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August 20, 2021

Redefining Digital Luxury Experiences in Ecommerce

Christian Dreisbach
Christian Dreisbach

What is a luxury experience? There are probably as many answers to that question as there are luxury lovers out there. 

Someone may say it's inhaling a new scent in your favorite brand's flagship store on 5th Avenue. While someone else will claim it's sampling a reserva at that coveted Michelin restaurant. And others yet, that it's the feeling of crisp white sheets in a 5-star hotel by a private beach. 

However different, all these answers have one thing in common: the experience. A luxury experience is basically the concept of experiencing luxury in all its different shapes and forms. 

But what about a digital luxury experience, then? As physical shops, resorts, and restaurants have been forced to shut down during Covid, the question of how to offer luxury experiences online has become more relevant than ever. And as consumer habits most probably have been shifted for good, it's a question that will remain important for luxury brands even after we've all had our last round of jabs. For a growing percentage of luxury shoppers, digital experiences drive purchase decisions. 

Research by McKinsey shows that online experiences and content directly influence more than 45% of luxury purchases. And that number is only expected to keep rising.

Let’s have a look at 7 luxury brands who’ve successfully managed to create innovative online experiences – and how they did it. 

Related reading: Anticipate Disruption With a Digital Experience Strategy

7 Innovative Examples of Digital Luxury Experiences

Balenciaga: a Fashion Video Game

Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga created something truly unique and innovative with their production "Afterworld, The Age of Tomorrow." It's an interactive experience inspired by the world of gaming. 

The game is structured in five different levels, which the player has to walk through. Starting out in a Balenciaga store, players soon exit onto a street, hop onto a bus, which then warps into thin air. Participants are transported to a dark forest, where a white rabbit leads them to a secret rave party. 

The "Afterworld" strikes familiar notes for any gamer but also delivers on some of Balenciaga's central themes, including climate anxiety and eccentric, futuristic power dressing.

Prada: a Virtual Reality 

Prada's virtual reality brand concept, launched in 2020, offers a truly unique online experience. Not only are you able to virtually visit Prada flagship locations in key cities, but you can also go on to explore the cities themselves. 

A more straightforward path to the purchase button does exist for users who are ready to buy. But for those more in the mood for a luxurious Prada experience, the site offers a world of fun things to explore.

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Gucci: the Gucci Garden Roblox Experience

In creating the iconic Gucci Garden Roblox experience, Gucci's creative director Alessandro Michele worked with Roblox developers as well as the Roblox community to create an ephemeral "experience within the experience". 

The Gucci Garden was open to every Roblox user, but only for a limited time period of 14 days. This mirrored how world-building works on the Roblox platform, where players create unique worlds and skins only to later destroy or simply abandon when the moment has passed. 

All at once, Gucci was able to showcase its modern artistic ability, brand and logo, digital wherewithal and hipness with the kids while promoting the celebration of self-expression as the house of Gucci does. It was an unexpected, fun, and highly-adopted way to promote their products and philosophy that resonated exceptionally well with users.  

NFT Art: A New Type Of Luxury Consumption 

You may have read about how the Nyan Cat sold as a unique piece of crypto art for $580,000? Or that a tweet from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold for $2.5 million? 

These are examples of a new type of digital products; so-called NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). Nike was one of the first brands to jump on the NFT train, patenting their "CryptoKicks." It's a system for releasing digital footwear that entails linking physical shoes to virtual versions that can be sold, traded, or stored in an online blockchain "locker." The NFT space is still young, but it holds immense potential for luxury brands where uniqueness and limited editions are essential.

Related reading: NFT Art Sites – A New Revenue Channel For eCommerce Merchants?

Hublot: Virtual Boutiques and Pre-Orders from WeChat

The Swiss watch brand Hublot, owned by the luxury conglomerate LVMH, builds its brand and customer relationships on a set of distinctive values: trust, availability, and flexibility. To translate these values from the physical to the digital world, in 2018, Hublot designed and launched a "virtual" boutique making all products viewable in 3D, along with their technical specifications.

On the online platform, it's possible to communicate in real-time with the Hublot staff without physically entering the boutique. All information is conveyed through different types of multimedia objects: with informative videos showing all the wonders of the technology. The success of this venture was very much a result of how well Hublot managed to translate the quick and accurate customer service from the physical stores – while preserving the element of human connection and the relationship with the customer.

Christian Dior: Branded Snapchat Filters

Another innovative take on bringing a traditional luxury brand online comes from Dior, who've launched branded Snapchat filters that allow customers to try on their products in an AR (augmented reality) setting. 

By scanning a QR code on the Dior website, you're taken to Snapchat and able to experience the new sneaker collection in a way that's more immersive and engaging than scrolling through a webshop. 

Related reading: The Role of QR Codes in Your Ecommerce Strategy

Burberry: Boxing for the Unboxing

One very prominent digital shopping trend that’s been around for quite some time now is the habit of "unboxing" your finds on social media. 

Brands who invest in a superior unboxing experience are rewarded with tons and tons of UGC (User-Generated Content) as fans share the unwrapping of their precious purchases online. This video of a Burberry coat being unboxed showcases this phenomenon, and how well Burberry have adapted their physical packaging to make it appealing for a digital audience. This whole site is dedicated to the unboxing of luxury fashion items.

New Ways of Engaging the Senses Online

The main ways that luxury brands in the past have created a sense of exclusivity were high cost, low quantity, limited "VIP" access and limited time. In today's digital world, those pulse-points still exist, but they are accompanied by and presenting a new set of opportunities. Closed digital communities, invitation-only apps, and early beta groups shift the value from the product to the access. 

How will the culture of digital luxury change when the goods aren't the item of desire? Only experiments will tell. The changing luxury market will be exciting to witness as the allure of boutiques is replaced by virtual online experiences. Brands that focus on the art of the possible and take those digital risks will be rewarded with new and loyal consumers. 

Luxury houses have the unique opportunity to expand their revenue streams beyond branded merchandise to branded experiences, and brands that provide physical experiences can expand on that in digital ways. Imagine if paying to drive your 911 at the Porsche Track Experience were coupled with a digital membership to exclusive merchandise, an app for monthly drops or access to a closed Clubhouse community specific to track drivers. The possibilities are many and unlimited by physical space or constraints.

How Vaimo Can Help

To summarize, 2021 and the coming years will present several challenges for luxury brands but also incredible opportunities. For brands that are brave and willing to experiment, the sky's the limit. There are a number of digital initiatives that will help you innovate and revolutionize the way you offer luxury experiences online. At Vaimo, we're happy to help you both plan and execute them. Get in touch with our team of experts to discuss how we can help you take the next step toward a genuinely modern and mesmerizing digital luxury experience.

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