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According to our friends at Google, the most searched for fashion term in 2015 was “How to walk in heels”.
This may come as a disappointment to fashion brands who have been told search is all about sales.
Customers were NOT hungrily Googling the latest pictures from catwalks in Paris or Milan and working out where they could ‘get the look’.
Neither were they desperately researching which colour would dominate this season and updating their collections accordingly.
They were mostly trying to work out how not to break their necks on a Saturday night.
But even more surprisingly, this term was searched for equally by men and women.
Why you need to understand search behaviour
Both these strange insights from Google underline one important message.
If you want to understand and take advantage of the retail opportunities presented by search, you really have to understand what search is all about.
Because, despite the odd quirks of search behaviour – or maybe because of them – there is vast branding and commercial potential here for fashion brands.
And now, more than ever, luxury brands that are ignoring search are missing huge revenue opportunities that others are capitalising on.
But what’s the opportunity in search for luxury brands?
With 1 trillion Google searches in 2015, luxury customers are just as likely to Google as everyone else.
And luxury customers were 4.7 times more likely to Google ‘Black Friday’ than the average.
Add to this the fact that 39% of luxury clothes bought on the internet last year were bought on impulse, search really does look like the place where the smartest luxury brands would want to be.
At a fashion digital conference last week we presented with our client Net-A-Porter on luxury consumer search behaviour and it really demonstrates how crucial ecommerce is for luxury brand health in the years ahead:
Black Friday: what a difference a day makes
Luxury brands really can benefit from the retail ‘holidays’ which have established themselves in recent years.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2015 marked the highest and second highest sales days on record for Net-A-Porter.
- The retailer sold one item every second.
- Of these, the most expensive item sold online was priced at $27,307.
- While a single Saint Laurent mini-dress was sold for $14,943.
This is not loss-leading discounting reluctantly undertaken for fear of losing brand profile.
This is a strategic opportunity to engage with high-net-worth individuals and galvanise profitable sales activity at specific points in the calendar.
And search plays a crucial part in this.
And what a difference a change makes
Data from fashion brands is pointing to a shift from slow, curated purchasing patterns to fast decision making tipped by arresting content.
Once luxury brands understand that price is no longer the key driver behind online luxury brand buying decisions, it becomes much clearer what search barriers are really in the way of increased sales.
McKinsey released research demonstrating that returns (75%) and delivery policy (73%) were key factors influencing luxury buying decisions, especially interesting when considering only 48% were interested in price.
Adjusting to a multi-device world
It’s a cliché, but luxury brand customers are cash rich and time poor – the question is how does this translate into search and buying behaviour online?
In online luxury retail there is no such thing as a single customer journey anymore, these customers with their demanding lifestyles, constantly switch between devices that are ‘always on’.
What’s more, they have the best devices (high spec, tablets, laptops, smartphones) and they expect the experiences they have on them to be equally high spec.
Therefore, as one absolute takeaway - don’t ever think in devices (desktop, mobile), think only of the consumer journey.
The beautiful customer experience
Ecommerce is now a multi-device world and brands need to understand the importance of a ‘beautiful customer experience’, meaning a series of seamless, all-encompassing, cross-platform customer journeys that often begin with search and are highly mobile.
Every year marketers have been told that this year is the year of mobile and 2016 will be no exception.
For luxury mobile is becoming increasingly important to keep up with the demands of the luxury consumer.
Often we hear about the increase in mobile penetration in a market – however when you consider the affluence of a luxury shopper that becomes even more important.
McKinsey suggests that across the world 95% of luxury shoppers have a smartphone, with 100% penetration in some markets.
Forrester research last year stated most luxury consumers expect retailers to have mobile optimised website or app - however in January 2016 only half do.
Luxury customers are everywhere in terms of device and location, and mobile has become key to closing sales.
- 41% of Net-A-Porter’s customer orders over Thanksgiving were on a mobile device.
- Nearly half (48%) of its sales in Japan were on mobile.
Customers are not only visiting Net-A-Porter's sites on mobile, but buying items as well.
As such there are opportunities to optimise search in specific ways, in specific locations and for specific groups that could make all the difference to traffic and sales.
Gender targeting through Google search
Gender targeting is one of these opportunities. Male luxury customers still often seem to be impulsive and impatient in their purchases as they tend to shop for gifts on mobile devices at the last minute.
Males tend to spend more time examining search engine results pages (SERPS) and are 5.4 times more likely than females to inspect lower ranked results.
Therefore, a key opportunity to maximize conversion from search is by reassuring customers on the SERPS that the mobile checkout process will be simple and painless.
Location, location, location?
Location is also significant when selling to these customers, but not necessarily in the ways that you think.
The average luxury customers takes 16 trips a year. So, where these customers are searching is not necessarily where they live.
This means brands need to be careful about the kind of delivery offers they’re making based on location.
Don’t go offering free delivery in Tokyo when the customer lives in New York.
Therefore, when a consumer adds location-based search queries we have to listen to the signal - dig deeper into data, don’t make assumptions and tailor to location.
Social & content converts
Even if they’re not buying, your customers want to talk to you and about you.
Working out when to sell to them and when to talk to them is part of the challenge of dealing with customer search.
But in reality every search is an opportunity for engagement that may lead to a sale.
In fashion it is even more important to have a focus on social, with two-thirds of the target audience generating content on a regular basis and 15% doing that on a daily basis.
Social and content is presenting more and more chances to capture the imagination of potential customers and shortening the gap between catwalk and shopping basket.
Fashion is throwing open the doors to the public with live streaming and interactive digital tools.
Lining up your social, content and search is presenting more and more chances to share amazing content and arrest the attention of a customer base primed and willing to buy into your brand.
Rising to the challenge of search for luxury brands
“How to Walk In Heels” is not a comment on the mundanity of search.
Instead it’s an imaginative challenge to agencies and marketers to interpret needs and wants in ways that are thrilling to customers.
I hear there’s a trick to walking in heels, but once learned it looks elegant and effortless.
Learning the secrets of luxury search is learning to create beautiful experiences, optimised customer journeys that seamlessly capture, build your brand and convert sales in new and exciting ways.
For more on this topic, read: