Digital attracts luxury groups in UK

23 November 2012

LONDON: Brands and retailers in the UK luxury sector are increasingly embracing ecommerce, social media and mobile to engage consumers.

Drapers, the trade title, polled luxury brands, agents and retailers, some 93.4% of which thought their online business would grow in the next year, and 53.9% pegged the rate of expansion at over 10%.

Another 56% said this channel was their biggest growth area, and every company proved willing for their goods to be sold via a stockists' website, as past "reservations" about the internet disappear.

Mark Henderson, non-executive chairman of Gieves & Hawkes, the tailor, argued ordering online and collect items in stores held "phenomenal" potential.

"The majority of luxury purchases are pre-considered and that is an enormous opportunity for luxury retailers ... because shopping is an experience of temptation," he said.

Fully 97.1% of luxury brands are also active on Twitter and 94.3% use Facebook. Pinterest logged 57.1% here, while Instagram and Google+ both registered 37.1%.

"Pinterest seems to have the highest level of engagement where the engagement is very product-focused. Facebook is harder - people are engaging with friends and family on it," said Martin Newman, chief executive of Practicology, the consultancy.

The main priorities among operators leveraging social platforms included building brand awareness on 97.1%, ahead of marketing on 77.1%, customer service on 62.9% and sales on 45.7%.

"A lot of luxury brands are reticent about engaging with their consumers via social media, as it can be difficult to retain control," said Guy Salter, deputy chairman of Walpole, the industry group. "Everyone is still learning."

Elsewhere, a 76.5% share of the featured firms boasted a mobile-optimised website, while 41.2% possessed mobile apps and 35.3% utilised QR codes. Only 9%, however, deployed all three of these tools.

More broadly, a 51.4% majority of interviewees invested in digital marketing, with this area the top priority for brand owners, and a top three priority for multiple retailers and department stores.

"It's good to see that businesses have continued to invest in their online presence and digital marketing, although it would have been shortsighted not to do so, as luxury brands' ability to produce high-quality content gives them an advantage," said Salter.

Data sourced from Drapers; additional content by Warc staff