The pandemic has fueled a surge in the proportion of luxury items being bought online rather than in physical retail stores, according to a report into the personal luxury goods sector released to coincide with the Altagamma Digital Awards.

Stefania Lazzaroni, General Manager of Altagamma, which represents brands in Italian high-end cultural and creative industries, said the pandemic had led to an acceleration of online sales of personal luxury goods, which have grown to reach 23% of total sales in 2020.

“Digital is turning from a channel for sales and communication in to an environment in which today’s – younger – consumers can live an immersive experience with the brand,” she said.

The study “Digital in the Post-Covid Era” highlighted the way the pandemic accelerated online sales in the Personal Luxury Goods sector:

  • one in four consumers bought online for the first time
  • three out of four people said the shopping experience was a positive one

It forecasts that the penetration of online sales will grow by more than 20% in the next two years and that consumers will become more demanding.

This will require brands to adopt especially adaptive strategies and to take “extreme care in the collection and systemisation of data,” as well as having “a more rapid marketing model in execution, an extreme personalisation of the offer and communication and an increasing attention to the authenticity of the storytelling.”

Research by Contactlab for the report suggested strong acceleration in the online presence of all brands, particularly through the development of tools to facilitate online shopping. And there was evidence of an increase in the use of augmented reality to compensate for customers’ inability to leave home, with virtual visits to stores, and 3D viewing of products purchased and their packaging.

“The luxury sector has been extremely reactive in its response to the COVID-19 catastrophe, accelerating its e-commerce presence on all direct and indirect channels and developing effective tools to facilitate the choice and purchase of goods online,” said Marco Pozzi, Senior Advisor at Contactlab and author of the report.

Elsewhere, Business of Fashion reports that online luxury purchases have taken off among the super-rich. Christie’s auction house reports a 200% increase in online sales in November and December, according to Caroline Ervin, head of e-commerce for Christie’s jewellery department. Last year it hosted four online-only sales in those two months, which carried a high estimate of around $9.5 million. This year there will be 12 with a total high estimate of almost $40 million.

Sotheby’s also says it has already seen a fourfold increase in online sales over 2019, and quintupled its total, which is currently $150.5 million. Jewellery was responsible for $79.7 million of those sales – up 900% on 2019 – and watches for $41.95 million, a 500% rise on last year, the auction house said.

Sourced from Altagamma, Business of Fashion; additional content by WARC staff