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Why referral marketing could be the solution for luxury brand websites

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Econsultancy published an article yesterday outlining the key reasons that luxury brands are “going wrong” online – with concerns highlighted over their participation in e-commerce.

In the article, author Graham Charlton argues that luxury brands, from champagne marques to fashion houses, are missing a huge opportunity online, even when you allow for the higher standards they may be expected to meet.
With the pressure to exude status, quality and exclusivity, while delivering a high-class consumer experience, luxury brands are bound to occasionally fall short. Charlton argues: “Online, if you're expecting people to spend big money on big ticket items, then providing a great user experience is the least you can do.” 

Slow load times, rubbish navigation, entry barriers and generally woeful UX, he claims, are some of the big issues, as well as poor on-page SEO and copy.

But one of his major gripes is: “You can't actually buy anything.” Using the Chanel website as an example, Charlton bemoans the lack of e-commerce functionality (despite a products section) – “Never mind the thousands (millions?) of searches with intent to purchase for Chanel products from web users worldwide,” he says.

Indeed. Why are these sites not selling their products online? Well, there are numerous reasons a company – especially a high-end brand – may not want to go down the route of direct selling. Notwithstanding the intricacies of setting up a full e-commerce site, you can’t usually compete with your retailers on price, or on logistics and fulfilment. But the thrust of Charlton’s argument is that, with people searching for your brand and landing on your website, attention has to be paid to the retention and conversion of those customers.

So here’s our suggestion. Without selling directly to customers, or competing with their existing retail partners, brands could become referral marketers for their own goods. By presenting website visitors with product offers (as they appear on third party sites), luxury brands can actually collaborate with their retail partners, increase sales, and make their websites far more useful. Furthermore, they can see where their customers are ultimately buying from, gaining enhanced visibility of the sales process.

It goes beyond the website, of course – once a brand has the data surrounding where and how their offers are being promoted, they can push this information into many other channels, such as email, social media and display advertising. They can even collaborate with individual retail partners to help promote specific product offers and bundles.

Luxury brands may choose colour schemes that don’t work, copy that doesn’t optimise the site, and search bars that blend into the background. But they don’t necessarily have to choose to sell directly. They just need to participate in a way that benefits consumers, partners, and – ultimately – the brand.

Find out more about how our BuyNow solution can help.

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