Case Study: Dressing for Success – How Digital Changed Luxury Retail

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Digital now influences 45% of all luxury sales and the world’s biggest fashion brands are using content marketing to boost commerce expertly. We look at three iconic brands that are leveraging and innovating digital content best.

Digital has changed the way consumers shop for luxury brands. Online fashion sales grew by 185% between 2007 and 2012 and are expected to rise another 41% by 2017. In January 2015 alone, online clothing sales increased by 14% compared to the same period last year, according to the Interactive Retail in Media Group (IMRG).

The biggest hurdle facing brands, explains Bernd Schmit, professor of international business at Columbia Business School and the author of Experiential Marketing, Customer Experience Management, Big Think Strategy and Happy Customers Everywhere, is “to make sure customers see the content as real and authentic and not manipulative.”

Luxury brands also need to decide who it is that they need to talk to. Who is the audience for an exclusive brand when everyone wants them but only a small percentage can afford them? This means that the audience the luxury brand speaks with is mainly made up of brand ambassadors who love and share their content, rather than clients.

“Younger consumers get lots of personalised info about these brands through digital media by the company and by peer shoppers. And the luxury companies finally get more info about customer behaviour,” says Schmit.

Many luxury brands have been hesitant to launch into the digital content abyss. In a crowded online world luxury brands need to carefully strategise branded content to get attention while maintaining exclusivity. However, luxury brands have the most shareable and aspirational content at their fingertips so digital content is a no-brainer. It is just how they execute it.

LVMH

The world’s largest luxury company LVMH was not new to content when it launched NOWNESS in 2011, the group’s City Guides had been on the coffee tables of the world’s fashionistas since the late 1990s. But with NOWNESS, they conquered digital content. Every day a single video, which lives and breathes the Louis Vuitton heritage, is uploaded to one of the site’s categories: Art & Design, Fashion & Beauty, Music, Food & Travel and Culture.

The beautifully produced films are created by emerging and established filmmakers, and curated by a team led by creative director Jefferson Hack of Dazed and Confused. There are no ads on the site; viewers are instead gently guided into an exclusive and inspiring world. It is a subtle mode of entertaining and informing the coveted Millenial mind, while stepping back from in your face advertising.

Celebrating the website’s fifth birthday in March 2015, Claudia Donaldson, NOWNESS’ Editor-in-Chief said: “Over the past five years, NOWNESS’ pioneering approach and continual evolution has enabled the site to establish itself as the preeminent source for video and digital storytelling content, attracting a powerful global audience that includes some of the most influential and exciting names in arts and culture.

“Today’s anniversary marks a milestone in the site’s success. We are thrilled to have grown our unique monthly visitors by 100% and monthly video views by 200% in the last year alone. Since our launch in 2010, NOWNESS’ evolution has included becoming a mobile-first video channel, launching global features through a Chinese-language site and the addition of video subtitles in nine languages, advancing functionality and community features, and increasing personalization, including a video rating function. We look forward to continue offering the most engaging and up-to-the-moment exclusive digital content in the areas of fashion and beauty, art and design, music, food, travel, and culture in the years ahead.”

NET-A-PORTER

Since its launch in 2000, Net-A-Porter has become a global digital hub for luxury fashion and an expert in fusing content with commerce via an ‘anytime, anywhere, any platform’. Founder Natalie Massenet began her career as a fashion journalist at Women’s Wear Daily and Tatler – her concept for Net-A-Porter was to have a click through magazine site that would allow the user to buy straight from the shoot. The Edit, a stunningly produced digital magazine, allows users to shop directly for the world’s leading brands.

It is rare for an online shop to turn to print when the organisation began its life as digital but in 2014, Net-A-Porter launched PORTER – a dedicated fashion magazine. The glossy magazine is published six times a year with a print run of 400,000 in 60 countries and is shoppable via the Net-A-Porter App.

“With the launch of PORTER I feel like we have come full circle at The NET-A-PORTER Group. The founding idea for this business was about launching a shoppable magazine online, inspired by the incredible glossy magazines we have grown up with,” said Massenet.

To help promote the magazine, an app called ‘I Am Porter’ was created to encourage user engagement through selfie-taking. The images were then turned into a magazine cover compete with coverlines.

In 2015, the group launched a social media platform called The Net Set, which promises to take the user “shopping with the most stylish people and the most desirable trends in the world”.

“We took our mission to combine fashion content and commerce in the NetSet and made it live, it’s the social shopping networking we’ve all been waiting for. Live, global, social, shoppable and also quite fashionable,” said Massenet at the launch of the app.

Burberry

The story of Burberry’s reinvention is fascinating – after 150 years in existence, by 2009 the brand had somehow become most widely known for counterfeit check patterns. But with the help of genius digital marketing strategies it once again became the iconic and relevant, luxury British fashion house that it should always have been.

In 2006, newly appointed CEO Angela Ahrendts and Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey announced that there vision for Burberry was “to be the first company who is fully digital”.

The Art of the Trench was launched in 2009 and mirrored Burberry’s luxury ideal but in a standalone social media platform. Described as “a living celebration of the Burberry trench coat and the people who wear it,” existing customers share photos of themselves wearing their Burberry trench coats. It allows the wearers 15 minutes of fame while also inspiring a younger wave of customers.

The results? Increased traffic through The Art of the Trench website meant that Burburry’s Facebook fanbase grew to one million that year (it’s now at nearly 17 million) and e-commerce sales grew by 50% year-over-year.

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