How do brands convey luxury online?
I think the key here is providing a great user experience. Too many luxury sites put creativity and visual appeal first and forget that people have to actually use these sites.
Perhaps some luxury brands think the normal conventions of good usability don’t apply to them, or are restricting their creativity.
This attitude was summed up by Whistles’ Jane Sheperdson, talking about its site redesign back in 2009:
We spent a lot of time researching best practice online. We then threw out everything we had learned, and just designed something that pleased us visually.
The result? Yes, a complete unusable mess of a site, which was incredibly difficult to buy from. It has undergone a further redesign since, but many basic flaws still remain.
This perceived clash between creativity and usability is nonsense in my view, and has been used as an excuse to ignore ecommerce best practices like testing and designing with users in mind.
This is not to say that convention and best practice should be slavishly followed, but luxury brands should aim to combine good usability and great design. After all, selling things is the name of the game.
So what elements make up a luxury site?
There are many, but here are some of the more important:
- Images. This is an important element whatever the site, but luxury sites should ensure that images convey the quality of the products on offer.
- Video. The use of video on product pages is great for conversion, and luxury brands should make the most of this opportunity.
- Attention to detail. Little things matter, such as detailed product descriptions.
- Great copy. The copy on product pages should be reinforcing that luxury feel, while keeping one eye on SEO.
- Great service. This is something luxury sites should be able to do well. This includes things like prompt delivery and packaging which matches the product.
- Fonts. Fonts can play a huge part in how websites and content are perceived.
Which luxury brands are doing this well?
Here are a few examples. It’s not been easy to find the ‘perfect’ luxury ecommerce site, but these all at least contain some excellent elements.
This is an excellent site, which does a lot well. A good example of combining luxury and good UX.
The site looks good and the navigation works well. Product pages are well designed with excellent imagery and clear presentation of information on the product and delivery.
I also like the fact that Selfridges has integrated click and collect, as well as a free returns policy.
If there’s any criticism here, it’s that it may not be luxury enough for some.
However, the products on offer are, and Selfridges has made it as easy as possible for people to buy them, which is the name of the game.
A well designed and usable site which, like Selfridges, provides an excellent user experience.
In addition to the ecommerce side, there’s a news/content section under the heading ‘Choo World’ which actually links back to and works with the ecommerce site, unlike some other luxury brands.
For example, when celebrities are spotted wearing its shoes, the site links to the relevant product page. It’s a simple thing which many sites don’t do.
Burberry has adopted digital in a big way, using technology as a way to convey luxury.
Its flagship London store is evidence of this, with its use of video, interactive mirrors, RFID tags, and recognition of the importance of mobile in multichannel retail.
The ecommerce site works well too. I would argue that navigation could be clearer, with better filtering options for example, and getting from the homepage to a product page does require more clicks than is strictly necessary, but the site is generally well-presented, and does have that luxury feel:
Product pages combine style with function too. Big high resolution images combined with video present the products beautifully.
Burberry doesn’t forget the details too, with a size guide, and some useful options on the right to use live chat or request a call back from customer services.
If you’re selling online, there’s no reason why customers can;t be provided with the personal touch if they want it.
There is room for improvement, such as providing greater clarity on delivery and returns. In fact, it should make it free next day delivery offer a little clearer as this is likely to be a sales driver.
This site is an offshoot of Bang & Olufsen, and uses scrolling to good effect.
For example, this Beoplay ’sound system’ costs upwards of £1,600, so a certain level of detail is required, and this product page is packed with it.
It ties in with Spotify to demonstrate the speaker and its features (below), lifestyle shots show how good it would look in your front room, while detailed technical information shows its capabilities.
Also, and this is not always the case for luxury sites, the checkout is very well designed.
B&O avoid the barrier to checkout that is registration by placing customer straight into the payment page.
It’s a one-page checkout which makes each separate stage clear. It’s enclosed so distractions are removed, while the cost summary and links to help and FAQs are there to deal with potential questions at this stage.
This site, recently redesigned, uses responsive design to ensure it works across all mobile and desktop devices.
It works well throughout, and the product pages are full of excellent detail and great imagery.
Checkout works well, with a guest option, and translates effectively to the smaller screen:
What do you think? Are these sites luxury enough? Do they match style with good user experience? Are others doing this better? Let me know below…