In 2011, retail was still a viable route to market for most luxury brands. Internet sales were rising but, at that time, online shoppers were reluctant to purchase expensive items sight unseen over the internet.

That reluctance has now all but disappeared. Around £17bn work of luxury goods are sold online, equivalent to 8% of all sales worldwide.

The mobile phones most of us used 10 years ago bear no relation to the black slab portable touchscreen computers we carry around on which we can find and compare luxury items and everything else within seconds.

In a new report entitled ‘The Future of Luxury’ written by students of the International Master in Luxury Management (IMLUX) programme, 80% of sales are now “digitally influenced” compared with 45% just seven years ago.

What does this mean? On individuals’ buying journeys, four in five purchasers accessed “digital touchpoints” at least twice before purchasing a product or service. Brands have no control over some of those touchpoints – they are bloggers, influencers, and social media peers consumers look to for advice.

Luxury brands are investing much greater sums of money in these newer forms of marketing with the goal of increasing sales and forging meaningful online connections with more of their target demographic.

In this article, we reflect on the most successful approaches taken to digital marketing by luxury brands with a specific focus on their websites and their social media campaigns.

Search engine optimisation

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Established brands have an in-built advantage when people are searching for them or their best-known products online.

Take the examples of Pandora and Tiffany’s – two very successful brands.

For terms like “Pandora bracelets”, “Pandora charms”, “Tiffany engagement rings”, and “Tiffany’s necklaces”, both brands finish in first place in the organic (not paid for) search results on Google.

Neither company fell into the trap that many well-known firms do of relying on the power and recognizability of their brands to drive traffic to their sites.

Pandora’s keyword-driven SEO strategy and tightly-structured URLs result in them finishing first for non-brand-specific terms like “promise rings”, “earrings”, “bracelets” and “charms”. Likewise, Tiffany’s finishes first for “women jewelry”, “shop jewelry”, and “real pearls necklace”.

Your keyword strategy should focus on winning terms that match your product range but don’t rely on a customer using your brand name as part of their search query. This gives you the opportunity not only to compete with other luxury brands but to sell to consumers who can afford your products and, for whatever reason, wouldn’t have used your brand name when ready to purchase a particular product.

Telling your brand story through great content

Google prefers sites that are consistently updated and added to, just like Pandora and Tiffany’s add to theirs with regular blog posts.

Ideally, much of your written content should be pillar content – content so thorough and generous with its information that others link to it.

Articles about your products, articles about the history of the company, articles providing visitors with the information they need to make an informed purchase. Share with visitors the reason your company exists as well as what it is that you do and why.

Video marketing also offers exciting opportunities. For example, a luxury tour operator may want to create extensively written articles about the destinations they take clients to – articles about a destination’s history, its finest restaurants, local opportunities to appreciate art, and more backed up with a 2-3 minute to immerse their visitors even more.

Whether text, imagery, or videos, extra value can be extracted from content again and again by promoting it via your social media channels and email newsletters.

Generate excitement for your products

Some brands want to sell online but others require further contact with a prospect before a sale takes place.

When someone visits a page where a sale can take place or when they can leave their contact details for follow-up, assume that this may be the last time you’ll ever see them.

Use persuasive text, beautiful images, and engaging videos to showcase your brand and explain why the product or service someone is interested in is the right choice. Back that up, if possible, with testimonials from customers and reviewers to show the visitor why others think your brand and what you sell was the right choice for them too. After all, part of any luxury brand’s appeal is “social proof”.

Apple may or may not be a luxury brand – the debate continues. However, it may just be a phone but the way they present the iPhone 13 Pro on their site is one of the reasons that many consider their products as top-of-the-range, beautiful, and luxurious.

Building your email list

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Consider every visitor as an opportunity to make a lasting connection by inviting them to subscribe to your email newsletter.

Email marketing delivers a very high return – up to 2,500%. Many companies use email marketing as an opportunity to send promotion after promotion to their subscribers but email marketing for luxury brands should be different. With all luxury products and services, part of the reason why people purchase them is that they’re subscribing to a lifestyle as well as enjoying the benefits of the product or service.

The emails your clients receive should look and feel just as much instinctively part of your company as any direct mail campaign you would send out. The email’s layout, choice of words (particularly in the subject line), and overall aesthetic should feel intrinsically part of your overall external communications and marcomms approach.

Creating a feeling of exclusivity

Early concerns that an online presence would somehow dilute the exclusivity of luxury products and services have proven to be unfounded. Some argue that the opposite may, in fact, be true.

If one of the functions of owning luxury products is to display status to others, the case could be made that owners of luxury products now have higher perceived status than ever before.

This is because the internet has greatly increased the public’s awareness of the quality of these products and their exclusivity of individual brands. This new visibility has created new demand for these products and services but, because the price they’re offered at is often an insurmountable barrier to entry for most, that demand remains unsatisfied. This lack of satisfaction creates a feedback loop where, over time, the perceived exclusivity increases.

For your actual customers, you can a feeling of exclusivity online through a mixture of:

  • loyalty perks,
  • concierge services (like those offered by luxury magazine SWM to its clients), and
  • online private members groups.

If your company has the branch network to support it, combining the online and offline worlds by inviting your most important clients to events like launch parties where they can meet and interact with other like-minded advocates will further develop their existing loyalty and increase the probability of selling more often to this important cohort.

Attractive, functional UX

Consumers now demand that all companies’ websites are accessible on whatever device they’re using.

For a standard website, 55% of their traffic comes from mobile phones. People visiting the desktop version of a website stay 4 minutes and 50 seconds longer on a site than those visiting the mobile version.

Mobile users value ease of navigation around a website and they don’t expect to have to work particularly hard to find the information they want.

Luxury brand social media

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According to the Business of Fashion, luxury clients post twice as much as the average user, interact three times more, and consume five time as much content. Gen Z will be responsible for 45% of luxury brands’ sales in 2025 spending up to six hours of their weeks doing online shopping.

Visual social networks

Many luxury products are admired for their physical appearance as well as the materials they’re made from. Likewise, luxury service providers offer their clients moments and experiences they can share with their friends and followers.

Instagram offers brands the opportunity to tell their story through images and videos. You can encourage your followers and clients to share their experiences with other followers and clients through user-generated content to create a community.

Pinterest’s 460 million users are worth targeting for luxury brands.

Using social media to generate sales and website traffic

For luxury brands comfortable with the idea of selling their products and services via social media platforms, Facebook Ads can deliver highly targeted advertising to your key audiences which they can act upon immediately to order from you.

Social media offers all companies including luxury brands the opportunity to connect on a personal level with its new and future client base. While the vast majority of your content should not be nakedly commercial in that it’s there to drive new sales and traffic to your website, some of it should be.

While you address new and future clients on Facebook and Instagram, your company is a guest on a platform over which you have no control over how it works or the rules governing it. Encouraging social media followers to come to your site where you do have full control gives you the opportunity to capture their direct contact details either through newsletter subscription or when they purchase from you.