First impressions last a lifetime.

Luxury is about experiences.

As a young lady in Texas-my mom would remind me to make sure I was well dressed, and my hair and makeup were done before leaving the house. Even if I was merely running to the grocery store for milk at 7 o’clock AM on Sunday morning she would always say, “you never know who you are going to meet-and when you will meet them”. To this day the Morphites (employees of Morpheus Media, for the uninformed) pick on me for “dressing” for travel. I’d like to think I still follow my mother’s advice every day-but that would be a lie. While I am still conscious that someone’s first impression of me will stay with them forever-occasionally I am willing to run that risk.

For luxury brands-a customer’s first impression will always be their strongest and longest lasting. Great care and consideration goes into deciding- what street to buy a storefront on, how it will be designed and decorated, what the customers shopping experience will consist of and an all around aura of luxury from the moment the consumer sets foot in the store. That experience is of the utmost importance regarding what a brand is trying to convey in their advertising as well.

When you look to find luxury offline-you look in all of the usual places; Madison Avenue, Rodeo Drive and Worth Street. It is not a coincidence that these brands have chosen these locations; they want you to find them.

If Luxury brands place such a great emphasis on findability in the physical world, why do they not place the same emphasis online?

All of the consumer data out there tells us that the luxury consumer is extremely active online; the luxury consumer has the highest penetration of broadband internet access and often is engaged in the medium as creators (i.e. user generated content, reviews etc.).

Luxury brands are entering the online marketplace with the same mindset they use offline.

1. Define the image of the brand
2. Get someone to design a site that matches the image of the brand
3. Control that image very closely with little concern for findability or usability

I understand this mindset offline, but it simply does not translate online. The advantage that brands have in the offline world is that people know where to go to find them- if consumers have the time to stroll Madison Avenue during business hours to shop in your store, then the luxury experience for them is all about how it looks, feels, smells, etc. It’s about spending time with the brand and indulging in it. The consumer has been trained to expect this luxurious indulgent behavior when shopping.

The internet (and yes Google) has trained consumers to expect convenience, ease of use, information on demand and an all around positive experience. Consumers still expect the brand site to be beautiful, rich and immersive-but they require it to be functional. Consumers want a branded online experience to be informative, filled with high resolution images and product shots as well as more detailed information then they could ever get from a blogger or an editor. Heck, they expect the site to have more information then the sales clerk in the store, the site is perceived as getting information from the source.

Consumers expect to find what they are looking for with ease. After all, didn’t you design the site for the consumer…and didn’t you do so with the same mind that concepted the design of the physical shop?

Luxury brands managers need to focus less on their idea of what the consumer wants, and more on what the consumer actually wants. One of the beautiful things about online users is that they are very willing to tell you exactly what they want and what they expect. You just have to be willing to listen and follow their lead.

First impressions do last a lifetime, but the good news is-online you can often get a second chance to make that first impression.

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