Le Marais, Paris
Photography by Jordana Terk
I was recently approached to speak at a conference in Paris by Luxe Corp, a members club for luxury brands looking to expand digitally such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton. I spoke about where luxury brands are going wrong, the environment of search and Google algorithm updates (Hummingbird particularly), how search engines have adapted to changing consumer behaviour and different ways these brands can use content to engage with their consumers.
Luxury is usually a combination of exclusivity, personalization and a premium experience. Because of this, most brands have tried replicating their offline experience into the online world. The problem with this is a) it falls under the assumption that a brand’s online and offline consumers are identical when in reality, they have different personas and look for different things in their experiences and b) brands trying to remain exclusive end up taking value away from the customer by making the user journey rather unpleasant.
Examples of this are 1) websites with loud, intrusive music 2) hidden ‘shop’ or e-commerce buttons 3) no on-site search to find products 4) unconventional language to describe product categories 5) using flash (which isn’t compatible with anything really) and 6) reluctance to share information socially or partner with influencers due to a fear of being ‘too accessible’. Despite efforts to create a mystical, luxurious experience filled with exclusivity, all of these lead to a very confused user experience. Imagine not being able to find out if your product is stocked, let alone where you can buy it on the website whilst having loud music blasting in your ear! It ends up leaving customers frustrated and turning them away (I speak from experience).
These are struggles that the majority of luxury brands face and must find a way to overcome. These are a few recommendations I spoke about that brands can use to engage with the modern customer:
1) Try finding/buying something on your site. How easy is it?
2) Think like a publisher by answering consumers questions with shoppable content (rather than thinking sales first). Brands are no longer easily able to manipulate their way to the top of search results and must be creating fresh, onsite content that their consumers can engage with. Harvey Nichols, MR PORTER, and L’OREAL do an excellent job of this through their blogs/online magazines. They even go as far as speaking about products that aren’t necessarily stocked on their site simply because they know it’s content their customers are looking for.
3) Not being afraid to be socially active. This could even be in the form of partnering with bloggers and press, both of which are crucial for brand awareness, traffic, and visibility. Being talking about online = being an authority. This doesn’t mean you are any less exclusive or any more accessible, because there are ways you can do it that will intrigue your audience, tell a story, or create desire. An example of this is the Chanel Cruise Dubai show – where they partnered with varied bloggers, press and photographers to give them the ultimate luxury experience whilst attending their show. Social media is all about creating desire for your brand by depicting a life your customers want to live. Travel and luxury usually play a big part.
4) Thinking about the consumer. Not Google. Google will change things all the time, and as important as it is to stay ahead of the trend, the best way to do this is by putting yourself in the shoes of the customers and not the search engines.
To summarize: There are 236,000 global monthly searches for the term ‘chanel bags’. This is one out of thousands of terms out there and just an example of one luxury brand not taking advantage of the market opportunity. The customers are there, they are searching and they are hungry for products. Having spoken at various conferences (soon to be Social Media Week and London College of Fashion), I have been asked time and time again who is doing this well. I can honestly say that very few brands are, so this is an opportunity that needs to be acted on now.
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