10: Distribution and the Internet Dilemma

In recent years, there has been an explosion in premium and luxury brands, with shops and malls opening up in many communities.

This seems both consistent with luxury (products being sold in branded shops rather than at general merchandisers) and yet inconsistent wit luxury (which maintains tight distribution and makes customers come to the brand).

As such, the topic of distribution merits further consideration.

Luxury in distribution

The author notes that customer experience is coming into fashion in the mass market, but has long been a primary concern of the luxury market: the shop is not merely a storehouse where a customer fetches a desired product, but an environment in which "the client can live the brand."

The retail industry is another area that has long been focused on the customer experience: when customers can buy the same product in several shops, the customer experience is what drives their choice to purchase from a particular one.

Distribution is also the most awkward part of the business to manage on a daily basis: it is fairly simple, by comparison, to ensure standards of quality in manufacturing. Distribution must be managed in multiple locations, sometimes handled by other firms, and it cannot be measured before it is delivered. A bad product can be caught before it leaves the factory, but when a customer has a bad experience the damage has been done.

As such, distribution is the weak link of many luxury brands, "where many brands die or lose their status."

It is the reason that luxury brands pay astronomical amounts to "build cathedrals on the most desirable main streets of the world" and refuse to sell their wares in the cinderblock monstrosities that are suburban shopping malls.

Also consider that the relationship to the luxury customer does not begin and end at the point of sale, but in the ongoing service and support that the customer will require. When a garment must be tailored, the battery in a watch replaced, the oil in a vehicle must be changed, these tasks are often ignored by the brand, but become part of the customer experience.

You sell to someone before you sell something

Another critical concept for luxury is that the provider is not selling a product, but selling a customer on the product. It is much more intimate and personal than mass market sales.

Contrary to popular belief, a luxury salesperson must be warm, friendly, and personable instead of cold and remote - at least insofar as dealing with qualified customers is concerned. It is important that luxury "offer human warmth in an aggressive and impersonal world."

The customer who enters a boutique often arrives without a specific idea of what they will buy, whether shopping for herself or purchasing a gift. She is attracted to the brand and general merchandise type, but places a great deal of trust in the salesperson's guidance - and when a purchase is successful, forms a relationship with the salesman. Hence the importance of stability in retail, an area in which many brands fail.

Specific advice is to ensure the client shops in a calm environment without sales pressure, and feels a sense of security and confidence in the purchase that will mitigate or eliminate later regrets. Luxury is an ongoing experience, not a rash decision.

It is the price, not the product, that is sold to the client

In supermarkets and discount stores, shoppers are "assaulted" by large and garish signs that announce the low prices of products. Whether it's the price of a given item or a general "buy one get one free" promotion, it is still about the cost of an item. If you want product information, you will have to roam the store looking for a salesperson, who often doesn't know the answers to your questions.

The situation is quite the opposite in a luxury shop: the prices are invisible, and staff are accessible, knowledgeable, and helpful in providing any information you may need about the product. A shopper may have the general impression that she has wandered into an art gallery where objects are displayed for admiration, rather than for sale. If you wish to know anything about the price, you have to ask, and salespeople are generally discreet to the point of being vague.

The role of salesmen is not to push product, but to share a vision of the brand in all its mystery and wonder. Discussion of price is delayed until the clients have a sufficiently positive impression, such that they will not be shocked by a high price given the qualities of the brand it is purchasing.

Ultimately, all of the build-up is to sell the price of luxury. And in many instances, it is the only thing a salesman has to justify, as customers who enter a luxury boutique do not generally stray in, but seek it out, having already learned about and developed an admiration for the brand.

As mentioned previously, it is not uncommon in luxury to never discuss the price at all - the clientele have significant wealth, and can afford whatever it costs. Some sign the bill without looking at the price at all.

The sales personnel should never earn direct sales commission

One specific prohibition for managing luxury retail: the sales personnel should not work for commission. This makes them overly aggressive and desperate to close, which are not qualities that suit a luxury brand.

Luxury stands aloof, expecting to be admired for what it is, and not begging for attention. It has no fear of being unwanted, and can be selective of its customers: those who have the financial means to afford it and tastes refined enough to want it.

If the customer doesn't buy right away, the salesman doesn't panic: if they are the right kind of customer for the brand, they will come back later. If they do not, then they are not the right kind of customer.

Distribution: dominate clients, but respect them

In any relationship, there is some degree of dominance: a parent may respect their adult children while still seeking to have the upper hand in interacting with them.

For mass-market goods, the customer is usually in the position of dominance, particularly when the market is highly competitive and the customer has many options to serve his needs, the brand must beg for the customer's attention.

For luxury products, the brand must maintain the position of dominance, as a luxury item is a unique and difficult to obtain, and customers are expected to come to the brand.

In terms of distribution, a luxury product must be sought out. It does not make an effort to be in a location convenient to the client, but expects clients to undertake the effort to come to the shop, even when it is a relatively arduous journey - such as visiting a boutique in Paris.

It stands to note that the client does not feel demeaned by having to go to the brand. The luxury object is a reward for having undertaken a sort of pilgrimage or quest, and it is understood the effort that the client puts into obtaining it is part of the price they must pay - and a price that others are unable or unwilling to pay, reinforcing a sense of exclusivity and qualification to own.

This is also evident in the sales environment, in which the customer does not merely grab one of many off the rack and tote it to a cashier, but must negotiate with a salesperson who will allow them to handle the item - either showing them a floor model but bringing the item from the back of the shop, or unlocking a display case to give the buyer access.

It is a matter of some subtlety, which must be judiciously handled so that the customer still feels respected. Ultimately, it is the brand and not the salesperson that must dominate the salesperson. The luxury salesperson must exercise charm and finesse, and not arrogance or pretension.

This is much harder to achieve than it might seem, and many luxury brands struggle to achieve the right balance. Vuitton put considerable effort into redesigning their retail stores in the 1980s, as there were constant complaints about the arrogance of the staff and the sterility of the shops, and significant care was taken in redesigning the shops and retraining the clerks to ensure that the experience was more pleasant, without going to the opposite extreme.

Distributing is communicating

Distribution (EN: by which I believe the authors mean "retail" in this section) communicates inform about about a brand. The sensory stimulation of the retail environment, and whether a brand chooses to be located in that environment at all, create an impression of the brand.

The retail environment reflects "the universe of the brand" - not in the sense that every detail of the brand is expressed, but in the sense that it transports the customer to a realm in which the brand exists. The "megastore" concept is an environment in which the customer is dominant, choosing among brands that are desperate for their attention.

The luxury boutique is a temple in which the customer comes to worship the brand, and to take away some relic that demonstrates their adoration and devotion. Every element of the retail environment reinforces this message.

Consider the window display of a luxury store, as opposed to a mass market one. The window is not crowded with many items with price tags in full view. It instead has a small number of items, displayed in a way that suggests they are to be venerated, like religious artifacts.

Consider merchandizing: whether products are piled up on shelves or hung in racks and crowded with other merchandise, or whether the merchandising continues the theme of the shop window.

In that sense, the luxury retail environment is not a warehouse full of needed goods - it takes on the character of a temple, an art gallery, and a museum. It is the stage on which performance art is executed, the object of which is the glorification of the brand.

The store also communicates the price level of the product - again, a salesman will disclose the exact price on request, but the retail environment communicates its level without using numbers or words, but instead leveraging location, architecture, and interior design.

There is some danger in going overboard, creating a retail environment that makes the brand seem unapproachable. Customers will refuse to enter a store that seems too pretentious in relation to the brand's standing.

A luxury purchase is a lengthy act

Mass market brands focus on efficiency of purchasing - the customer must make an immediate decision, an immediate purchase, and take immediate possession of the merchandise - so that many customers can be served in the least amount of time.

Luxury, by contrast, is far more leisurely:

The post-purchase is likely the most important to a luxury brand. A brand that consumers regret buying is a brand they will not buy again, and given that the number of consumers in the luxury market is very small, a brand must count on repeat business because there are not hordes of first-time buyers to be won, and because members of the market speak to and influence one another.

A specific example: consider the booklets that accompany the product, which contain not only instructions for use and maintenance, but also beautify images of the brand universe and details about the quality of the product. This information reminds the customer of the value of the product, informs him of facets he might not have considered, and gives him the information he needs to justify his purchase to others (which is implicit in giving recommendations).

To succeed in selling luxury, a manager must:

The authors express distaste for database-driven customer relationship management because it is mechanized and superficial - a poor substitute for a personal human relationship. Such tools can be leveraged for keeping track of mundane details, but are not sufficient to luxury marketing.

Distribution is luxury's weak link

For mass-market products, distribution is a fairly simple matter because firms simply want to get their product into the hands of as many consumers as possible and seem indifferent to the quality of the customer experience.

For a luxury brand, customer experience is of the utmost importance, and distribution cannot be aggressively pursued to the detriment of experience. Some of the specific issues are considered:

Personalized distribution

Customer service is highly personalized, and while luxury brands provide significant training to ensure that those involved in distribution act in accordance to the brand's image and values, it is not possible to develop a standardized instruction manual for sales.

Because the cost of training is high, there are "diseconomies of scale" - every retail outlet involves a significant outlay for the physical shop and personnel to staff it.

Also consider that widespread distribution cheapens a product: its item price may remain the same but the cost of travelling to obtain it is eliminated, diminishing its exclusivity and attracting a lower rank of customer.

Day-to-day management

Aside of the difficulty of establishing additional retail outlets, managing their operations becomes more difficult: there are more people representing the brand, and a hierarchy of management through which the values of the brand can be diluted or misinterpreted. Where a brand must partner with local firms to support their operations, the problem is further compounded.

It is particularly a problem on the international level: opening a shop in a foreign culture means acquiring employees who don't speak the same language (literally) as the brand's producers and who do not understand the culture of the brand.

If the client is to perceive the brand's universe clearly, it is essential that he communicate with people who are form the same culture as the brand - and are at the same time able to speak to the values of the local culture. Bicultural people are even more rare and expensive than bilingual ones.

The challenges of globalization of luxury retail

Luxury brands must often compete by extending their distribution deeper in each country to maintain a presence among their competitors. A retail outlet is likened to a cathedral that preaches the gospel of the brand - and where a competitor is preaching unopposed, they are building their audience by stealing yours.

As such, luxury brands extend their physical presence from their base location to tier-one cities. Some have spread to tier-two, and a few have even reached tier-three. This brings with it the danger of diffusion and dilution, so it is a delicate balance.

Ideally, a luxury brand should take the perspective of "one brand for one world" when it comes to globalization. Especially since luxury clients are affluent and travel, they expect to encounter the same brand experience in Tokyo as they do in Paris or Milan. As such, customer data must be global - but more importantly, the store experience must be global, rather than customized to the local market.

This is a particular problem for brands that seek to become international - to succeed in the local market, they must adapt to local customs; but to retain their identities, they must refuse to adapt in ways that are critical to the identity of the brand.

The choice of a new sales point cannot be delegated

For luxury brands, opening a new location is a significant event, and the authors suggest that this should never be done without a personal in-depth visit by the CEO or key members of the board. It should not be delegated even to a senior regional vice-president.

Aside of determining whether the brand is economically viable in a given market, it is important to ensure that the market will not be detrimental to the brand, which requires consideration at the very highest level of the organization.

When a mistake is made, the damage is irreversible: withdrawing from a market is an embarrassment to the brand, contractual obligations to local firms are difficult to break, and the consumer perception of a brand, once marred, cannot be healed without leaving a scar. The same can be said of licensing a brand.

Distribution must manage rarity

Rarity is essential to luxury: an item is only luxury if it is rare and unusual. Widespread distribution undermines this rarity: the object becomes easier to obtain: the price may still be high, but a high price is not luxury.

An interesting situation arises when people below the luxury class can, with some difficulty, obtain luxury products: such people are likely to be pretensions and snobby, using the item as a prop to suggest they belong to a class above their peers - and this arrogance and snobbishness accrues to the brand. An item that can be easily had in the local market, albeit as a high price, is in danger of falling into this zone.

The necessity of travelling to obtain a luxury item and the ability to wait to possess it are also qualifiers that suggest that the individual who owns a luxury item deserves it and has earned the privilege of having it. By removing those barriers, distribution diminishes the esteem of the brand.

Even (or especially) when there are no functional barriers to making an item widely available, its rarity must be managed by a number of factors: there should be few sales points in carefully selected locations.

Distribution protects you from competition

Customers may decide to purchase a luxury item of one brand or another, but that does not mean that luxury brands compete as retail brands do. In essence, a luxury brand must meet a certain standard to be considered "luxury" and two brands that meet those standards are seen as peers, on the same level as one another.

A true luxury customer does not have to choose between one brand an another - she has the means to obtain both if she so pleases. She can even travel to Paris to purchase one and Tokyo to purchase another.

However, there is some difficulty in building esteem for the brand, and desire for it, if a brand is absent from the market. Recall the analogy of the shop to a cathedral - and while clients may be aware of other religions, they tend to follow the one that has a cathedral in their vicinity, and learn from a very young age to revere it. There is no functional reason one religion is better than another, but it's simply a matter of choice.

Consequently, the proximity of two stores for luxury brands is not an issue - they are both luxury, and are both in the same area, and proximity is mutually reinforcing. However, the absence of a store for a given brand in a luxury district implies that it is not a peer - the goal of being there is not to be better than other brands, but to be among them as an equal.

Luxury and mode of distribution

The mode in which a product is distributed is a reflection on the brand. It is influenced the purposeful choice of management to position the brand by its distribution, but ultimately becomes the perception of the customer that a brand is associated to its mode of distribution.

The brand boutique

In luxury, the first distribution we think of is a single shop where the brand is sold. This is in fact the birthplace of every brand, prior to expanding into wider markets, and even for non-luxury brands, there is preference given to a local provider, and a level of esteem accrues to a product that has been brought home from a distant and exclusive location. The reverence for "foreign" products derives from rarity in the local market, and the value of an item that was "bought at a little shop in Paris" elevates the status of both product and owner.

Boutique management enables the producer to tightly control the retail experience, and its generally accepted that am owner/producer who operates his own store keeps a closer eye on quality and is more attentive to the desires of its customers.

It's also implicit that a single store has high economic efficiency: because customers travel to the store, the store does not undertake the costs of shipping its products to retail outlets, and its expenses are focused on fabrication of a high-quality product. Brands in wider distribution must increase their price due to distribution costs (same quality, higher price) or lower the quality of the product to be able to keep the price low, or some combination of both. A boutique is not faced with such compromises.

Another major advantage is the human element: when the owner is selling his product directly to the customer, he is highly attentive to the needs of customers in the fabrication of the item. When a item is sold through a distribution chain, the salesman and store manager are only concerned with pushing product, and customer feedback is unlikely to influence (or even be heard by) the producer.

One final point: distribution through a single store is a highly effective defense against counterfeiters. For the customer who wants to own the genuine article, he knows that any location other than the boutique is dubious.

As such, the boutique is the ultimate distribution system for luxury products and any other form involves some level of compromise for the brand. That is, widespread distribution immediately diminishes luxury because the brand is reaching out to customers, rather than insisting that customers come to it.

Exclusive distribution

Exclusive distribution makes the brand available in the client's vicinity, but in what is presumed to be a single location in a given market. This can be through a brand boutique, or through an independent retailer who operates a brand-specific store that is subject to tight control by the brand.

Luxury automobile dealerships are likely the best example of an exclusive distribution network, because a larger market may have a Ferrari dealership, whereas a smaller market may not have sufficient customers to support the brand, such that a "luxury dealership" may offer several brands of vehicle.

The greatest advantage of exclusive distribution is that the risk is shared with independent franchise owners, meaning much lower overhead cost to the brand.

Selective distribution

The primary difference between exclusive and selective distribution is that the producer has less control and less choice in his distribution network.

Consider Rolex, for example, which seeks to be sold in upscale jewelry stores: many stores in a given community may stock its merchandise, and they generally carry other brands as well.

The brand has less ability to control its image and protect its codes: while being in a luxury retail environment maintains its esteem, it does so in a more general way: it does not have control over merchandising or personnel.

For many brands, selective distribution represents an exit from luxury: not only are the brands far too convenient to the consumer, but distributers who sell multiple brands do not represent each brand with great fidelity to the dream, and may even encourage comparison. The retailer would just as happily sell a different brand rather than working to get the client to understand the quality of the brand.

There is also a significant danger in attempting to use selective distribution to test the appetite of the market: the brand becomes subject to price comparisons among retailers - and when the brand appeals to bargain-shoppers, it has clearly exited the luxury universe.

The authors use the example of perfumes and cosmetics as an entire product category that has fallen from luxury: there is little to no control over the product's retailing, retailers compete on price for the same object, there are many Web sites that tout them as a cheap commodity, and tactics such as "gift with purchase" are widely used.

At-home sales

At-home sales is mentioned briefly "for the sake of completeness," as this was luxury's original mode of sale: the artisan had no store but travelled to the client's home to take the order and delivered the merchandise there. It was the ultimate in service to do so, and maintained the discretion and security of the client.

(EN: this is not entirely extinct, though nearly so. In particular, some services are still sold in the home. Interior design is an obvious model - while the premium market still involves visiting a shop or studio to purchase items to be delivered, there are others who visit the homes of their clients during the pre-sales phase.)

Luxury and digital distribution (the Internet dilemma)

There is significant pressure on every level to sell products through the Web or social media. It's widely helped that any brand that isn't sold online is old-fashioned and will eventually become extinct.

While this is true for mass-market brands, luxury is not a follower of others. Luxury brands want to be worshipped and revered by the masses, but remain available only to the selected few. However, it's also noted that younger generations are heavy users of digital media and have difficulty understanding the absence of their favorite brands in the digital world. The authors insist that "being part of something doesn't mean stupidly following the crowd."

In all, the digital world is a very bad fit for luxury:

When luxury considers entering the digital world, it must resolve dilemmas such as these while maintaining the prestige and identity, carefully limiting its involvement.

A luxury product must communicate via the internet, but should not be sold there

The Internet is "obviously a perfect way of increasing brand awareness" and promoting their legends to build their credibility with luxury customers and the envy of those who do not fall into that group.

On the other hand, selling a luxury product online is very dangerous in that it provides immediate access to too many non-qualified people through a channel that does not provide a customer experience that is in line with that provide in their boutiques, the value of the brand, and the qualifications for being luxury.

The only instances in which online selling in justified is in the introductory stage: a new luxury brand needs to find its first customers, or an established brand wishes to generate business by selling extension/licensed products that are not the main line to customers who are not its normal market, but may become so.

It's important to consider that luxury seeks to make a high margin and sell to a few customers. The brand must convey a certain image at every touch point to justify itself, and the Internet is contrary to the interests of luxury.

Luxury must resist the temptation to make money, fast and easy, by selling online, because it is contrary to the long-term interests of the brand.

(EN: The authors stumble about on this topic, having made an emphatic statement, yet conceding that some "luxury" brands engage in online sales. For some examples [Gucci/Armani] my sense is they are incorrect in considering the brands to still be luxury, and in others my sense is that the brands are making a mistake by selling online, though their status has not yet been eroded - but eventually will be.)

A brief list of dilemmas was presented in the previous section. The authors expand on a few of them.

First: Luxury is intensely personal, whereas the Internet is anonymous. Not only does the Internet completely eliminate the personal interaction between a representative of the brand and the customer, it also depersonalizes the brand itself. It can be used as a convenient method of making contact with a customer who already has a personal relationship (service after the sale) but does not support the initial formation of the personal link to the brand.First: Second: Luxury is sensual, whereas the Internet is artificial. At first, it would seem that the eyes and ears are well served on the Internet, but only in a superficial way. The "virtual" world is not as rich and detailed as the real world, nor as credible. The tactile sense is especially important to appreciating the quality of a luxury product, and the scent/taste senses my be seldom used, but are very powerful in creating sense memory.Second:

There are few instances where the Internet can be very useful - in providing sights and sounds that the customer would not normally be able to experience. For example, customers do not visit a hotel room or cruise ship cabin before buying, so the ability to see them is an enhancement to the normal shopping experience. But for any other item, particularly one where the customer would touch the merchandise when deciding to purchase, the online depiction is a subtraction and an inferior substitute.

Third: Luxury is distant and seductive, whereas the Internet is garishly explicit. The luxury customer has the sense of being an initiate into a privileged world available to a chosen few. Certainly, some details about luxury are leaked to the public so that they might envy those who are members, but much is concealed.Third:

The price is a primary example: customers who care to know the price immediately are not luxury customers, and while the firm will eventually disclose the price, it is not put on display. In the same sense, a customer who enters the world of luxury finds that the information is slowly revealed as his relationship deepens and he draws closer to obtaining the product.

The Internet, however, puts everything on display immediately, with no more modesty than a whore. There is no romance, nothing to be discovered, and nothing left to the imagination.

Fourth: Luxury is genuine, whereas the Internet is a simulacrum. The core function of luxury is to bring an artifact of the dream world into reality, and the product itself is a holy and otherworldly artifact that can be seen and touched, inspiring the imagination. The Internet meanwhile is a reflection of base reality, and not a very convincing one: nobody regards a "Facebook friend" as the equivalent of a real friend (or even that a Facebook profile represents the full reality of a real person).Fourth:

As such, the Internet is an excellent place for a standard or premium product to show off a doctored-up image and a romanticized description that elevates it from reality and leads to disappointment. But a luxury product does not need to elevate itself further: it is already luxury, and an artificial depiction can not measure up to the genuine article - but instead, will create doubt that the genuine article is in fact as described.

Fifth: Luxury is exclusive, whereas the Internet is accessible. Exclusivity is important to luxury, as it must be regarded as rare and precious. Not only must it be reserved for a chosen few, but obtaining a luxury item must be difficult if its ownership is to be meaningful. To be sold widely and indiscreetly online diminishes the esteem of a luxury product.Fifth:

Social networks and luxury

The authors are attracted to some of the qualities of social networking that can be supportive of a luxury brand.

First, social networks re-personalize the Internet. While it is possible to fake an identity (which is also done in real life), this is discouraged in social networks. The vast majority of people are presenting their genuine selves, though in a positive light by omitting or accentuating certain details. The same is true of brands.

Second, social networks support the social relevancy of a brand. While anyone can become a follower or a fan, the brand can create a group or a badge that denotes a genuine customer, so others may recognize and envy them for being members of the inner circle. Tight control is necessary to keep this group exclusive.

Third, luxury can communicate more directly with customers to maintain a personal relationship (but again, not to create one). This must be done carefully, such that the customer is communicating with a real person who represents the brand, rather than an anonymous corporate voice of someone (or a team of people who change often) who is hiding behind the brand.

Fourth, social media supports communicating the value of the brand and has, to some degree, restored credibility to the voice of the brand in the online channel. Naturally, luxury must avoid sales promotion and maintain a certain dignity in doing so.

Luxury brands: when, what, and how to sell on the internet

The authors relent slightly on their stance on Internet sales, by suggesting a luxury brand should never sellfreely on the Internet, and consider a few instances in which selling online might be be too damaging to a luxury brand.

The authors relent slightly on their stance on Internet sales, by suggesting a luxury brand should never sellfreely

When you can sell online

For new brands, particularly those of small producers who do not have a significant clientele or sufficient attraction to bring clients to their boutique, selling online can help them to reach a sufficient number of customers and build their market.

It may also be useful for established brands to sell peripheral lines of products, or whose main product is not valuable enough for customers to travel to their shop to make a purchase.

There are also qualified customers who prefer to buy online rather than visiting a physical store, for various reasons such as:

It's also noted that these reservations are particularly pronounced among younger generations, most of whom are not yet qualified to be luxury customers, but will likely continue to use the Internet for shopping when they become qualified.

What you can sell online

The authors remain adamant that the core products must never be sold online, but the customer should be required to make the journey to a physical shop. However, entry products, peripheral products, and accessories may be successfully sold online without diminishing the brand.

For some items, Internet sales are preferable to store sales: it should not be necessary for the owner of a luxury vehicle to visit a dealership to purchase a branded keychain. Given the same example, there are likely many customers who might wish to have a keychain but cannot afford the vehicle, and selling online enables them to get it without physically entering the dealership, where their presence would have a negative impact on qualified customers.

There is a word of caution: non-core products should be sold in limited quantities online. A sufficiently high number of sales of these products endangers the brand's true identity: a winery that sells branded corkscrews online might become mistaken for a corkscrew maker who also happens to sell wine.

It's also suggested that it may be permissible to sell fashion items online, given that the products change with the seasons and it may not be feasible for a luxury customer to make repeated visits to a shop - but strictly speaking, this is a departure from the luxury strategy.

Lastly, the authors note that it might be a good idea for a brand to sell some products online as a defensive maneuver to block unauthorized online retailers and counterfeiters. It is still a bad idea to sell core products online, but an ecommerce presence that sells only accessories and promotes (but does not sell) core merchandise does establish the authenticity of the brand's site, while sending a clear message that other sites are not authorized and may be selling counterfeit merchandise.

How you can sell online

Of greatest importance is that luxury brands may sell passively online - the point is to be found by those who are seeking the brand online, but not to be aggressively promoting sales through the online channel, which is anathematic to luxury.

Ideally, the online store can be leveraged to generate in-store sales. That is, the customer may retrieve product information and communicate with the staff during the shopping process, but will ultimately visit the store to make the purchase and take delivery of the item.

Failing that, a luxury product should be packaged by the brand and delivered to the customer by an authorized person to maintain a sense of exclusivity in the relationship. It may be well and good for mass-market products to be packed in anonymous distribution centers into boxes that are left on the doorstep by a general delivery service, but this is unbecoming to luxury.

Said another way, the goal of selling online should be click-and-brick shopping that integrates some physical aspect of the shop experience into the process.