The luxury ecommerce market is a hard nut to crack.
How do you recreate online the exclusive and highly personal nature of luxury shopping?
While the likes of Net-A-Porter and Farfetch have mastered the art – using a combination of brilliant content marketing and super-fast delivery to satisfy customers – there’s now a new kid on the block.
24 Sèvres is a new ecommerce company owned by LVMH (the parent company of brands like Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs). Inspired by the iconic French department store, Le Bon Marché, 24 Sèvres aims to fill a gap in the luxury retail market, offering a ‘shopping experience of the future’.
So, what does it offer for luxury consumers, and will it tempt them away from competitors? Here’s more on the launch, alongside what I think makes 24 Sèvres stand out from the crowd.
Building on an existing store reputation
Le Bon Marché has been a destination store at 24 rue de Sèvres in Paris for more than 160 years. The aim of 24 Sèvres is to bring the experience of shopping there online, giving customers all over the world access to a curated and distinctly Parisian perspective on fashion.
— 24 Sèvres (@24Sevres) June 6, 2017
So, while 24 Sèvres might seem a little late to the party – entering ecommerce long after rivals like Net-A-Porter – the long history of Le Bon Marché (as well as its unique cultural appeal) gives it an immediate head-start. The same perhaps cannot be said for the likes of Style.com – the Conde Nast-owned company that failed to get off the ground.
As well as an existing set of customers, 24 Sèvres also hopes to capitalise on the fact that it shares its name with Le Bon Marche’s existing loyalty program. Now, the program will marry with the 24 Sèvres website and app, allowing loyal in-store shoppers to seamlessly transfer online – as well as giving them an incentive to do so.
Targeting a niche consumer
While Farfetch might target fans of unconventional or edgy style, Net-A-Porter tends to focus on those who value fashion as part of a wider lifestyle-orientated context.
So, who is 24 Sèvres’ target market? Interestingly, the brand suggests that it is aimed at a more specific shopper, someone who has a real interest in the chic and effortless style of Parisian women, and who is typically between the ages of 28 to 45.
Launching with just 150 brands, 24 Sèvres is definitely keen on promoting a more ‘curated’ approach, building on the idea that all items are hand-chosen by Parisian fashion experts.
To celebrate the site’s launch, 24 Sèvres also commissioned a capsule collection of 77 items. The limited-edition pieces were designed by various local and international designers in collaboration with other high-profile names within the arts and music scene. For example, the jacket below is designed by Alice Balas, incorporating an illustration by French artist, Malika Favre.
This focus on Parisian style is reflected in the website’s design.
The homepage is currently made up of two revolving ‘vitrines’ (a bit like a full-page carousel, in a cinemagraph style) – which depict two women looking into a shop window. Again, this mirrors the window displays in the original Le Bon Marché store, which are famously intricate and creative in design.
Unlike Net-A-Porter in particular, it is clear that 24 Sèvres is focusing more on visual elements than editorial or content-driven features. Combined with delightful and intricate animations elsewhere, the result is a rather slick and playful UX.
On the site, product pages are characterised by large imagery with minimal text, while the ‘Explore’ section uses imagery and video to bring curated collections to life.
While it is still unclear how 24 Sèvres will expand its marketing, its launch involved an innovative social campaign. Once again aligning with its visual strategy, it used Instagram to build hype and intrigue in the run up to the site’s launch, creating multiple accounts to highlight 24 Parisian locations in conjunction with pieces from the capsule collection.
Technology to build relationships
The biggest challenge facing luxury ecommerce retailers is the ability to connect with shoppers on a personal level. Online shopping lacks tangible elements important for decision-making, such as trying on products or asking questions.
While it might sound contradictory, 24 Sèvres uses technology in order to make up for this absence, building relationships with users via interactive customer service technology.
The 24 Sèvres app includes a video chat feature that allows users to talk to a stylist based in Paris. This means that customers can get the same service as in-store – perhaps even better, due to the focused nature of a video call.
Facebook users can also interact with a chatbot that gives style and shopping advice. While the latter is yet another basic decision-tree based bot, it is a little more innovative than other retail examples. This is because the bot helps to inform a personalised email geared around individual style preferences.
This kind of technology offers customers a more bespoke service, giving people the chance to go beyond the one-way online shopping experience and connect with the brand on a meaningful level.
The email from your own ‘personal shopper’ includes personalisation techniques such as conversational language, addressing the recipient by name, and further ways to interact.
In the crowded and highly competitive luxury ecommerce market, 24 Sèvres is certainly one to watch. While it might lack the large and varied selection of brands found on other sites, this is actually more of a positive than a negative, helping to emphasise the appeal of its curatorial approach.
In future, it will need to build on this, providing value for loyal customers with yet more capsule collections and creative collaborations.
In the meantime, its international distribution model and innovative customer service features look set to satisfy global shoppers looking for a slice of Parisian style. Where Style.com failed – mainly with an inability to differentiate itself from its competitors – perhaps 24 Sèvres can truly succeed.