High Fashion Goes High Tech to Boost Sales

By Caroline Dobson
Caroline Dobson
Caroline Dobson
November 2, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Rebecca Ferguson arrives for the 'Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women Of The Year Awards 2010' at Banqueting House on November 2, 2010 in London, England.  (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Rebecca Ferguson arrives for the 'Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women Of The Year Awards 2010' at Banqueting House on November 2, 2010 in London, England. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
The marketing trend for big brand names in the fashion industry is opting to invest resources online. High-end fashion leaders such as Armani, Burberry, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy (LVMH) have also chosen to upgrade their online business presence.

There have been innovative campaigns created to maintain a brand’s exclusivity. For instance there were 1,500 viewers that were selected by invitation to access a live stream of the Burberry catwalk during London Fashion Week in its stores.

Social media has also been leveraged, whereby French-owned LVMH utilizes the application “FourSquare” to identify the location of individuals through an iPhone, and visits to its stores will appear as “Vuitton insiders.”

Luxury shoe designer Jimmy Choo has also devised a strategy that provides exclusive opportunities for its customers to be able to purchase limited edition trainers.

Other fashion houses, such as Ralph Lauren, have created a specific iPhone application that enables its customers to design tailor-made orders they can share with others through social media platforms like Facebook for its Rugby brand.

The concept of “shop the runway” technology is powered by Createthe Group, founded by James Gardner, who helped pioneer algorithmic trading when he worked on Wall Street, according to the BBC.

“It’s a very powerful way to acquire long-term relationships with their customers,” Gardner says. “They’re seeing new clothes at the same time as the buyers.”

The Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study, conducted by consulting firm Bain & Company, reports that online luxury goods sales are overperforming overall Web sales and will grow at 20 percent in 2010, to $5.8 billion. Discounted sales account for 30 percent of online, versus 70 percent of online purchases made at full price.

There are still limitations to transferring a luxury brand to the Web. Matt Rhodes, an expert social media strategist for several of high-end travel and fashion companies from FreshNetworks in London, argues that the experience of purchasing high-end products still has merit when it comes to face-to-face service.

“If you’re going to spend US$1,000 on a pair of shoes, you want to have a glass of wine going around, the attention of staff; you want an experience as well as a purchase,” he said. From store design to employee training, luxury firms have invested heavily in building these kinds of experiences for customers, making retail locations feel “less like sales rooms and more like intimate venues,” Rhodes said.

Other luxury brand names embracing technology include BMW to Marc Jacobs when they aim to target a younger demographic where it be an SUV and a men’s fragrance, respectively—the social media campaigns. Even a more classic brand name in fashion Oscar de la Renta, was able to make the use of Twitter to describe a bridal gown at a bridal trunk show taking place at Bergdorf Goodman which resulted in a sale.