In Episode 2 of our podcast, The Retail Revelation, we were given an insight into digital from a luxury brand perspective. It sometimes appears that many luxury brands, particularly heritage brands, are a little unclear about the best way to navigate through the all-important digital landscape.

Developing a luxury brand presents several challenges, which are only exacerbated in the digital arena. Abigail Hayhoe, Head of Marketing & Communication at House of Garrard, is perfectly placed to share her expertise on this topic, having a strong background herself with brands in the luxury space.

So, what are the key challenges that are faced when trying to develop a luxury brand in the digital age?

1. How to translate the physical nature of the luxury experience

House of Garrard itself is a classic example of a heritage brand. Garrard, first commissioned by Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1735, is the longest serving jeweller in the world. Queen Victoria appointed House of Garrard as crown jeweller in 1843, and every British monarch since has been served by the company.

But when it comes to luxury and heritage, much of the appeal comes from the physical nature of the luxury brand experience. This creates a challenge. Abigail Hayhoe explains: “So you want to see and feel the craftsmanship, the richness of materials and receive a level of customer service and brand experience in person. That’s offered so well in the elegant, exclusive setting of a store, but can’t as easily be translated in the click of a button through the digital space in a way that’s also consistent with brand values.”

2. Fear of digital and social

The second challenge that Abigail Hayhoe identifies as a hurdle luxury brands face is fear. Luxury brands recognise, of course, the need to move online, but they are often slowest to adopt digital and social.

Fear holds luxury brands back – fear of getting it wrong and fear of losing control. She says, “In many ways that fear is understandable. The reputation that these brands have really been cultivated for, in our case, over centuries.”

3. Delivering an experience that is global, and local

Another challenge faced by luxury brands as they try to develop online is accessibility. As digital is accessible to all it is difficult to be global and local at the same time, adapting and reflecting local cultural nuances. Abigail Hayhoe believes that is far easier to manage brand positioning in a physical luxury store, as customers can be managed on a one-on-one basis. But she explains that online “you really have to have one overarching tone of voice, one brand image and one experience that also reflects the in-store culture.”

4. Finding the right influencers

Abigail Hayhoe sees influencers as something to be excited by and wary of at the same time. She believes that it is important that luxury brands are not seduced by the numbers – the reach that an influencer has. As she explains: “because a lot of social media followers doesn’t mean that it’s the right influencer for your brand.”

5. Keeping it authentic

Authenticity is important to luxury brands and it is vital that this is shown through social. Burberry’s The Art of the Trench campaign was a fantastic example of this. It featured a micro-site allowing users to submit pictures of themselves wearing Burberry trench coats. Abigail Hayhoe sees the true value of this approach: “Mixing that user generated content with some curated content was a really good way to maximize reach whilst keeping it authentic.”

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