How Competent are Luxury Brands Online?

“Many luxury brands have given the cold shoulder to the web. The mantra of scarcity and mystery has, to date, provided relief from the tedious necessity of understanding the digital marketplace. However...there is a new generation of luxury professionals emerging who are purchasing key words, building e-commerce platforms, and embracing social media. These brands are growing online sales, creating evangelists, innovating, and connecting with a new generation of consumers.”So says Scott Galloway, a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU Stern and Founder of LuxuryLabs.His recently released report attempts to rank the competence of luxury brands online. He bands 109 luxury brands into 5 “performance” categories – Genius, Gifted, Average, Challenged and Feeble - rating brands for Search Engine Optimisation, the translation of the brand online, the intuitiveness of their user interface and ecommerce solutions and their engagement in social media.41 brands achieve Genius or Gifted status – including top rankings for Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Tag Heuer. 39 brands slump into the bottom 2 categories – including Patek Phillippe and Coutts & Co.So what are the genius’s doing right and the enfeebled doing wrong?In terms of search, Galloway highlights that many brands sites are poorly optimised. Tag Heuer and Tiffany are cited as examples of what can be achieved through comprehensive search strategies – the former matches mega-brand Rolex for traffic simply through embracing and investing in search.Other brands are criticised for poor translation of their brand essence online, having failed to take advantage of technology to enhance the user experience. Ferrari’s ultimate car customisation, allowing users to create their dream car and race it around the Mugello circuit, and Estee Lauder's personalised makeover tool demonstrate how clever and appropriate use of technology can enhance the online experience and underline the brands’ bespoke nature. Orient Express are also mentioned for demonstrating how stunning imagery can lengthen engagement with a brand – their site is quoted as retaining users for 2 minutes longer than most travel sites due to its visuals.Luxury brands have not neglected social media, but most have yet to form coherent strategies around it. 83% of the brands in the study had a brand sponsored page on FaceBook, but ¼ of these brands didn’t update their content. Only 46% had chosen to engage on twitter and 34% had YouTube channels.In short, the ‘feeble’ brands had not moved much beyond Web 1.0 with flashy brochure-ware sites, often not optimised for search and with no transactional capability. The genius’s had embraced the online revolution with optimised, ecommerce enabled sites using appropriate technology to enhance the user experience and building communities of existing and aspirant consumers around relevant social media channels.I’d recommend you read it. Its findings are a little ‘generalised’ – when summarising 109 brands in 37 pages this is to be expected - but its methodology is sound, albeit largely subjective in places as you’d expect. And there are plenty of examples of best practice and innovation to inspire.Although not all techniques highlighted are appropriate for all brands (although why wouldn’t you optimise your site for search?), the report does demonstrate that most luxury marketers have some digital homework to do. It’s not enough to know your brand and customers intimately, you have to understand how the new channels and technologies available can be used to enhance your brand, build closer relationships with your customers, spread positive word of mouth and drive online sales.I think it’s no coincidence that many of those brands who have embraced online, including LV and Burberry, have weathered the recession better than most.If you'd like us to send you a PDF copy of the report, just email