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Digitally transforming the designer brand: Why selling to online shoppers is no longer a luxury

By: Kate Roe

For a long time, the premium sector has been the standard bearer of good customer service. Acquiring a designer item isn’t a purchase, it’s an experience – from the immaculate showroom, to the personalised attention, and the beautiful packaging enwrapping each product.

The advent of online has allowed premium brands to bring a taste of this exclusivity to new consumers and markets, but it also created a dilemma: how do you replicate the physical experience of in-store shopping in the digital environment?

For many brands, the answer has simply been to circumnavigate the challenge altogether; create a beautiful looking website, which promotes the brand identity, but that merely acts as an online ‘shop window’ to encourage a visit to the bricks-and-mortar store.

The problem with offering a beautiful site without the option to buy is this: even designer shoppers are becoming fatigued with not being able to buy from their favourite brand online.

Forbes hit the nail on the head in an article on this very subject, when contributor Ariel Adams remarked: “Premium consumers value easy shopping, and a product experience that actually feels luxurious. Brands competing in the premium space must increasingly adapt to consumer shopping habits else suffer decreasing sales and relevance.”

So, when shoppers can’t buy direct, what is their easiest route forward?

If a brand-owned store does not provide a convenient buying experience, shoppers may turn to another retailer or franchisee to make their purchase. However, more commonly, they are looking to online marketplaces and other third-party ecommerce channels to complete their transactions and moving away from the high street.

The problem with shoppers turning to online marketplaces is that it puts an obstacle between the brand and the customer, obscuring their relationship and potentially eroding some of the magic that drives premium shopping. Designers can’t guarantee that their products will be exquisitely packaged, delivered with care – or even on time. Yet, to the customer, any poor service will negatively impact their ‘official’ brand perception.

For so long, premium brands have resisted trading online for fear that it will ruin their image, and ironically, not enabling consumers to buy online directly from the brand is damaging their reputation even further. Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘if you want something done properly, do it yourself?

The appetite is there – as you can see in our infographic: who owns your customer? – 89% of consumers will visit a brand’s website when shopping online. The challenge for designer brands is to create an immersive ecommerce experience, which leaves customers with the same level of satisfaction as if they were shopping in a physical store.



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