Ecommerce poses a difficult problem for luxury brands. How to create an online shopping experience that stands out from the crowd while also delivering a slick UI?

It’s not an easy task and in the past we’ve been unimpressed with how luxury brands have approached the online UX.

To see whether times have changed I’ve decided to take a closer look several luxury brands, beginning with Louis Vuitton.

And for more on this topic, read our posts on how luxury online retailers are handling fulfilment and how Selfridges uses digital to create extraordinary multichannel experiences.

Louis Vuitton

On the homepage, the focus is on content ahead of product selection.

Built using responsive design, the tiled layout gives prominence to Louis Vuitton’s upcoming fashion show, with further links to its Instagram account as well as a few product ranges.

The top nav also prioritises content discovery, with links to ‘News’ and ‘World of Louis Vuitton’ ahead of the product categories.

Content pages

Though the fashion show page currently just displays a massive countdown clock, the World of LV section hosts a fantastic range of rich media content.

It relates to various aspects of the LV brand, including product lines, the company foundation and its work in art and travel.

Much of the content is presented as full screen videos that look fantastic, or as large hi-res imagery.

You can delve deeper into some of the content, looking at slideshows or images from the catwalk shows.

However there are no social sharing buttons or integration with the ecommerce site, so the content exists in isolation.

This is a missed opportunity as it means there’s no natural user journey from the content to a conversion.

On luxury retail site Net-a-Porter, for example, all the fashion content is shoppable so customers can use the videos and articles for inspiration before making a purchase.

Shoppers can even leave their email address to register interest in catwalk products that are not yet available.

Example of Net-A-Porter's content

Obviously it’s unlikely that many people will watch a catwalk show online and then immediately spend £1,000 on a dress, but it’s still important to draw a line between content and commerce so people can easily research items they are interested in.

Search tool

The search tool isn’t particularly prominent, positioned as a tiny magnifying glass in the top nav.

However when clicked it alludes to the fact that users can expect to find more than just product suggestions, which is a useful feature:

It doesn’t employ predictive search, but it does come back with suggested products for obvious misspellings.

For example, ‘hanbag’ returned these results, which included 431 products, two stores and five services:

Unfortunately the product filters are extremely poor, with the only options being ‘male’ or ‘female’. 

That’s not going to make it easy for users to drill down to find what they’re looking for.

Navigation

I found the ecommerce pages to be quite confusing as there is almost no consistency in the navigation or UI.

It’s almost as if the UI for each product category was designed in isolation.

So for example, if you go to ‘Women > Accessories > Fashion Jewellery’ you are shown a category page with all the available products.

Clicking an item then takes you to a fairly standard product page.

However these lack several important features, such as a range of product imagery or a detailed product description.

If we now look at ‘Women > Ready To Wear > Spring 2015 Campaign’, the initial landing page provides links to videos by famous photographers.

You then have to click a ‘Discover the Series 2 Campaign’ CTA before browsing a shoppable online magazine. This eventually gives you access to product pages.

There are even inconsistencies in the navigation within product categories.

Within the ‘Women > Jewellery & Timepieces’ section the 'Fine Jewellery' and 'Timepieces' options lead to traditional category pages.

In comparison, the 'High Jewellery' section allows users to scroll through the collections and zoom in on different items, but there’s hardly any information on the different products or CTAs offering shoppers the chance to find out more.

I presume these items are so expensive you have to go in-store to register an interest.

Checkout

Louis Vuitton offers a guest checkout option, which is usually considered best practice though I’m not sure it matters as much with luxury goods.

If you’re spending a lot of money you might prefer the additional security and reassurance of having registered an account with the retailer.

The checkout has a simple, clean layout, though I’m not sure why it has included the links on the right of the page. Does anyone need to read the mother’s Day information at this stage?

If opting for home delivery, shoppers need only enter their name, address, a contact number and an email address before proceeding to the next stage.

But if using click-and-collect it’s just a case of picking from one of the six available stores before inputting an email address.

Payment can then either be made by credit card or via bank transfer. For the latter option Louis Vuitton has to email the details over separately.

Overall the checkout process is very quick and convenient.

In conclusion...

It seems that ecommerce is a secondary priority for Louis Vuitton.

Judging by the way the site is designed the emphasis appears to be on content and promoting a luxury lifestyle rather than flogging handbags.

The quality of the content certainly befits a luxury brand, with gorgeous videos and impressive imagery.

Plus it’s all very aspirational and the messaging is quite vague, which is what I expect from luxury retail.

However the ecommerce side doesn’t live up to expectations.

I understand that luxury retailers might want to avoid creating a site that copies standard ecommerce templates, but it should still have a user-friendly interface.

With Louis Vuitton there’s little consistency between the product categories and where product pages are actually available they offer very little detail.

Shoppers get no more than a couple of sentences outlining the product details, which isn’t enough when asking people to potentially spend thousands of pounds.

Why not incorporate some of the existing content into the product pages? Or at least add in a few extra images and a video so people can see what they’re buying.

But perhaps ecommerce isn’t important enough for Louis Vuitton. Its products are available elsewhere online, and the prices are so high that people understandably prefer the in-store experience.

Therefore conversion rate optimisation falls by the wayside as budgets are better spend elsewhere.

David Moth

Published 10 March, 2015 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

1719 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (4)

Avatar-blank-50x50

John Borys, Principal at www.johnborys.com

David:

Interesting article. I would bet most luxury brands (especially with high price points) are focused on communicating the "brand image" rather than as you say "pushing handbags." One of the key questions would be are their demographics going to really purchase an item that is considerably priced higher than 98% of the stuff that you can purchase on line? Doubtful. You buy these kinds of goods at Neiman Marcus, or the LV store itself... I bet the real strategy here is to create awareness to the younger markets (i.e. Millennials) to start developing an interest in "acquiring the proper taste" for LV. ?
Their core demographics, boomers, and seniors know what LV is and they are not very likely to purchase a $3k purse on line, they'll head to the store. So, in terms of "brand education" I would give LV an A+ the actual buying engagement experience a C at best.
But that really is not the brand strategy here. IMHO. Education and awareness come first. Back to social media, rule one first they have to meet you, then get to know you, then have a compelling and emotional connection made to the brand, then they will consider a purchase... So LV's brand strategy is in " the educating and cultivating" mode online.

over 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

John Borys, Principal at www.johnborys.com

David:
Interesting article. I would bet that Lv’s online strategy is one of “education, awareness and the development of an acquired taste.” Which is what the LV brand is all about. “An acquired taste” not for everyone. Communicating the brand image first to millennial’s makes perfect sense. The LV brand online experience is not about purchase. The demographics of LV are boomers and seniors and they know about LV, and are not going to (in mass droves) purchase a handbag for $3K online, they will head to the store. Social media or selling anything goes kind of like this: First they have to get to know you, then they have to like you, then they need a compelling emotional connection to the brand, then they might consider purchase. So I would give LV an A+ for brand awareness, cultivating new customers and expanding the brand and a C- for actual user experience. LV is brand building online, not selling online. And that is perfectly ok given it’s brand strategy, and demographics. The real question to ask is: What are female millennials thoughts and emotions after visiting the site? Do they want to know more? If the answer is yes, what does that tell you?

over 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Pauline Sonmereyn, Freelance Digital Consultant at Freelance Consultant

Hi David,

Very interesting article. One thing though: you say Louis Vuitton products are "available elsewhere online", but I don't think this is correct. Brands are the top of the luxury scale (eg Chanel, LV, Prada) don't tend to sell online on outlets such as Net-a-Porter, MyTheresa.

From what I can see, the only way you can buy LV online other than on its website is on sites selling "pre-owned" (ie vintage) items.

over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

Hi Pauline, thanks for your comment, I hadn't realised that was the case. I notice you can buy Prada bags elsewhere (e.g. Saks) but you're right that LV doesn't sell through other outlets. Thanks for pointing that out.

And by the way, it would be great to have a chat about Sotheby's digital strategy. If you're available for a Q&A please do get in touch - david.moth@econsultancy.com

over 3 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.