Heavy flash animations that don't show on your iPad? Lengthy videos with annoying music with no specific purpose? Yes, you're on a luxury website. When it comes to defining what luxury means in a digital environment, the best is to stick to the basics: elegance in terms of shapes, fonts, colors; some subtlety when displaying a price or an invitation to buy. But please, remember its a tool, not a cinema ad.
The switch is recent
From non-existent, luxury e-commerce now represents 4-6% of the 200 billion euros in sales of luxury goods in the world, says a study by Enora Consulting. Its growing at a pace of 20% per year. Three years ago, in a study on digital strategies for luxury brands, Publicis made no mention of e-commerce, concentrating on communication, storytelling, and exclusivity. Change is coming.
Finding the right balance is tricky
This is one of the reasons for the long-existing prejudice that says online luxury is the enemy of usability. It is not. Would you buy a Vuitton bag that is hard to open? Would Porsche consider the gearstick to be ugly and hide it? Nothing should be easier to manipulate than a luxury product. The website must be too. Actions must be obvious, and the user should spend time using it, not wondering how it works.
Usability is a consequence of what you want to say to your customers. If yours is a luxury brand you have a story to tell and something to sell. If you have a story you have content and your website is an ideal place to display it with words and pictures--with a view to selling it. In this area, Burberry's website is best in class. E-commerce functions are present: from the clear menu to the clear shopping cart, everything is where you expect it to be. While photos remain the star of the website, prices are shown discretely for every product, and the user experience with search results is fantastic. Burberry did so well that its director, Angela Ahrendts, got recruited by Apple to manage on-line and off-line sales.
Make sure you separate clearly the discovery process from information linked to the buying process. And don't surprise site visitors when they take out their credit card. Your customers want the experience on your website to feel as much as possible like their experience in the hotel: clarity, discretion, with real opportunities to spend their money. Again, Burberry does this very well: the purchasing process looks like any other purchasing process. In the hotel industry, Hotel Le Negresco, the Riviera's grandest Palace does the job very well. The website brings you deep into the hotel's magnificence and history, while giving you permanent access to practical and booking information. Here again, the buying process is clearly separated from the discovery process.
Approaching the web with an ROI mindset is the best favor you can do to high-end clients. They will expect it.
About the author
Thibault Lécuyer is FastBooking Vice President e-Commerce & Marketing Communications. FastBooking offers leading-edge products and solutions to the hospitality industry to increase profits by maximizing direct bookings and brand visibility in the digital distribution environment. Headquartered in Paris with subsidiaries in Italy, Singapore, Japan, China and India, the company employs 200 persons and has gained the trust of more than 8,000 hotel clients worldwide.