Are We There Yet?


Libby Banks | April 23, 2010

Has the future of luxury ecommerce finally arrived?

Ecommerce may have existed for more than a decade now, but recent launches and acquisitions beg the question: has it finally made an indelible mark on the luxury sector? A company slow to embrace the transactional website concept is department store Selfridges, but its pristine new site demonstrates the potential when it comes to synching the in-store and online experience.

Site creators Salmon have attempted to deliver an online encounter that mimics the in-store experience as close as possible. Each brand has its own room on the site and these brand boutiques give international designers a space to invite visitors to explore their world – and undoubtedly offer a sense of control to those brands that remain skeptical about selling via a department store on the web. Taking the lead from the store’s Wish Room, customers can also add items to their own wish rooms, where they can then see the items they have picked displayed as outfits on mannequins.

Mastercard SpendingPulse results for March demonstrated a huge hike in both luxury and online spending. Bain & Co reported that online luxury sales, although still a small part of the market, are expected to continue their double-digit growth. In 2009, global online sales grew 20%, a trend Bain said was fuelled by “luxury shame”.

But an even greater indicator of this firming mood is Richemont’s acquisition of online retailer Net-a-Porter. In purchasing the UK company, Richemont became the first major luxury conglomerate to buy a multi-brand virtual store. How this will affect web strategy for the rest of the Richemont’s businesses is unclear, but what’s certain is that the luxury industry’s involvement with ecommerce has been taken up a fair few notches.

Wealth Bulletin – 16 April 10
New Media Age – 15 April 10
Reuters – 7 April 10
Financial Times – 4 April 10