The COVID-19 crisis caught everyone off guard, and that includes the luxury industry. But little by little we saw brands adapt, moving their marketing efforts online in order to better serve their consumers at a time when most of us were required to stay at home. L’Oréal was one of the first companies to pioneer this, stopping all offline advertising back in February and using the extra budget to invest in campaigns that actually helped it surpass its typical sales, despite the crisis.
How was this possible? Well, Coronavirus devastated and changed our world to the extent that it actually offered a chance for brands to reinvent themselves as leaders in digital luxury, especially if, like L’Oréal, they moved fast. It also gave a more urgent incentive for luxury brands to experiment with digital marketing ideas they may have put on the backburner, which were suddenly required in order to keep their business afloat.
Now that the world is tentatively emerging from the era of Coronavirus, digital marketing cannot simply revert to normal, with the crisis triggering a revolution in what consumers expect from their online experience.
If you’re looking for new, exciting ideas to elevate your luxury brand, look no further than Relevance’s advice on how to adapt in the current climate.
Don’t get left behind: Fresh digital marketing ideas for luxury brands
Digital shops and shows
If your brand had any big events planned which you have simply postponed ‘until further notice’, think again. Granted, it may be necessary for some events to be moved to next year – for example, a charitable bike ride or a culinary tasting fair – but many just require a little out-of-the-box thinking to take them into the online space. If these events are important to driving business – and if they aren’t, perhaps ask yourself why you are hosting them anyway – find a way to make them happen.
Leading the charge in China, luxury brands have been using digital marketing platforms to engage with their clients for some time, with online estimated to account for 14% of luxury spending in this vast country. This has meant that brands in China have been quick to make up for missed in-person events online. For example, on February 25, Dior live-streamed the catwalk show for its 2020 A/W women’s collection in Paris on chat platform Weibo.
Louis Vuitton also launched an exclusive pop-up store for Valentine’s Day via a WeChat mini-program that allowed customers to place orders online. Store associates were able to share exclusive offline promotions to customers via QR code, with pre-sale consultations and post-sale customer services offered digitally, and the brand partnered with SF Express to ensure all orders were delivered in plenty of time. This saw Louis Vuitton double its online sales compared to Valentine’s season 2019, despite the lack of in-person shopping.
Other luxury brands around the world have also adapted to this new way of hosting clients, with luxury digital launches by the likes of Bentley providing a new way of keeping the momentum going for new products released in these strange times, when hosting a large launch event in-person is sadly not feasible. Invitations to these events can either be discreetly shared with fans via email or shared on Instagram for a way of building excitement worldwide, as we can see with Bentley’s 2021 Bentayga launch.
Move to e-commerce
The move towards e-commerce – and generally towards digital marketing by luxury brands – has been slow, with the belief that consumers struggle to make expensive purchases online permeating the industry. However, here change has been born out of necessity – with no stores to go to during the pandemic, luxury retailers have had no choice but to sell their products online. This report by the HUB Institute recently predicted that the luxury sector would grow from 5-10% of sales taking place online – the current stats – to 20-25% of digital sales, although the timeframe on this is unclear.
When we consider comparisons with other industries such as electronics, which is currently hitting around the 45% mark of products sold online, the disparity in luxury sales becomes clear. Pandemic or not, the fact is that luxury consumers are now online, and brands need to be able to offer online shopping as an option. Brands such as Gucci and Hermès have embraced this, with Gucci opening themed temporary stores called ‘Pin’ which feature interactive and immersive digital experiences, and Hermès opening up limited sales from their Spring/Summer collection on WeChat despite its reputation for avoiding digital sales. Going forward, exciting experiential concepts will be the key to ensuring luxury online stores are set apart from the mass-market retailers.
However, for some luxury retailers this change is very much temporary. Patek Philippe allegedly noted that once the pandemic is over, the brand will “return to selling things the old way: In-store.” It will be interesting to see how this plays out post-COVID-19, and whether this decision sees the luxury watch brand lose out on sales.
Virtual, more personalised experiences
Virtual experiences such as those delivered by 3D, VR and AR technology are the main ways for brands to distinguish themselves online, becoming an essential part of many digital marketing strategies during the Coronavirus crisis. These tactics have been used by both luxury and mass-consumer brands, but typically luxury brands will take extra care to offer a smooth, high-quality and ultra-personal experience.
3D has been found to create a better UX for digital shoppers, with one Haptic Media study concluding that on average, companies which replace 2D product displays with 3D ones achieve 40% higher conversion rates and average a 30% sales increase. The beauty industry has been fast to pick up on this trend, with Guerlain offering customers the option to view its Rouge G Range in 3D, and to customise the lipstick in a vast number of ways personal to them. As a result, the webpage for this lipstick line enjoyed twice the conversion rate of any other page on Guerlain’s website.
Augmented reality was arguably first introduced to the luxury industry through beauty, with apps such as ModiFace – which has just been acquired by L’Oréal for use in its stores – scanning the user’s face and allowing them to try on makeup, new eye colours, new hairstyles and more. A study by Gartner has revealed that 100 million consumers were expected to shop in Augmented Reality online and in-store by 2020.
In the yachting landscape, there are several companies at the forefront of delivering Virtual Reality, used to better convey a designer’s visions before a yacht is completed or even as a first tour for an interested buyer. Meanwhile, many luxury real estate agents and yacht brokers now offer 360-degree tours of their properties, some of which were introduced in the COVID-19 crisis but will continue to be offered to those who are not able to make an in-person viewing. Relevance has been working with its clients to ensure they can offer these 360-degree videos to entice customers.
Increasing brand affinity with cause marketing
Coronavirus is a worldwide crisis that has seen so many in need of help. As such, as the virus began to spread, many luxury brands saw it fit to support their communities in any way they could. Supporting this cause generally led to higher brand publicity and ultimately affinity amongst consumers, with people typically having a high level of respect for companies that behave charitably towards causes they believe in.
Luxury multinational brand LVMH was one of the first fashion companies to join the fight against Coronavirus, using the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands to instead manufacture hand sanitiser, which would be delivered for free to health authorities. World-famous sports car brand Ferrari also donated €10 million to help tackle Coronavirus. The money went to the Italian Civil Protection Department, as well as Specchio dei Tempi/La Stampa, an Italian social assistance organisation working in some of the hardest-hit areas of Italy. This is just a very small selection of luxury brands who were a force for good during the pandemic – to see more luxury businesses who helped, click here.
Although we are now moving into a post-Coronavirus society, digital marketing efforts going forward should be careful to not simply forget the crisis and act insensitively. The aim of cause marketing is to show social responsibility and help to better society, and consumers will be turned off by brands who instantly return to ‘normal’. Brands should also continue to support more causes that line up with their brand values, using their voices for good.
The Black Lives Matter movement saw businesses like the Kering conglomerate, which owns Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Bottega Veneta, and which also committed €2 million to the Hubei Red Cross Foundation, donate an undisclosed amount of money to the NAACP civil rights organisation. Luxury brands can seem like an unnecessary entity in times of crisis, so use cause marketing to show your social worth.
More relevant influencer marketing
Influencer marketing was already a popular method of digital marketing for luxury brands, but a worldwide quarantine saw influencers take on a whole new status, becoming even more relevant as the entire world found itself largely stuck at home and desperately looking for entertainment. However, the content they posted was not the aspirational imagery that we may have been used to pre-pandemic. Instead, it was adapted to quarantine life, with highlights on lifestyle content such as home workouts, home spa sessions, and delicious recipes.
A number of luxury brands, such as Gucci, handed their Instagram profiles over to influencers, who shared fragments of their lives, musical performances, readings and beauty advice. This allowed Gucci to provide a more useful voice during this difficult time, offering relatable content that was less ball gown and more down to earth. Gucci has also taken to TikTok to promote wellbeing and self-care to the platform’s primarily Gen Z audience. During lockdown, videos showing home make-up tutorials and illustrated stories showed viewers that Gucci understood the unique position they were in.
We also saw newer luxury brands such as Parisian designer Jacquemus making their mark on the platform, with Jacquemus posting dance challenge videos showcasing its clothing and funny excerpts displaying its range of other products. Of course, TikTok itself saw an incredible uptick in users during quarantine, with March this year seeing 75.5 million new downloads, a growth of around 25% compared to February, making it something that luxury brands could no longer ignore.
As the world slowly returns to normal, luxury brands should continue to act outside of their comfort zone in an effort to reflect the experiences of their customers, working with influencers who are able to authentically speak to their audience. They should not be afraid to allow influencers to offer more creative input, remembering that this is ultimately more likely to resonate with their followers and ultimately encourage a more natural appreciation of your brand.
Digital marketing ideas post-pandemic
This article has covered just some of the marketing ideas that we have seen flourish during the pandemic that are set to stay with us as we adjust to our post-COVID-19 world. If you would like to find out more about how to keep your luxury brand fresh and exciting, please get in touch with a member of our team.