The question of why luxury fashion brands don’t understand or utilize digital has baffled me for years. It seems like such a natural thing that brands that have so much influence over culture, over design trends and over the luxury market would be the leaders in adopting digital because their clients are the most likely to have and use the best technology. 2 in 5 luxury consumers shops online and 4 out of 5 luxury purchases are influenced by digital so the numbers back up my frustration. And yet the sites of pretty much every major fashion house are nothing more than videos of past runway shows, slide shows of lookbooks and the occasional online shopping experience which see a 70% shopping cart abandonment rate. Where is the social media, the social sharing, the brand building or the great smartphone experiences?
The only two brands that I think are doing anything worth looking at are Burberry and Gucci. Burberry has really been the only brand to understand the potential power of their brand and that in the modern world they are as much a media-content company as they are a design company. They have launched a number of interesting ideas like live streaming their runways shows, a 3D holographic immersion film for its launch in China and the best e-commerce experience of any major fashion house that includes a trench coat builder that can yield over 12 million possible combinations. The thing to watch with Burberry will be to see if it can keep up their pace of innovation now that their CEO Angelo Ahrendts has left the company to take over retail for Apple.
I have also seen a much more serious investment from Gucci but it pretty much only centers around their website. Last year they were one of the first fashion houses to launch a serious mobile web presence and it now reportedly accounts for 41% of their online traffic and over 28% of their online sales.
But ever with the two standouts, the vast majority of luxury fashion houses simply do not understand the modern consumer outside of the in-store experience. They need to understand that there is so much more potential for their brands if they really leveraged the power of their brands to make them into true lifestyle brands. People want to live the lives that these brands promise, they want advice on how to dress like the people in their ads and they want to do all of this so they can feel more stylish, take better selfies and just feel better about themselves. The other nice bi-product of creating a lifestyle brand is that people will buy more of your products because they are much more deeply invested in your brand and what it represents to themselves and everyone else.
They also need to realize how the modern consumer uses digital experiences and especially social media.These brands have to realize that their old school idea of advertising and brand building doesn’t work anymore. You can’t treat digital like it is just a series of PR stunts where you run a campaign and then stop talking to the consumers until it is time for the next campaign. Modern digital branding requires that you have an ongoing conversation and that conversation better have value because there are a thousand other places where I can get photos, offers, and marketing fluff.
I have no idea if this problem will ever change or when these brand will even spend even a tiny fraction of what they spend on one photograph on their digital platforms but the time is long past due. This is space is wide open the first brand that really figures it out is going to have a huge advantage that the other brands will spend years trying to catch up to.