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.