What is the difference between a luxury brand and a commodity brand?
Before we get into the UX of how to market a luxury brand online, we need to understand what it is and who it is for. Broadly we can divide products into 4 categories when it comes to luxury:
These are general consumer products that are not considered a luxury.
These are products that contain some additional perks and features designed for a higher-end customer than the mass market. They generally come in a price tag that is only available to the upper middle class in general.
Are out of the price range of most people, they are often sold as a status symbol that tells the world that the owner is wealthy. You should also expect exemplary customer service and an amazing buying experience that is easy, uncluttered, exclusive, and calming. Attention to detail is one of the most important aspects of the luxury buying experience with a complete experience of luxury that encompasses exemplary visual experience, audible experience, and even smells. But in many cases buying into a luxury brand is akin to joining an exclusive club or tribe identity, with the bragging right to say that you have made it.
When ultra-luxury comes exclusivity and very limited access, think VIP or invitation only. These products are often only sold to influencers, the kind of people other brands pay to use their product. Due to the very low circulation of these kinds of products, they are often more likely to be used as a marketing vehicle for lower-end products in the range.
Luxury goes online
Up until recently many luxury brands have tried to avoid e-commerce for their products for fear that it would devalue the exclusivity of their brand. And they have feared that they would not be able to offer the same level of in-person customer experience that they can in a high-end retail environment. That may be true but there are still ways to deliver an amazing luxury customer experience in an online setting if you do it right. That often comes down to the UX design agency that is engaged in the project and the eCommerce strategy consulting services that they employ.
So why is now the time for luxury brands to have a full eCommerce offering?
After holding back for as long as possible, many Luxury brands are now realizing that it is not just a case of being important to have a digital channel, it is now a case of being imperative to their success or failure, with fully online competitors already becoming major players.
We certainly have not yet seen the end of the high-end luxury retail outlet but they are now becoming secondary to the eCommerce channel for many brands.
This has been accelerated in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic driving even more retail online and making it much harder to travel to a physical location to make a purchase.
Even with the reduced limitations on travel in subsequent years, it is becoming clear that the move toward eCommerce and away from in-person sales has not just been accelerated temporarily, but permanently.
How to create luxury online
Every luxury brand should now be asking how they can provide a luxury experience to their online customers. Of course, the answer is through exceptional UX and UI practices that can be designed by an eCommerce strategy consulting service and through eCommerce application development services.
A well-known technique used in luxury retail to give the impression of high value is to give each product unused space around it. Unlike mass market retail where the product is stacked high and crammed into a cluttered environment, every luxury brand knows that each item must have its own effectively wasted space around it to give the impression of opulence. Equally, in the online world, this can be directly recreated with white or black empty space on web pages. You can see this done to great effect on some of the best luxury brand websites. Showing the product, maybe in a high-resolution close-up image, 360-degree view, or video, completely on its own has incredible power in a world where many websites are cluttered with too much information, too much to read, and too many stimuli in general.
Personal Customer Service
One of the ways that luxury brands separate themselves from mass-market products is by offering exemplary customer service and a highly personalized buying experience. When buying an expensive product it helps to have well-trained, knowledgeable sales staff by your side to advise you every step of the way and to reassure you that you have made the right choice.
This is possible to recreate online with a combination of live chat and AI chatbots. This may seem a far cry from a knowledgeable sales assistant but there are advantages. Firstly online it is possible to offer an always-on experience so the buyer can make a purchase from any location at any time of the day or night. Secondly, they can do it in a much more limited space of time and with much less effort to travel to the shop. With online sales, it is possible to produce an omnichannel always-on experience that is highly aligned with the high-end buyer of today. So this shows that it is not always necessary to try to recreate the retail experience if in this case, it is possible to go far beyond what is possible with in-person sales.
Dynamic and Interactive Media
Once again the online environment opens up a whole range of new ways to showcase products that are simply not possible in the physical world. For example, we can build extremely high-quality images and videos that display the product in a wide range of settings and use cases. But going much further, it is possible to create interactive experiences and virtual digital showrooms where the customer can interact with the product, select colors, lighting, and other infinite customizations. Test drive cars or try on clothes in a virtual environment where you can see yourself using the product before you order it. In addition, other multi-media features can be employed like live streams that can be used for salespeople to connect directly with the potential customer, and in every part of the digital environment, you are never far away from a buy now button.
Simplified order processing
When designing the order process it is essential that it is stripped down to the minimum to make the purchase as simple as possible. Even if it is necessary to collect a certain amount of information from the buyer to provide the product, that can be done in stages, for example. Rather than presenting a complex form with lots of options for the buyer, the initial decision to order should be just one button followed by the collection of basic contact information. Then other information and choices should be presented along the way finally reaching a checkout where the customer makes the purchase. Anything that is not needed in order to go through checkout, should be pushed to after the payment has been taken, to reduce the likelihood that the cart is abandoned due to lack of time or interest to proceed.
One of the ways that luxury brands set themselves apart from mass market products is rarity, exclusivity, or limited edition product lines. It is now possible with the advent of NFTs to create totally exclusive digital designs that can be sold online and linked to digital and physical products. This solves one of the big problems that luxury brands have faced when going online, how to keep the limited edition rarity that they can achieve in-store. Now with NFTs (non-fungible tokens), it is possible to digitally sell totally unique product designs and for the items to have even higher value because the buyer has the option to sell the NFT on to another buyer if they wish, so the value could, in theory, continue to increase over time like fine art. For more information about NFTs and how we can help you use them for your brand, we look at them in more detail in this article. [link to NFT blog]
Tech Savvy Buyers
It should be recognized that today’s buyers are increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy and will have access to the latest hardware on which to experience your website. So it is critical that every part of a high-end eCommerce website is highly optimized for performance. Customers will expect page load times of under 2 seconds but at the same time, they will expect to see the highest resolution images and video and to have a fully immersive, interactive, and media-rich experience. This requires advanced techniques to be used on the front end and backend of the website.
Of course, it is essential that the website is designed with a mobile-first mindset, but also It needs to be have an excellent user experience when viewed on any device. It needs a high level of personalization and to be fully loaded with social proofs and attention to detail.
The points we have covered in this article are by no means an exclusive list, they are just some of the key points that need to be considered when designing a luxury brand website. And none of them should be taken in isolation, they all need to come together into a seamless customer experience that takes the customer into another world that includes exclusivity, opulence, and top-class customer service. If that can be achieved then the website will truly be in tune with the values of a world-class luxury brand.
How we can help?
We offer a complete eCommerce strategy consulting service and UX design agency services. This means that we can design your digital transformation from the ground up, planning your entire digital strategy and providing a complete and coherent digital journey for your customers from your marketing strategy right through your website journey and on-site customer experience. We can also help you build your digital products with in-app experiences and NFT commodification and design products and services that are fulling immersive and interactive and ready to take advantage of the latest technologies like the metaverse, AI, and virtual reality. Above all, we will ensure that your brand reputation is preserved and that your customer’s digital experience is second to none.