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How Digital Can Be a Luxury Brand's Best Friend or Worst Nightmare

Part 2: Consumer Experience

As a continuation of our series on how luxury brands should utilize digital in their advertising, consumer experience, and brand advocacy efforts (read Part 1 here), here is our Luxury Brand’s Guide of Digital DOs and DON’Ts for Product.

It’s no secret that a large and growing percentage of luxury consumers interact with brands digitally, using their computers and mobile devices to determine what they want, where they can find it, and how much they’re willing to pay. Although implementation of digital strategies is varied among luxury brands, luxury overall has been hesitant to participate. There are multiple factors as to why, but because today’s technologies have made it so much easier to make digital transformations, legitimate excuses have run out.

One major area digital technology has been made easier is software development. Ten years ago building a web application was a major investment for companies. It took hundreds of thousands of dollars and a great deal of time to build and launch a digital presence. Fortunately in recent years new technology has made it much more scalable, causing a major shift. Gone are the days of needing a huge development team and large infrastructure for every digital application. Armed with today’s technologies and IaaS services like Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine, or Microsoft Azure, a single engineer or small team of developers can accomplish any size project. Therefore, luxury brands should invest in in-house talent instead of staying on the sidelines or outsourcing to expensive agencies. Depending on the project, you might even consider hosting a hack day, a collaboration between developers, marketers, and executives, to harness innovation and passion and rapidly create ideas and products outside your typical box yet suitable for your brand.

Even if a hackathon doesn’t fit your brand’s needs, don’t be afraid to take risks with your digital strategy. Many luxury brands are steeped in history and tradition, which can make them averse to venturing off the beaten path. Thinking like a start-up, however, allows you try new things. Some efforts might succeed while others will fail, but being bold and audacious can greatly elevate your brand and prevent your competitors and the ever-rising numbers of start-ups from displacing you. Yes, even the most popular luxury brands must be aware of start-up companies in their space. While they might not seem like an immediate threat, start-ups like Uber and Airbnb prove that they quickly can become disruptors to luxury brands.

Taking risks or being innovative doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel, though. There are countless open source projects actively maintained by some of the best engineers in the world and are in use at top tech companies. These projects allow your developers to focus on innovation while providing the nuts and bolts for free. Additionally, luxury brands can build very compelling presences on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. using consumer content without building any technology at all.

Of course, not all consumers’ needs and wants are based on what’s new. As technology has advanced, what was once innovative is now mainstream, and consumer expectations have shifted as a result. Internet access, for example, was once a luxury commodity for consumers. Today wi-fi is offered at nearly every restaurant, coffee shop, and hotel, and consumers now expect reliable (and often free) internet on which to shop, email, Instagram, Facebook, Tweet, etc. As a result, when luxury brands fail to deliver on this expectation, consumer complaints inevitably follow. Be sure you understand how technology is shifting your consumers’ expectations.

A final piece of advice for creating an effective digital consumer experience. Be sure whoever is evaluating the technology is basing decisions on the metrics within technology, not the metrics of luxury. Early luxury websites focused on beautiful imagery, animation, and music commensurate with an offline experience, while ignoring the impact this has on the most important metric: load times.

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