Brands like Tiffany’s have been synonymous with glamour and luxury for decades, but there is evidence that they are struggling to keep up with the demands of the digital age.
Massimo Fubini is the CEO of ContactLab, which works extensively with brands from several sectors to build their customer engagement strategies, says that the sector has suffered from weakness in its use of new platforms such as mobile.
This is borne out by ContactLab’s research into this area: while brands such as Burberry and Coach have strong offerings across many different channels, they are in the minority. Companies such as Valentino, Saint Laurent and Moncler have almost none, according to ContactLab analysis.
These companies are missing a trick, Fubini explains. When buying luxury products, customers generally have very high expectations.
"You are buying something iconic. It’s not about the price, it’s about buying something special that maybe you can’t buy online."
While these companies have a strong offline presence, the online experience often doesn’t match up.
"Obviously all those brands are really good on trying to build what we call the cathedral offline: serving the customers, having great stores and so on. Normally however they are not so good at building the digital cathedral.
"In this case there are many brands that started many years ago that have more knowledge and experience and some others have just started now so they are not as good."
ContactLab research suggests that if companies are able to communicate well with your customers in a digital way, they buy 25 percent more in value than customers that do not receive any specific digital message.
Fubini has a few tips that apply to the sector, but are also applicable across others.
"People are people. Sometimes people buy luxury goods, sometimes they are buying apps on mobile phones, sometimes food and so on. I think there are common rules for every specific industry."
Put marketing in the hands of the people who matter
"In retail, you don’t just have the brand and the marketing of the brand, but you have many different stores," explains Fubini.
Fubini explains that there is a disconnect between the people that are carrying out the marketing and those they are approaching.
"Many times you have people at the centre in the marketing department doing the messaging to the customer, but in reality they are messaging people they never met."
This goes in both directions, he adds.
"Then you have those people in the stores who meet customers every day who don’t have any solution to message them except for normally consumer-to-consumer solutions like WhatsApp or text."
Fubini adds that there are several main points about omnichannel: many brands are unable to recognise customers who come in-store as the same customer they interacted with online.
Get global right
Luxury brands generally have a strong international presence, and need to target their marketing accordingly. Part of the appeal of such brands is that they are instantly recognisable and confer status in any situation.
"All luxury brands are very global, and when you have to do a campaign all around the world it’s not about translation, it’s not about just localisation, it’s about time zones, weather, language, different cultures and colours and so on."
All these things have to be done right to achieve success, and this applies as much to the mobile platform as to normal marketing.
"One single campaign can have many different aspects you have to think about. It’s not just about technology; it’s about technology, knowledge and execution. Obviously it’s about organisation of all those companies."
Stuck in a moment
"The most important thing is what we call Micro Moments," says Fubini. "When you communicate through desktop, it doesn’t matter when you send something to the people, because they are going to deal with you when they are seated at a desk during office hours."
He explains that mobile is always in the consumer’s hand, so that they could be at home, in a park, or in-store when the brand targets them.
"The moment you send something, it is very important," says Fubini. "If you get the right moment or the right message in the right moment you have a great opportunity to have an interaction.
This is the kind of approach that has to be done right or not done at all, Fubini adds.
"If you send something in a specific moment and it’s not good, you not only lose the opportunity to interact with your customers, you are also borrowing their time, so you are losing a bit of your reputation."