Latest research from global real estate advisor, Colliers International, reveals that for the first time, evidence is beginning to emerge that improved ability to present products online has encouraged more high-end brands to invest in both their own transactional websites and multi-brand platforms to sell online.

Many high-end fashion businesses were late adopters of comprehensive e-commerce strategies, having dismissed the online channel as unable to provide the same personalised service and opportunity to fully appreciate quality goods that is offered by luxury streets such as Bond Street. In the last couple of years, improved ability to present products online through 360 degree views, greater zoom functionality and the use of video has broken down many of these perceived barriers.

Paul Souber
, Head of Central London Retail at Colliers International says: “In the early days of online retailing, it’s fair to say that luxury retailers viewed the online platform with suspicion and felt it could not deliver the same ‘brand experience’ as their physical stores. However, many have recently had to do a major U-turn and follow their customers into the digital world. There is now an increasing trend for online to mimic the role of a luxury shopping street - offering customers the opportunity to browse and compare products from a range of established brands and newer players, with access to best in class customer service which transcends shopping channels. 
“The unique characteristics of the luxury market necessitate a different approach to e-commerce than for mid-market and even premium retailers. For luxury retailers, getting their online platforms right will probably take longer and more resource as it will require the online experience to have the same sort of experiential quality that their real-world stores already have.”

However, some are still resisting the trend. Within the LVMH Group, Louis Vuitton and Sephora have embraced online, but others, such as Celine, are yet to make their full ranges available via the web.  This may be because there’s evidence that different strands of luxury retailing receive differing traction online. 

A recent report from McKinsey found that for ‘Absolute’ luxury retailers such as Dior, less than four per cent of sales are generated online, whilst for ‘Aspirational’ luxury such as Burberry this figure is higher at 7.5 per cent. At the ‘Affordable’ end of luxury this proportion is higher still, accounting for around 8.5 per cent of sales. For individual brands, with more established online offers, the proportion is higher still: 14 per cent of Mulberry’s 2016 sales were made online in 2016.