The Luxury Industry is accelerating its Digital Transformation
Back in 2015, when the news broke that Ian Rogers left Apple to take on the role as the Chief Digital Officer at LVMH, it was considered proof that LVMH, the world’s leading luxury products group, and the luxury industry more broadly, was serious about embracing digital.
Fast forward to 2017, and there is very little question that luxury and digital are in a serious, long-term relationship. In the case of LVMH, their launch of 24Sevres.com saw them enter the highly competitive and fast growing luxury e-commerce space, selling not only their own, but others’ brands.
Luxury fashion brands Gucci and Louis Vuitton are shifting more and more budget to digital channels. Brands such as Cartier and Zenith are selling online with net-a-porter.com. And a multitude of luxury executives, including Hugo Boss CEO Mark Langer have admitted that the had made an error by ignoring social media for so long.
So when Swiss watch brand IWC Schaffhausen released their updated e-commerce website in June this year, it was yet another declaration of the industry's unwavering commitment to digital transformation.
Why does IWC’s New Website Matter?
IWC is not only one of the key leading brands of the Richemont Group, but it is a brand that has encountered tremendous success over the last 15 years. This success came under the leadership of then-CEO Georges Kern, who has since been promoted to Head of Richemont Watchmaking (heading up all Watch Maisons), while also now being in charge of Marketing and the Digital Transformation of the Group.
IWC's success story continued with the arrival of Christoph Grainger-Herr as the new CEO (whose first venture as CEO revolved around the Tribeca Film Festival in New York) and IWC’s Chief Digital Officer Dominic Weir, who was already the digital mastermind behind IWC’s rapid digital success under the Kern era.
From booking in-store appointments online, to a notification service for out of stock timepieces, not only does the new website take a strong drive-to-store approach, but it is one of the first luxury watch brands to take omnichannel so seriously.
Analysing this new website possibly offers a glimpse of what some of the other Richemont’s Maisons will do in the future.
The 5 Things Luxury Brands Need to Pay Attention To:
1. A Truly Omnichannel Approach
IWC have clearly set out to provide a seamless and unified brand experience - no matter the device or location.
The consumer has the ability to book an appointment in their nearest boutique, whose address is automatically populated using the user’s IP address, and even has the option to book an Uber directly there.
"We wanted to provide our customers a single point of entry to the IWC universe and deliver a seamless shopping and brand experience. And this is not so different from the bricks and mortar world: if you visit an IWC Boutique, there is no differentiation between the commercial and the brand experience – they are one and the same."
Importantly, as IWC Chief Digital Office Dominic Weir explains, is the need for the site "...to provide the action oriented, goal driven customer with the option to delve into various worlds of the collection's without impeding their decision process."
Marc-Olivier Peyer, DLG's Head of Technology, agrees. "A customer has the option to go as deep as they want into the universes of the six watch world's, getting lost along the way, but always with a compass to come back - either to see other watches, buy online or to actually go and try it on in the store."
2. Putting the Digital Luxury Consumer at the Center
At first glance the homepage of the IWC site is clean, simple and uncluttered. And sitting on the left hand side of the page is the term ‘watches’. Seemingly obvious, for a watch brand right? But, for many luxury watch brands this is not the case.
According to DLG’s SEO team, the term ‘watches’ is searched 100 times more often than the term ‘timepieces’ each month worldwide.
By embracing the same language as their audience, brands will avoid a semantic that is too complicated and therefore avoid the consequence of not appearing in search results.
According to DLG SEO Specialist Alessandra Volterra, this approach is effective both for the brands and the user; “Having an SEO-optimized website is essential to increase the brand's visibility and organic traffic, and importantly to enrich and improve the consumer’s experience.”
“The goal of a search engine is to deliver the best results to a specific query, so using the right keywords and content is absolutely essential in order to answer your potential customer's needs.”
Dominic Weir explained that the brand spent a great deal of time talking with customers to understand the journey they take through the site in order to drive IWC's decisions around navigation and where to enrich content.
"One of the key learnings was that people look for "Watches”, not “Timepieces” or “Collections” and this is exactly why you will find a link to “Watches” in the top navigation; understanding where you can relax certain luxury codes and conventions to meet the needs of the customer is challenging but also key to delivering the right experience."
3. Having a Millennial Focus
The use of storytelling is present throughout the site, and when targeting today’s digitally savvy millennial consumer, this approach is key.
"For today's luxury consumer online, a product needs to go beyond a simple soldier shot. There needs to be a strong narrative behind it. Great storytelling - especially when it touches an emotional nerve of the user - is essential to stand out in today's sea of digital messages without losing sight of the overall user experience." adds DLG's Founder & CEO David Sadigh.
This was apparently at the core of IWC’s thought process "One of our goals was to balance the customer's need for immediacy, with the need for the brand to tell stories," says Dominic Weir.
Further feeding into this need for immediacy is the fact that users can create, name and share wishlists. A clever addition to an e-commerce site where the products come with high price tags. For millennials this ensures the brand can still be part of their narrative - if not for a current purchase but instead for a planned or desired one.
4. Transparency Throughout
The luxury industry is renowned for not always being transparent - from the lack of prices listed online to ignoring customer questions on social media. So it is refreshing when a luxury brand goes the extra mile to be open and transparent.
IWC’s Out of Stock notification service is something many fashion e-commerce sites have used to keep customers firmly in the sales funnel, so this, coupled with their clear pricing, is a smart move from the Swiss watchmaker. “This creates a sense of scarcity, even if my credit card is ready I cannot buy the watch right away,” adds David Sadigh.
Another stand-out area is their maintenance service page, which clearly demonstrates each step of the process and means the user feels a one on one connection to the brand, as close to the in-store experience as possible.
When asked what were the goals for their e-commerce, IWC confirmed that the most important thing was to deliver the best customer experience possible across all of IWC’s channels;
“The website is one of several key touch points. For this reason, it needs to exude the essence of IWC’s brand and exceed the experience our customers have come to expect.”
5. It’s An Ongoing Optimization Process
So what is the most challenging part of launching a site like this? Dominic Weir shared an important word: Focus. And then stated that this version of the site is just the start of the optimization process; "The most important thing to keep in mind is that the website acts as the connective tissue between all channels.”
“It is not the start or the end of the customer journey, but just one part of the probability cloud of customer touch points.” Weir said. “It’s easy to get caught up in in small details of on-site conversion and lose track of the bigger picture, where the website is just one channel in an omni-channel environment."
"Of course there are many challenges when designing, building and integrating a website, but I think the emotional ones are by far the toughest to master."
The acknowledgement from IWC of the need to always improve, and to learn from your audience, is one of the things that will without a doubt contribute to IWC's continued digital success.
What do you think?
As the first in our ‘Luxury Brand Websites’ series, we would love to get your thoughts and reactions. What is your opinion of the new IWC website? Which other luxury and lifestyle websites should the industry pay attention to?
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