Published on 04/11/15 by Bradlie Houldsworth.
Best Practice Guide: Selling Luxury Products Online
With the tremendous growth in eCommerce over the past 5 years it is getting increasingly difficult to walk down the high street in any town or city and find a brand which is not already online. Big names like John Lewis & Argos pave the way with their cutting-edge eCommerce websites, and even your local butchers and plumbers are creating websites to capture more business from local search queries.
This is, however, less so the case when it comes to luxury brands and retailers. When it comes to selling a luxury product the trend is usually that transactions are less often, but of much higher value. It is, therefore, much more difficult to predict how well your product will perform online. Designing a site that not only stands out to your customers but also portrays your product in a way that makes it desirable. Ensuring your customer is happy to purchase a high involvement item without physically seeing it can be the toughest challenge – which leads us on to our first best practice.
Product Imagery & Video
When selling luxury products online it is vital that your product photography both stands out and is highly accurate and detailed. A combination of design focussed mood and lifestyle shots help to make your website stand out from the crowd – whilst making your product look fantastic and of high value to the consumer. Breitling do this very well and include mood shots as well as 360° product photography on all items – allowing users to view their product from every angle before they make the decision to purchase.
Another thing watch brand Breitling do really well is their bespoke watch builder at the bottom of their product pages, which allows users to customize their purchases, select which city they would like to buy from, select a store and then finally they are given a quote. In my personal opinion, to improve this the bespoke builder should also have 360° product photography, but given the number of options available it is understandable why it is not, but could perhaps be available on popular bespoke builds that they receive. I also love how they include the time in the top right of the site – small details like this go a long way with luxury items and express that keeping time is still the core value of the brand.
Aside from product photography and well-designed mood shots, product videos are another great way of increasing conversion on higher ticket products. Surface 2 Air Sports sell extreme sports equipment and make high-value conversions every day all thanks to their integration with YouTube videos on their product pages. Thanks to their bespoke eCommerce platform, it is easy for S2AS to link YouTube videos to their products, which are proven to boost conversion rates, and even lowers product page bounce rates through eliminating the need for the user to source videos of products elsewhere. According to these 45 video marketing statistics, 46% of users take some sort of action after viewing a video advert, and a landing page with video content available is 51% more likely to rank on the first page of Google.
Front End Design
Design is an art form and like all art forms, everybody views design in different ways. The most successful luxury eCommerce websites stand out from the crowd, and good, well thought out front end design is exactly how this is achieved. For years Apple have lead the way with design, for both product and with their website online. Their product pages are very visual and on site animation is both seamless and aesthetically pleasing. With full sized dedicated landing pages for core products, Apple does a great job of combining vital information with visual components, making the website informative but very easy to read and navigate, whilst making the product a very desirable purchase.
This calibre of front end design can be expensive, and due to the ever advancing ways that HTML can be used it can be quite a task to remain at the forefront of cutting edge design for a prolonged amount of time without on-going development work. For these reasons, it is very important that you go into the development of your website with a clear plan – and make use of the latest technology available to stand out from the crowd. Having a clear front-end plan can save lots of time, and also ensures that your backend and CMS (Content Management System) are built to stand the test of time right from the get-go.
You should create a wish-list of things that you would like to implement – even if you do not want them from launch – for example, if you are looking to launch a bespoke range with a visual customization UI it is good to mention this before the build so that it can be mapped out for when it arrives and be ready when it is needed. For those of you less technically savvy, building a website can largely be likened to buying a house – when buying a house, you want to buy a property that not only suits your needs for the next year, but suits your needs for the foreseeable future. If you are planning to have children it makes far more sense to buy a house with extra bedrooms now than to build extensions after buying a house too small. The exact same applies to advanced eCommerce websites – it is far easier to build things with the future in mind than to bolt them on further down the line.
Content & Product Descriptions
With design set aside, the key to increasing time spent on a page is through content and product descriptions. By best practice standards in 2016, website content is a huge SEO ranking factor, and can hugely increase your backlink profile, which in correlation directly increases organic traffic. Owning a luxury brand is a blessing when it comes to content – there are so many things that can be said about a luxury product, and so many questions your users can have about the design, the inspiration, the origin, and most importantly, the story – all of which have unlimited potential for content marketing and strategy. When somebody invests in a luxury item I am sure you are aware of the experience they want that goes with it – aside from exceptional customer service – your content is exactly where this comes from.
Answer every question they may have before they have to ask it, after all, your product is your passion! And a brand that is passionate about their product is a desirable brand to buy from. This passion is easily lost between the in-store experience and online retail. The face to face interaction is lost and so it is essential that the passion is kept alive in your content and product descriptions. Anybody who has visited a Simon Carter store will know that they are extremely passionate about their product, and are a phenomenal example of how through content and product description, their passion for their product can be shared with their users online.
Customer Service & Reviews
As mentioned above, it is essential that your customers get the service that comes with the experience when they are looking to buy a luxury product online. Since we can’t greet our shoppers with a glass of champagne on arrival to your website, there are many other things that can be done to increase customer satisfaction, and in turn, repeat visits and an increase in conversion rates. To coincide with their excellent product descriptions, Simon Carter offer free delivery and returns on all items, with a no quibble returns policy to go with it. Whilst this is not a viable option for all brands, it takes away any risk a customer may associate with purchasing a high ticket item. Whilst on the face of it a free returns policy runs the risk of operating at a loss, it actually increases conversion rates largely, and opens a window of opportunity for you to assess why things are being returned in the first place, creating a personal relationship between brand and customer. Further customer service can include live chat support, consultation forms (great for bespoke work) and finally easy to find contact information.
Product reviews are another great way to build trust and boost conversion rates. In a study 61% of customers read online reviews before they make a purchase decision, and according to statistics from Reevoo, reviews online typically increase sales by around 18%. If these figures aren’t a clear indication of how important review systems are online, it may also please you to know that reviews have significant SEO benefits. Keeping in mind that unique content is a great ranking factor, reviews are essentially free, user-generated content for product pages on your website! With review systems correctly implemented on your website, you can expect to see rankings increase for queries such as “product name” + “review” – a common query amongst users who are already several stages into their purchase journey, and much more likely to convert!
The introduction of rich snippets for reviewed products in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is already proven to increase click-through rates – another essential ranking factor proven to increase organic traffic. (seen below on Moss)
Launching an eCommerce website for a luxury brand should be well considered, with many luxury retailers believing that online selling somehow cheapens a brand, removing the personality and detail. However, with a well-planned custom design and user experience, your eCommerce platform should preserve the equity you’ve built in your name and reputation, building intimacy and a stronger connection between customer and retailer.
There is a right (and a wrong) way to have a high-class experience online, but with less than 50% of luxury retailers selling online, the opportunities are huge.