Last week, we wrapped up a two-part series on the state of global luxury e-commerce in 2016. Along the way, series writer Omar El Ali—a MotionPoint Global Online Strategist and seasoned global marketer—provided updates on the viability of BRIC nations as worthy luxury e-retail markets, and identified four expansion-worthy emerging markets.
Those were value-packed posts, brimming with compelling data and analysis. However, we didn't provide many insights on how to court and woo luxury consumers in these global markets.
If you're curious to learn more about selling luxury goods online, you're in luck. We recently sat down with Omar for a Q&A, and asked him to share a bit more of his perspective.
MotionPoint: So why exactly should luxury brands leverage e-commerce as they expand globally?
Omar: Ultimately, providing a direct online sales channel enhances a brand’s reputation by providing an ultra-convenient, yet fine, shopping experience. This experience can impeccably present a brand’s image and equity.
There are always x-factors with global brick-and-mortar endeavours: Is the store in the ideal retail location? Is the staff well trained? Is the store’s interior and signage in perfect sync with the greater brand?
MotionPoint: But websites tailored to serving customers in specific markets eliminates all that.
Omar: Exactly. You have complete control over every nuance of a global site’s presentation and experience. The value of this can’t be overstated. Localised messaging is always on point. Elegance and efficient service remains world-class. The store never closes.
You'll also likely reach the new generation of luxury consumers: digital natives. These young, "always on" professionals have a fluid perception of the shopping experience. They're often as at home shopping on their smartphones as they are in a mall. They're practical, pressed for time, and aren't as invested in an intimate consultative sales experience. E-commerce sites are catnip for these consumers.
MotionPoint: In your recent two-part series, you mentioned that an e-commerce site can be a key differentiator for combatting counterfeit products. What do you mean by that? Omar: It’s no secret that counterfeit merchandise is a major problem, particularly for luxury brands. Estimates suggest counterfeit merch costs the global economy at least $250 billion annually.
An e-commerce experience represents a major win-win for companies and customers. Brands operating first-party, company-owned sites generate engagement and sales-and can fulfill orders-directly with consumers. That's great from a sales and revenue perspective. It's also great for branding: consumers can shop on these first-party sites with absolute confidence. They're getting the real deal. In some markets, that confidence plummets when shopping on third-party sites.
MotionPoint: Okay, let’s get to the good stuff. How can companies deliver premium e-commerce experiences that can woo global customers?
Omar: We've found there are three key factors: localised content, building a great online relationship with consumers, and stellar customer service.
MotionPoint: What do you mean by "localised content"?
Omar: Well, retailers should always sell their products to global consumers in the consumers’ preferred language. Above all, exchanging ideas and information in a common language is the most resonant way to build consumer trust. It also greatly reduces friction and streamlines the transactional experience.
But beyond being "in language," a luxury site serving global consumers must provide the same artful, evocative and aspirational storytelling that's seen in larger-often English-speaking-markets. Don't skimp on selling the dream in these new markets. Your translated content should be just as alluring and emotionally resonant as it is in your primary market. Tell your story, and tell it well.
MotionPoint: You mentioned the importance of cultivating a great online relationship with international customers.
Omar: Right. Luxury e-commerce sites can’t deliver the same kind of intimate sales experience a traditional retail experience provides, but that doesn’t mean they can’t resonate with consumers. Thanks to technological innovations, a luxury shopper's site visit can be personalised in delightful and persuasive ways.
For instance, it's quite easy to offer returning customers recommendations based on past purchases. This goes for payment method preferences, delivery preferences, and more.
Whenever possible, dazzle these luxury consumers with the same personalised smart and artful verve as you would in a traditional retail experience. Get to know these customers based on their site-browsing and purchasing habits. Intelligently serve up recommendations. Present elegant accessories. Connect with them via email with localised newsletters, with specials persuasively tailored to their tastes. It's all possible.
But be mindful to obey appropriate privacy laws in these global markets. Personalisation practices are restricted in some countries more than others. Be progressive in your outreach and engagement, but never overstep.
MotionPoint: How does customer service play into this?
Omar: This is an another example where a traditional retail experience seems to have a leg up on e-commerce, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Luxury consumers deserve impeccable, exceptional service—regardless of how they happen to buy your products.
Going the extra mile (or kilometer, depending on the market!) really makes a difference. Offer free delivery, free returns and free return despatch. Offer online support. Many luxury e-commerce sites will offer a "call back" feature, live chat or other form of contact that can engage the consumer at their convenience. And make sure these services are offered in the consumers' language of choice.
And if you have a brick-and-mortar store presence in the customer's local market, make sure to give them the option to "buy online, and pick-up in store." Some folks won't mind the drive, and it gives your brand an opportunity to make a positive in-person impression.
MotionPoint: Let’s circle back to a topic you explored in the first installment of your two-part series: BRIC markets. While not perfect, most BRIC countries provide better luxury e-commerce opportunities than they have in years past.
Omar: That’s right. India remains a shining star. Due to economic and political uncertainty, Brazil remains a market only for the brave. But interesting opportunities exist in China and Russia.
MotionPoint: Let’s talk about China and Russia, then. What advice would you give luxury brands eager to enter these markets as first movers, so they'll be poised for success as the markets stabilise?
Omar: Brands should be equipped with the know-how and a kind of “market fluency” to not only compete, but also profit in these economically unstable markets.
Embrace unconventional selling practices. These can generate revenue. For example, thanks to geographic proximity and favourable exchange rates, Chinese consumers are always visiting Russia to buy luxury goods. They maximise their money this way.
But savvy brands can provide luxury Chinese-language e-commerce sites that target Chinese users in Russia. Since cash on delivery is a prominent payment method in Russia, this can work in favour in easily connecting with in-country Chinese tourists, who often have plenty of cash on hand.
Creative approaches like this can really resonate within certain markets, and generate engagement and sales that might otherwise slip between the cracks.