How to make independent luxury E-commerce work
The internet has become an infinite high-street on which online multi-brand retailers such as Farfetch and Yoox Net a Porter hold the key. For independent luxury fashion, it’s not about how to outcompete, but rather work with big online retailers.
Although luxury fashion has been slower to adopt the digitisation of their brands than its high street counterparts, E-commerce and digital content has become a priority. Detail, exclusivity, nuanced desires and a personal touch are what make luxury fashion a process that requires time to create, and time to appreciate—seemingly a world a away from digital platforms that make pieces accessible quickly alongside numerous varied brands.
Nevertheless, the visibility that online channels provide and the expectations of digitally fluent shoppers are motivations behind a digital shift that luxury fashion brands have embarked on in the past 5 years. LVMH launched its own online multi-brand store 24Sevres last June, making luxury brands such as Celine shop-able online for the first time.
Large multi-brand sites such as Farfetch and YNAP are expected to demand greater growth in online luxury fashion, than independent brand sites who face the challenge of a narrow window of growth. Their appeal lies in an extensive client base, and their accessibility to high-net-worth shoppers.
For consumers, online multi-brand retailers save time and distance, appealing to many who don’t want to search through multiple single-brand sites, or who geographically can’t visit stores in person. Even hard luxury brands who were slowest to adopt E-commerce have embraced working with multi-brand fashion retail platforms. Swiss luxury group Richemont whose repertoire includes MontBlanc and Cartier have announced plans to buy YNAP, in efforts to be more competitive online.
For artisans and independent fashion designers with a luxury offering, large online retailers can vitally provide visibility and a marketplace to occupy in a competitive sector. However, when placed alongside an array of other mid to high-end options, exclusivity and control over brand presentation become concerns for independents who value authenticity, detail, and quality.
Whilst small brands should work with big online multi-brand retailers to gain invaluable access to a wider audience, focusing efforts on their own digital touch points is essential. Modern shoppers may be price sensitive and increasingly disloyal, but they affix more importance to a brand’s practices than the product on offer.
Independent luxury fashion brands can make the best of multi-brand sites to compliment their own E-commerce ventures
As an independent, crafting your own brand site with an integrated E-commerce platform helps you retain control over brand presentation, keeps your audience returning back to your brand, and of course encourages direct sales. E-commerce requires just as much investment, time, and maintenance as a bricks-and-mortar store, so use it to share your perspective and differentiate from multi-brand sites on which pieces become part of an endless stream of product. Offering E-commerce on your own site extends your clients’ brand experience—your offering is not just a product, but rather part of a story and wider brand experience.
Be selective about the pieces you send to multi-brand platforms, and the pieces you curate on your own site. Leverage each avenue to reach a specific audience, by identifying the behaviours and personality of a shopper who reaches your items through a multi-brand platform, and a shopper who shops direct from you. The luxury shopper is a diverse plethora of individuals, think about what you want to gain from each online platform, and the ways in which you can tweak your proposition to attract different types of audiences.
Utilise the visibility that multi-brand platforms offer, and give shoppers a reason to engage with your own platforms. This may take the form of new pieces that appear on your site for a limited duration, or a curation of rare items that promote a sense of exclusivity. Rewards, or a point based system for every time a client shops from your site could garner customer loyalty. Content is what makes your brand and luxury offering interesting, giving shoppers a reason to continually visit your site—this could revolve around a lifestyle or narrative and take numerous forms including editorial, moving image, user generated content or styling advice. Use content as a tool to share your distinct brand message.
E-Commerce can provide your independent brand with a whole world of new consumers across the globe, but it can also enhance and enrich your in-store experience. Your online platforms could be an ice-breaker, acting as a starting point of a journey that brings clients to your bricks-and-mortar space. If you’ve garnered a loyal client base that returns to your physical stores, extend and translate that unique relationship into a digital space. Put the supporters of your independent store at the forefront of your E-commerce venture, they’re not only ambassadors of your brand, they also open doors for peer-to-peer marketing. Utilise forums and social media to cultivate a community that revolves around your brand, and compliment your E-commerce offering.
The digital shift in luxury fashion has transformed shoppers’ purchase journey from a straightforward process to an intricate journey that involves digital and physical touchpoints. Independent luxury fashion brands can make the best of multi-brand sites to compliment their own E-commerce ventures—diversifying their offering to meet the expectations of shoppers who constantly demand a wholesome brand experience.