Gareth Locke of Holland Cooper, a purveyor of luxury British-made tweed clothing, explains why the luxury fashion sector is failing to adapt to a digital environment and how technology could be key to embracing the opportunities of e-commerce and revolutionizing the way premium brands interact with customers.

Gareth Jones, commercial director, Holland Cooper

Gareth Locke, commercial director, Holland Cooper

Unfortunately, the luxury sector is lagging behind the rest of the fashion world when it comes to adapting to a digital future. The hesitancy with embracing e-commerce is understandable. Luxury is an area of retail that has relied on a sense of exclusivity, as well as the beauty and inspirational nature of store experiences.

But, as retail continues to evolve, driven by developments ranging from voice technologies to social media, even luxury shoppers are starting to want different things, and some brands are falling behind. While a fifth of luxury sales are set to be completed online by 2025, more than a third of consumers believe that high street brands provide a better online shopping experience than luxury brands.

With great customer experience being at the heart of so many luxury brands’ proposition—customers should not be disappointed by their digital interactions, but many are, experiencing e-commerce sites that lack usability or personalization—and often leaving consumers frustrated with a digital experience that is not aligned with the service they receive in-store. In fact, nearly half of all consumers say the online experience for luxury brands is not as strong as it is in store.

At Holland Cooper, we treat our online experience like a personal appointment at a showroom, where customers have options to create their own personal style profile. We use background videos and content that shows where products have come from, why you are investing and why we are different. We aim to ensure a quality, personal and a joined-up luxury brand experience regardless of the touchpoint by which you interact with us.

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Now more than ever, the luxury consumer is looking for a great shopping experience, either in-store or digitally.

Bizarrely though, some brands still hold onto the belief that their customers prefer to shop solely in-store, and as a result view investment into the online experience as a wasted effort. This is misguided when eight out of ten luxury items are influenced by digital in some way and consumers hit at least one digital touchpoint during their purchasing journey.

Mobile makes up 80% of total traffic to our own website, so we understand how vital it is that the luxury experience resonates at every touchpoint, including digitally, to make sure the customer has the same beautiful experience wherever they are.

Luxury brands must now wake up to the realization that consumers have changed dramatically, and will continue to do so. Some are beginning to excel in this environment. Burberry, for example, are leading the way among traditional retailers with a digital offer that has included live streaming of “see now, buy now” catwalk shows, and in-store interactive mirrors which show customers content based on the clothes they’re looking at. Gucci has experimented with more advanced technologies, working with Spanish artist Ignasi Montreal to create virtual-reality project “Gucci Hallucination” for its spring 2018 campaign with a series of scannable interactive ads.

Now more than ever, the luxury consumer is looking for a great shopping experience, either in-store or digitally, and so it’s not enough to just launch a mobile site, or invest in high quality imagery—brands also need a shift in mindset for luxury in the digital age.

The role of technology

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At Holland Cooper we are technology-focused. We consider the technology our customers want and what’s applicable for our business. It’s about making sure that you’re lining up technology with what the customer wants, both now and in future. For example, we understand that our consumers value the personal touch and providing that means having access to data. We use an automated back-office solution from BrightPearl that allows us to sync information across all of our different platforms to create a single record for any given shopper. This allows for deeper insights and fuller profiles of our customers, including their buying behavior, preferences and trends, which allows us to provide greater degrees of personal service and an enhanced customer experience at all ends of the buying experience.

The belief that ‘online doesn’t matter’ is outdated and I have no doubt has played its part in holding the sector back. But, embracing the opportunities of e-commerce could revolutionize the way brands interact with customers. E-commerce has permeated almost every area of retail, and there is no reason why luxury fashion should not reap the benefits – as we have done.

A digital luxury offer should reflect luxury’s traditional strengths: impeccable customer service and personalization—and the good news is the opportunity to do that is here. Implementing the right systems—both on the front end and operationally—is a crucial part of luxury’s development into the ecommerce space and will provide the foundation from which to delight customers, using new channels, in the same way high-end brands currently impress in-store.

Holland Cooper is a British luxury brand that specializes in tweed and wool clothing.

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