Luxury fashion brands have traditionally been hesitant and slow to embrace the online platform, but today nearly all brands have an Internet presence and over half of the observed brands for this dissertation also have e-commerce or, in other words, they have adopted an e-shop business model. However, while business executives would argue that within few years all companies will have adapted an e-shop business model in order to survive, luxury fashion brands don’t place much efforts or investment in their online strategy. Some still struggle with the dilemma of maintaining exclusivity and maintaining brand control and therefore fear implementing Web 2.0 elements.
Not long ago, in 2007, Armani barred Cathy Horn of The New York Times from the Giorgio Armani show for apparently making unflattering comments about his collection. This exemplifies how luxury brands are experts at controlling their image and brand equity. Luxury brands try to control who walks into their physical store, who wears the brand and in which publications they are exposed, but in contrast they cannot control who enters the website and the online store or who talks about the brand on blogs and in forums. This is a development not understood by the dictating brands. They do not want to create an online platform where customers and fans can discuss and interact with the brand or involve them in creating or even customising products.
This is however exactly what the customers want. They want a website experience that is engaging, interactive and that can offer them a personalised relationship with the brand. Web 2.0 is changing the dynamics of brand-customer interaction and now a brand’s equity may not rely on how well it is controlled but how well it is shared.
It can though be argued that luxury brands do not have a lot to fear. They rather have advantages in the community space as communication mostly evolves around passion points. They deliver a premium product, with an unpaired attention to detail, so their quality is not questionable. Luxury brands should work smart and evoke passion for the brand and not interrupt and try to control conversations and interactions. Moreover, these features, the sharing and collaboration aspects of Web 2.0, are also what McKinsey and the Economist business surveys demonstrate as an opportunity to increase a company’s revenue and/or margins.
I suggest bringing a human touch and interaction unto the high tech online technological platform. This will firstly answer consumer needs and fulfil their expectations, secondly it will create a more engaging and interactive website experience actively supporting sales, and thirdly it will bring an added value to the online platform which the brick and mortar store can’t offer.