Luxury Interactive: A Brand's Biggest Asset Is Its Story
by Amanda McCreary
Less than two weeks after the close of shop.org I found myself on a train down to NYC for Luxury Interactive. The big takeaway from shop.org was Content is Critical to Brand Differentiation, and I expected to hear a similar theme at Luxury Interactive. After the first day of sessions I wasn’t disappointed.
In the big beautiful competitive world of Luxury, brand definition is everything. It’s why a millennial consumer paid $30,000 to purchase a (slightly) used Hermes Birkin bag online from Heritage Auctions. Not being a luxury consumer myself, I had to Google ‘Birkin Bag’ to understand the fuss. According to Wikipedia “the Birkin bag is a handbag by Hermès, handmade in leather and named after actress and singer Jane Birkin. The bag is a symbol of wealth due to its high price and usage by celebrities.” and can run upwards to $150,000. Wow.
Luxury takes brand building to a whole new level. Session after session brand vision was dissected and discussed. One of the first sessions I attended was lead by Johanna Murphy, CMO of Ivanka Trump (and former colleague of mine, although I doubt she remembers me, as I was a lowly email marketing specialist at the time). Johanna started off her presentation by talking about the Ivanka Trump target audience. She’s a digital native, polished, popular and appropriately sexy. She blends her personal and professional lives, is heavily influenced by her friends and, most importantly, responds to stories. And that is the purpose of the new IvankaTrump.com (due to launch in 2 weeks). Tell stories. Create a lifestyle. “Speak to the modern working woman in an authentic way.”
Nowhere in Johanna’s talk did she even mention conversion. Ivanka Trump is a pure lifestyle brand (that you can buy if you want to). As a smart marketer who knows her audience, Johanna knows that this level of luxury is built on desire. Not the desire to be Ivanka Trump specifically, but the desire to include a small piece of her lifestyle in yours. Build the lifestyle, and the sales will follow. As Johanna put it, “content is just as important as commerce today.”
Another one of my favorite sessions featured two online luxury startups, MM Lafleur and Piplette. I was particularly impressed by Sarah LaFleur, founder & CEO of MM Lafleur. Their business model is similar to Stitch Fix, where the user gives the brand all sorts of information about their size and style, and then the brand sends them 4-5 items chosen specifically for them. From there, the user can pay for what they like, and ship back whatever they don’t. Sarah started off by talking about how content has been the biggest differentiator for her, and how “content makes the customer feel like we’re one of them”. From day one, Lafleur has maintained a lifestyle blog specifically designed for that purpose.
The highlight of the conference (for me) was a session called “Romancing the Product – Redefining Luxury eCommerce at Moda Operandi” lead by Keiron McCammon, CTO/Head of Product. Keiron was brought on to solve a particular challenge. Moda Operandi allows consumers to preorder designer collections within an hour of the runway show, as well as sells direct from designers. With that business model, the brand has two distinct commerce needs – preorder and traditional. Keiron inherited a technology nightmare when he started at Moda Operandi. The CMS was fragmented, the technology was inflexible and the site had been patch-worked to the point where the business was doing everything they could simply not to break the site.
From day 1, Keiron envisioned a new commerce platform that focused on romancing the product, telling stories and honoring brands, both the brands they sold onsite and the Moda Operandi brand. “If all we worried about was conversion we’d look a lot like Amazon”. The new website launches in 3-4 weeks, but the picture Keiron painted for us was beautiful. The new site will be full of long form content the user can browse and engage with, rather than a more traditional approach of a separate editorial section. It will be a beautiful experience that brings the excitement of a runway event online. He talked a lot about the iterative approach they’ve taken to the design of the site and the vast amount of user testing done through out the process. They found that while users love content, it must be relevant to the product it surrounds. At the end of the day, the user is on the site to shop, and the content must be extremely contextual and support the users goal of finding the right product for them.
The sessions at Luxury Interactive echoed everything we heard at shop.org, but took it to a deeper place. One that brings the consumer in to the world of Luxury and immerses them in relevant, contextual content.