digital Transformation of Top Luxury Brands

Digital transformation of luxury brands

Highly stylized displays, prestigious high street locations, exclusive experiences, up close and personal sales assistance… the „established norms” of the luxury goods industry simply don’t fit into a post-pandemic world. And yet, after a challenging time in early 2020, many luxury brands are now embracing e-commerce as the first touchpoint for customers. They are finding ways to effectively communicate brand value in the digital space in the same way as they do in the offline world, and are starting to replicate the personalized, curated experiences that buyers expect.

In this article you will learn:

  • What are the main factors behind the rapid online expansion of luxury brands?
  • Who are the customers of luxury brands? What changes can be expected in the next few years?
  • How can luxury brands successfully run digital transformation and close the digital gap?
  • How can deep learning and technology create the right customer experiences?

Table of Contents:

Digital marketing solutions are a part of that great change as luxury brands search for the perfect alchemy between data and visual personalization.

Merging the value of traditional with digital

While shoppers are generally more careful with budgets as a result of the pandemic, it is hard to definitively state that luxury has suffered because of buyer caution. Personal luxury goods are not a high-volume sales category and there are still enough people with robust budgets who want luxury goods. 

However, many brands have had to adapt in order to give those people the right opportunities to buy—mainly because luxury is not a category that has traditionally relied on digital sales channels.  In fact, many brands have actively avoided developing online sales channels, fearing that they may somehow be a step away from their core values.

The luxury goods market has also been more affected than others through the loss of international travel. Duty-free and airport purchases of luxury goods are a huge chunk of the market and the closure of borders has been a massive loss.

The acceleration of online channels for luxury brands

Although many luxury brands are not strong proponents of online sales, there has still been an inevitable growth in digital influence over recent years. Even if sales are not always transacted online, 75% of luxury goods purchases in 2019 included at least one digital touchpoint before conversion. Only 12% of people purchased through e-commerce but three-quarters still browsed online before buying in stores. 

This shows that luxury has been more resistant to online channels than other categories, but there is an appetite for online or hybrid purchases. Now that the Covid-19 crisis has enforced an acceleration of that process and doubled the amount of online sales in a single year, there are new opportunities for luxury brands that embrace the online space.

The main catalyst for recent changes in the market is undoubtedly the pandemic, but demographic shifts should not be overlooked. Until recently, baby-boomers and Generation X were responsible for the growth of the luxury goods sector. Today, the center of gravity is shifting towards Millennials and Generation Z, i.e. generations that are very technologically advanced and live largely in an online world. Bain & Company estimates that by 2025, their share of the global market will reach 45%. To effectively reach this rapidly growing customer segment, luxury brands must rethink their multichannel sales model and digital advertising strategy.

Businesses are seeing this opportunity and taking advantage of it. LVMH, which is home to over 75 luxury brands, introduced its multi-brand 24S e-commerce site in 2017. The site has had a limited impact since inception but the rapid growth of the online channel is now taking place. The challenge for the business is to create a marketing platform that will empower sales while being respectful of the heritage and ensuring brand safety. 

The reasons why online expansion is now the right play for luxury brands

  • Online is set to become the leading channel for luxury purchases by 2025 with revenues reaching $136 billion.
  • Lockdowns and travel restrictions may continue to disrupt high street sales for months or even years to come.
  • Younger generations are joining the market for luxury products. As well as being drawn to culturally and ethically sensitive brands, they expect online channels as a standard. 
  • Now that the tipping point has been reached, the most successful luxury brands in the future will be those who maximize online channels and find innovative ways to duplicate exclusive in-store experiences through digital channels.

The online customer experiences challenge for luxury brands

Moving online has seemed at odds with the traditional way of leading a tailored and personalized sales service for many luxury brands, which is why many were late to invest properly in digital channels. However, brands need to move away from the idea that ‘digital’ can’t be ‘exclusive’. 

Brands can offer special members-only access tiers to content and offers if they have VIP membership programs. There are also guided one-to-one sales through video chats with sales assistants. Remote and digital do not have to mean distance.

The other key to creating curated experiences is precisely targeting shoppers through the right type of advertising.

The Consumer Habits Reshaping eCommerce [REPORT]
In May 2021, Ascendant Network surveyed its marketing and eCommerce VPs and Directors to assess their performance over the past year and to share what they see ahead. Some of North America’s most successful retailers took the survey.
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How technology and personalization can elevate luxury brands

As luxury brands embrace online channels and also begin advertising more through retargeting, there are several ways that they can protect and elevate their brands.

What is retargeting? It is a marketing strategy that involves fighting lost customers who have expressed interest in the brand’s products. The Internet is full of window shoppers – the online shopping cart abandonment rate for luxury brands is as high as 87.79 %. Bringing them back in many cases may turn out to be a more effective action than trying to win over completely new customers. The key to success is the way of communication and presenting the right products to the customer – those they were looking for or put in a shopping cart.

See also: The 5 Must-Have Features of Retargeting Ads for a Fashion Brand

Personalized experiences

The key to luxury has always been an understanding of what drives customers. What fuels their aspirations? Are they buying for current prestige or as a long-term investment in class? Are they looking for something timeless or avant-garde?

Just as luxury brands take a personal, consultative approach towards sales, it helps to work with marketing partners who ask the right questions about the brand and its own aspirations and communications. Creating personalized messaging for end-users starts with understanding the brand and then filtering that understanding through technology.  

Deep Learning-powered advertising is particularly important here as it allows for greater precision in targeting. It can act as that first part of a curated sales journey, showing products of a selected type, style, and even size that will match each individual customer.

This technology opens up new possibilities on many levels – it allows, among others, to optimize a brand’s marketing budget and target customers better. Behavioral targeting analyzes historical data about users in order to present the advertisement to most likely buyers. Contextual targeting ignores the past – it examines the search context in real time (reads signals like website’s URL, text and images) and adjusts ad content accordingly. Especially for luxury brands, it is important that the advertisement reaches only the right audience and that the brand does not lose its exclusive character due to an overly intrusive online presence.

Amazing creatives

Whether we are looking at perfumes, fashion houses, executive cars, or ultra-precise timepieces, luxury brands have always been at the pinnacle of the advertising world.

At RTB House, we believe that visuals create the connection between the data and the client. The look and feel of all digital ads need to match that of the client’s own brand book. If the client’s print ads have the feel of a million-dollar photoshoot in Monte Carlo, their online ads should make the same impression. We achieve this through creatives that can adapt to any brand.

The right kind of exposure

Luxury goes hand in hand with exclusivity. Over-saturation of online advertising is always annoying. This can be particularly damaging for luxury brands. Users don’t expect over-selling from high-quality brands. Not only can Deep Learning algorithms, coupled with the RTB House ContextAI solution, target the right customers with the right ads, they also estimate the right number of impressions. That means enough brand exposure to fuel customer aspirations, but not so much that it cheapens the brand image.

Brand safety

Due to the cost of goods, luxury product purchases involve an elevated amount of trust and security. This is why it is incredibly important to make sure that the advertising solutions for luxury brands have the most robust security possible. At RTB House, we achieve this through our Brand Safety layer which protects brands against exposure in the wrong parts of the online world. Sites with content that does not meet the standards of the brand or fit its image can be blacklisted, while the most desired web destinations can be added to a white list. 

For users, it is also extremely important to prove that data privacy is ensured and that information is not being shared with third parties.

A commitment to evolving luxury brands

As luxury brands evolve to make the most of the digital landscape, we are committed to providing them with the MarTech to handle that change. We are also in a position to advise on how to successfully redefine current distribution strategies, strengthen online presence and base it on the latest fashion trends. By taking  aspects such as smart shopping, product & brand image into account, customer loyalty as well as discounts and occasions, we can support not only building a brand’s strong position on the Internet, but also properly respond to dynamically changing customer needs and consequently create a positive impact on ROI.

If you want to discuss the future of your luxury brand, please contact us. Let’s talk about what we could achieve together.

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