When Technology Met Luxury

Author: Maryanne Njeri Maina | An MBA student in Luxury Brand Management at HEC School of Management in Paris – Twitter: @njerimaina. E: laluxeuniverse@gmail.com


Above picture: Source: Uprising Movements, Business of Fashion

For several years selling of luxury goods online was non-existent, but slowly more luxury houses are embracing and loving technology. The discussion of selling online, is still ongoing with luxury houses such as Chanel maintaining their tradition of boutique experiences and not online.

Only Chanel cosmetics can be bought online. It is an interesting discussion. The adoption of Instagram, twitter and online boutique stores is happening to capture the young urban males and females.

What happens to a person who spends most of his or her day online on a laptop or iPad or smart phone, reading business, news, research and also trends in the fashion world but cannot purchase luxury items online because it is not possible?

Not everyone has the time to catch a flight to Paris to purchase a shoe by Vionnet. What happens to such individuals who desire luxury but cannot buy it online? It is a known fact that most luxury purchases globally, still take place in the stores. But as the middle class and upper class grows, salaries increase and more people enter the luxury universe annually. Majority of the new consumers are young, trendy and use technology daily. These consumers have incomes that allow them to purchase luxury products.

It has been viewed that selling online cheapens the value of the luxury brand and the customer does not receive the luxury experience like in the boutique. E-retailing and e-shopping in the universe of luxury need to ensure that they carry the same specifications needed for luxury businesses.

Once-a-upon time, Tom Ford refused photographers to take pictures during his runway shows. He feared that these pictures would go online. That was then, his mind has now changed.

There are online successes.

Net-a-Porter launched by Natalie Massenet in 2000, is an online store based in London, e-retailing luxury clothing, apparel and accessories.

Natalie is a former magazine journalist and stylist who saw the link between luxury and online stores. The online store is famous for its packaging in black boxes and silk ribbons, while the items purchased are placed in layers of soft tissues paper.


Mr Porter

The delivery came with the ultimate customer service expected of a luxury business. In 2009, after a turnover of $200 million, Richemont, the Swiss Luxury Group, purchased the company after valuing it at $530 million. After the success of Net-a-Porter, she launched Mr. Porter for men.

Her business stocks more than 300 brands ranging from Jimmy Choo, Givenchy, Balmain, Chloe. Porter magazine was launched this year still embracing technology. Ironically, the publication is sold in print copies with the use of shopable technology. The items featured can be purchased from Net-a-Porter via an app, which allows readers to scan and shop items from the magazine’s pages.

Burberry has been a fashion house leading in the use of technology. London Fashion Week in 2012 was streamed live to Burberry stores and laptops. RFID (radio frequency identification) tags and interactive screens are fitted to the customer’s garments thus allowing the customer to flash the clothes in front of interactive screens to see further details of the product such as the lining of the raincoat, a shoe or the inside of the handbag.

More potential buyers are browsing online, and then coming into the stores to make their purchase, so it makes sense for the two platforms to have the same stock organized in the same way (an organizational feat that has defeated many retailers). In the stores, the sales staff use iPad customized to Burberry, to enable the client to locate the products he or she may require.

Luxury businesses in Africa have embraced technology on the onset of their businesses. Luminance Online in South Africa that retails luxury products from Africa and abroad has given the client the opportunity to purchase items online as well as make a booking for a tailored service appointment.

YSWARA a luxury house that produces and retails various products from tea to home ware, and artisan jewelry. It retails its African luxury products all over the world, enabling the business to capture that digital savvy client who lacks the time to purchase physically from the store.



It is an interesting argument….do you prefer to buy a Chanel bag in the store and receive all the exquisite luxurious customer service in their Chanel private salons or do you prefer to purchase a Givenchy wallet for

men from Mr. Porter and receive it in a luxurious packaging at your desk, without you having to take a trip to the nearest Givenchy store in Europe?

What’s you preference?

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