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How Luxury Fashion Brands Can Adapt to Ecommerce


Online retail has long posed problems for luxury brands, and many still need to adapt to the challenges of ecommerce. 

More luxury brands are now selling online, but they are still behind some other sectors when it comes to ecommerce. According to stats quoted in The Drum recently, just 9% of all luxury goods sales are made online. By contrast, 18.2% of all retail sales were online in 2018. 

In our Fashion Ecommerce Trends Report, we look at the current state of the luxury fashion ecommerce, comparing the luxury and consumer fashion markets. 

Ecommerce has posed a unique challenge for luxury brands. There are organisational issues holding some back, with the mindset that the always-on availability of online retail clashes with the luxury marketing ethos.

This ethos is reflected in the laws of ‘anti-marketing’ set out by Vincent Bastien which sees marketing for luxury products as fundamentally different, and frowns upon selling online. 

It’s not necessarily an attitude held by all brands now, but it does explain the relative reluctance of luxury brands to sell online. Chanel, for example, initially dismissed ecommerce, before introducing a transactional site in 2016. 

The sheer growth in online retail has forced many brands to take one seriously, while the attitudes of many current and future customers mean that digital channels simply cannot be ignored. 

According to Deloitte, millenials and Gen Z (in other words, people born between 1981 and 2015) are expected to make up 40% of the luxury goods market by 2025. 

These younger consumers are more digital than before. They expect to be able to interact with and buy from luxury brands through a variety of digital channels. This a superior online experience which delivers the convenience and ease of purchase that consumers expect. 

Providing a superior experience, when consumer fashion retailers have been honing their online experience for more than a decade, is a challenge for luxury brands. 

There are areas where they can stand out through, and examples to follow in brands like Burberry and Versace and retailers such as Net A Porter and Selfridges. 

Luxury retailers are selling higher-value products to generally smaller numbers of customers, and this means they have more time and resources to focus on customer relationships, when compared to mass-market retailers. 

This allows luxury brands to focus on keeping loyal customer segments happy with a more personal service and perks like exclusive access to new collections and private sales. 

Net A Porter’s EIP programme is a great example of how a focus on customer loyalty can produce results. 

It rewards shoppers who spend big, keeps them engaged, and provides plenty of opportunities to spend more. From the customer’s perspective, being singled out for the personal treatment makes them feel appreciated by the retailer, and therefore more loyal.

It works too. 2% of Net A Porter’s customer base account for 40% of sales, and these customers shop 12 times more often than the average customer. 

Luxury brands should also focus on customer experience.  An excellent all-round experience, from on-site usability through to delivery and any post-sales interactions can set a luxury retailer apart from competitors.

It can come down to details like packaging. Packaging is a great way of delivering that ‘wow factor’ for customers that underlines their reasons for shopping with a luxury brand. 

Luxury retailers also need to learn from and use the tactics that deliver sales for any retailer. The same consumer they target can be just as comfortable bargain hunting on Amazon or elsewhere, and can respond to the same tactics. 

For example, cart abandonment is an issue for luxury retailers online. Abandonment rates are higher for luxury fashion brands, at 90.1% compared 85.4% for other fashion retailers (85.45%). 

Cart abandonment recovery is a tactic that will work for any retailer, but with higher abandoned basket values, a strategy for recovering lost sales can be a valuable source of income for luxury brands. 

The average order value for recovered sales from luxury brands was £484.65 in the first six months of 2019. For fashion overall, the average recovered order value is £147.79. 

The design of cart abandonment emails may differ for luxury brands, as in this stripped-down example from Balenciaga, but they work just as well. Cart abandonment emails for luxury brands have some of the best performance stats of any marketing email, with open rates averaging 44.84% and conversion rates at 27.58%. 

Luxury retail is all about experience. An online presence doesn’t have to detract from the traditional luxury experience, or replace stores. Instead, it should aim to complement it by providing a choice of channels that reflects consumer preferences, and delivering a great experience however shoppers choose to interact. 

In the first six months of this year, SaleCycle tracked the behaviour behind more than 235 million online fashion purchase journeys.

With this data and insight, we’ve created a report looking at the current state of the online fashion market, key stats and trends in buying behaviour, as well as useful strategies and best practices for all fashion ecommerce sites. Download your copy of the Fashion Trends Report here


Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.