Websites for Luxury Brands • New Tricks
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exclusiveI recently consulted with a company about strategy for marketing their high-end “luxury” products.  They’ve been selling their products for the past two years using direct mail, targeting people who have recently purchased homes at a top end price point. It has been working for them but their website doesn’t reflect the quality of their products and it needs to.

The owner and I had some interesting conversations about marketing luxury items online. He is worried that a website will devalue the experience of their products. His inclination is to keep their marketing very exclusive and make it hard to get information about their products online unless you have a special invitation to visit the website and a password that would get through to content behind a splash screen.

The definition of exclusive is something that leaves people out, or excludes them. When you think about it that way it sounds rather harsh, since excluding people is not very nice, but by being exclusive, products, restaurants, and resorts become all the more desirable.

My point of view is that playing hard to get before anyone knows or cares about your product seems a bit pointless. Furthermore, actually excluding people online is not the only way and certainly not best way to be exclusive.

I have a Bed and Breakfast in Atlanta and although our B and B is not what I’d call exclusive, our marketing strategy relies on playing a bit of hide and seek. We want to attract people who are looking for a particular type of experience and will spend a little time looking for it. For our right clients, our urban loft experience is just what they didn’t know they were looking for and they are delighted when they find us. If we come up too easily in a Google search we get people calling at one A.M. asking if we have a room L.

Exclusivity in luxury products can be designated on the basis of price. We could handle being number one in a search if we doubled our prices, but that would exclude the majority of the people we want to stay with us. In most cases, the type of person who purchases a product is not an issue – if they can afford the price.

Some marketers have a skewed vision of what customers of luxury items are looking for and don’t believe they are looking online. This isn’t so. According to a 2014 report by McKinsey, “Digital is influencing almost 20% of total luxury sales and brands need to keep up with changing customer behavior.”

Additional research confirmed that a companies website is the top channel for engagement by luxury shoppers. Luxury products also do very well on visual sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. However, they don’t take the place of the website but instead are used to direct people to the company website.

I believe the same is true of direct mail that it can be a good channel to reach out to your right audience with the intent of driving the right traffic to the company website.

Often marketers’ perceptions of what customers want online differs vastly different from reality. Many times they create some ultra-opulent looking overly-designed website that has a lot of bells and whistles or one that tries to extremely creative and cutting edge. But if the website is hard to use and you can’t easily get to needed information – it is a fail.

A fantastic luxury brand website should give the customer a sense of the brand the same way they would get it if they in they came to your showroom. You never want to hide your content behind a splash screen or ask for an email before gaining entrance to the site, just as you wouldn’t do that in person.

Luxury visitors would rather have see an attractive clean website that tells the story in 2-3 seconds and streamlines their experience in a way that minimizes the number of decisions they have to make than see an opulent website or one with a lot of bells and whistles. They want the website to show them the products -and the prices.

Imagine how irritated a store customer would be if she came in and said, “I read about your such and such desk and I’d like to see it.” And instead of showing her the desk the salesperson starts on a lengthy monologue, “We’ve been making high quality handmade furnishings that are special and very exclusive and blah, blah, blah……”  That customer would be completely irritated. A good salesperson would take her to the desk she requested to see —and then explain what makes it so special.

This emphasis on nuts and bolts may seem surprising to marketers used to hearing that they need to ‘surprise and delight’ customers. But even luxury customers are delighted when a website surpasses their expectations by being faster or simpler than they expect.

What is your experience of luxury marketing? Who do you think does a great job?

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