Digital luxury: Who are 2016’s winners (and losers)?

Balenciaga digital luxury

Luxury was late to the digital party and for the most part hasn’t acquitted itself well ever since. Which is why the regular ContactLab/Exane BNP Paribas reports into just how good the purchasing experience is for consumers is always interesting.

The report looks at factors such as digital touchpoint like abandoned carts, customer service, ease of ordering and general communications, plus physical touchpoint like packaging, delivery and much more.

Last year it did this from a Milanese viewpoint and this year it was New York. So what did it learn?

Well, Balenciaga and Fendi topped the performance ranking this time after ContactLab did its usual practical tests. It bought and returned products from 31 brand websites and five multi brand e-tailers.

Kering (Balenciaga owner) and LVMH (Fendi owner) must be happy as they were joint first. Kering scored again in number three position as Saint Laurent (or is it YSL these days?) took the bronze medal. Chanel and Coach shared fourth place, just missing the medal-winners rostrum.

Dropping back this time were Cartier, which had scored well last year but was in eighth spot this time, plus former high-ranker Louis Vuitton at only number 17. Hugo Boss was a lowly 31. Gucci stayed at number 16.

Burberry and Prada both improved. But given that Burberry was only at number 13 when it prides itself on being very digitally-focused, that’s not great. And poor old Prada only managed a rise to number 27 so its much-talked-about digital turnaround obviously hasn’t kicked in yet.

What’s so interesting about this particular report is that it’s not about the things we often notice first, such as high profile websites or social media engagement; it’s purely about the nuts and bolts of buying and returning goods, because that’s what the customer does and that’s how the customer interacts most with a brand. Given that online accounted for all of luxury’s growth last year and is expected to do so for the next few years at least, you’d think the experience would be prioritised.

You’d also think luxury retailers rather than monobrands might perform better with their long traditions of customer service, but some of those don’t acquit themselves that well. Saks was only in 13th place, Nordstrom 18th, Barneys 26th and Bergdorf Goodman an unimpressive 35th.

Who was the top retailer? Net-a-Porter in sixth place. I must admit, the experience of buying from this company (and its Yoox arm) is generally excellent. It wasn’t always. Many a time I’ve paid extra for Saturday delivery from Yoox only for something to arrive on Monday. While Net-a-Porter once took five months to refund me for an item returned the day after delivery. It was only a small amount and I completely overlooked not getting the refund until it just showed up nearly half a year later.

But that was five years ago, since then the company has shown why it’s the luxury e-tail leader.

“Net-A-Porter is digital native and is extremely consistent in assuring a top luxury performance in the majority of the more than 100 digital and physical touch points we have been evaluating along the online purchasing process,” said Marco Pozzi, senior advisor at ContactLab. He added that US department stores came out better on the digital touch points (especially Nordstrom and Saks) but they’re “average or lagging on physical touch points”.

“It should not be difficult for department stores to improve packaging, fillers, documentation and overall care in order to give a more luxury and less Amazon-like feeling to online customers,” Pozzi said. “Of course this requires focus on the problem, and for sure additional costs.”

The stores do rate highly on returns though, especially Nordstrom, which is unsurprising as multibrand retailers have a long tradition of liberal returns policies while luxury brands themselves are frequently very unforgiving if you change your mind. However, ContactLab said Burberry and Cartier top the returns service rankings.

This post first appeared on, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday.

e-commerce mobile

Apple Pay = Apathy we’re told, but let’s give it time, not time-out

apple pay

Apple Pay is struggling to gain traction outside of the US market, according to research specialist Timetric. The service launched in the US 18 months ago and has proved relatively strong there with most of its total usage of $10.9bn last year coming from Apple’s domestic market.

However, it’s facing resistance from both banks and consumers as well as battling some technical challenges elsewhere, Reuters reported, citing the Timetric research. While the service is reported to be popular among Apple diehards in markets like the UK, China and Australia, it’s failing to win large numbers of new users outside of that core group.

Apple Pay is currently available in six countries and the number of banks offering the service is limited, although it has grown in recent weeks with some new banks signing up in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The $10.9bn total transaction figure is seen as relatively small, especially given the potential size of the mobile payments market. In key market China, around $1trn in mobile payments was processed last year, much of it by Alibaba and Tencent, according to iResearch data.

Part of the problem has been technical issues. In Australia, where Apple Pay only launched last month, there have been a number of technical failures. “Bendigo Bank is experiencing some unforeseen technical issues in accepting Apple Pay payments at selected merchant terminals,” a Bendigo spokeswoman old Reuters.

But Apple said that Bendigo’s experience isn’t representative and that new technology can take time to win over a wide customer base. The company is continuing its push to make Apple Pay a success internationally.

Analysts told Reuters that Apple’s relatively slow country-by-country rollout of the service is a problem for it and sees it coming up against fast-developing mobile payments businesses from domestic banks in markets like the UK, Australia and Canada.

Juniper Research said $14bn was spent via contactless cards in the UK last year with consumers now comfortable with using them. They’re therefore unwilling to make the extra effort to register their cards for Apple Pay so they can use their phone or Apple Watch instead. A similar situation has been seen in Australia with Reuters quoting an unnamed retailer saying uptake had been slow.

This post first appeared on, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

e-commerce Editor's pick social media

Prada dumps the digital dunce’s cap and gets the online message


Following hugely disappointing results posted last week, Prada promised some ideas about how it would turn itself around at a conference call on Monday. The key outcome? It has finally got the digital message, it seems.

And it really needed to. One of the most forward-looking brands on the style front, Prada has long been in the corner of the classroom with a dunce’s cap on as far as digital is concerned (if you’re too young to get that analogy, look it up here).

The company was heavily criticised last year for its digital dunce status in reports by ContactLab and by L2, a position it now seems to realise isn’t good enough.

Chairman Carlo Mazzi started by saying he isn’t seeing any change in consumer behaviour, adding fairly cryptically “especially the new generations”. It can only be assumed this means the brand just isn’t getting through to younger consumers who see digital as key.

Hopefully that won’t be the case for long as head of strategic marketing, Stefano Cantino, said Prada now has a target of doubling e-tail revenues in two years. On the assumption that Prada group e-revenues aren’t currently that big, that may not be too ambitious, but for a brand that has lagged on the digital front, it’s a sign that it has really woken up.

A photo posted by Prada (@prada) on

Multibrand e-stores

Interestingly, it’s not going to feel about in the dark as it aims to boost said e-tail, rather work with experienced partners like Yoox Net-A-Porter. So get ready for more of its product being available in multi brand e-stores. It will also boost its social media efforts and will be on Snapchat by October. While Burberry isn’t likely to be quaking in its very expensive boots just yet, it’s all heading in the right direction, albeit slowly.

The company’s growth should be achieved by adding categories online, such as shoes. But it seems we won’t be seeing clothing for sale online. It really is all about accessories for Prada and in this area it’s also promised lower prices and value for money.

Where does this digital focus and pricing strategy leave physical stores? Directly-operated stores were Prada’s holy grail during the last decade. It opened them at breakneck speed and at very high cost on the world’s key shopping streets. It won’t stop opening stores, but it’ll close some too and aims to boost productivity of each one at the same time. That includes boosting customer service. “Since we have fewer customers coming to our stores we have to treat them very well,” Cantino said.

This post first appeared on, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

business e-commerce Editor's pick

8 unique e-commerce sites you need to bookmark immediately

Bow & Drape
Bow & Drape

As with everything digital – noise is one of the greatest barriers to success. With more players in the space, comes increased difficulty around standing out. E-commerce business is no different.

Responsive mobile sites and extensive product detail – once considered special features – are now points of parity. Ideas like free shipping, blog content and wish lists are commonplace. With consumer expectations at an all-time high, going above and beyond is harder than ever too.

Today, landing the claim of “hidden gem” particularly is no small feat. Up against established names including Net-a-Porter and Zappos, through to Farfetch, Lyst, Zalando and more, start-ups and smaller players must increasingly find ways to differentiate themselves in order to get seen. After all, it’s not just about giving shoppers reasons to visit, but convincing them it’s worth hanging around long enough to spend too.

While the specifics vary, the bulk of the success stories can be summarised under three headings: exclusivity, editorial and user experience. Read on for a highlight of eight lesser-known or particularly unique names worth checking out:

1. Shop-GhostShopghost

For a curator of high-end designer pieces, Shop-Ghost does nothing like its competition. The website is quirky and drunk with dizzied content, but somehow, it works. Tumblr-style clustered graphics are met with fragmented thoughts in “blog posts” that suggest pieces to fit the mood. The website is not searchable, does not bother with filters and offers anything BUT a clean interface. The zine formatting even forces users off the site to make the actual purchase. This is the digital version of the cluttered shop that oozes cool and finds you fleeing with three bags in tow.

2. Bow & Drape

Bow & Drape

Bow & Drape finds its niche right at the cusp of where young Millennials match up with Gen Z. This pop culture hub plays right into its market, updating simple garments with customisable and glittered-emoji makeovers, finished with the catchphrase du jour. A shoppable Instagram section also sees a witty artful take on meme-manufacturing, keyed in on ‘90s nostalgia and modern trends.

3. Semaine


Each week, Semaine focuses on a new tastemaker, allowing a completely shoppable behind-the-curtains reveal into their lives. Monday begins with a short film or profile of the individual in question, while each subsequent day then features another glance into their lives, ranging from their beauty regimes to the dust collectors on their bookshelves.

4. The Iconic

The Iconic

If you’re in Australia – this name won’t be new to you. For everyone else, it’s worth knowing for the unique fashion glossary on offer – a categorisation feature every site should consider implementing. The fashion conscious shopper is able to use it as a tool to quickly navigate the expansive site offerings in search of their unique piece. The fashion newcomer, however, gets a complete education in images akin to a more accurate and completely shoppable Google Image search.

5. Brika


Brika is the perfect online destination for the shopper with DIY pipedreams, but lack of skills to deliver. Each day, a new artist is introduced on the homepage with their story and collection featured. In search of art, home décor, jewelry, accessories or even little knick-knacks for kids, this is the destination that breeds the perfect kitsch meets craft item.

6. Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey

For the love of shoes, a woman need look no further than Shoes of Prey, which enables users to customise every aspect of their footwear, from sole to zipper. What makes this a standout offering is the expansive colour selection and a complete 360-degree view of the final designs.

7. Of a Kind

Of a Kind

This one may already be on your list – if it’s not, it’s really time to bookmark it. An online concept store, it specialises in limited runs of items created especially for its website. The supply side of the operation comes from emerging designers, which further appeals to the quaint luxury of the setup. The special items are deemed “# of a kind”, letting the consumer know just how unique their buy is. Each item is also paired with a beautifully photographed story, similar pieces to curate a collection and non-exclusive add-ons that make the look.

8. Vide Dressing

Vide Dressing

The consignment model is completely revamped by Vide Dressing – the eBay of the pre-owned luxury fashion market. Sellers post their goods, get them checked over by a legal team for authenticity and then have 72 hours to ship to their buyer after purchase. The unique feature that sets Vide Dressing apart from competitors such as Vestiaire Collective is a money-back guarantee within 48 hours of product receipt.

Blocks data e-commerce Editor's pick Startups

Data anchors Lyst’s tongue-in-cheek debut campaign

Lyst Ad- Pointless

Fashion e-commerce platform Lyst has launched its first-ever ad campaign, cleverly tying data insights into a provocative series of images.

An irreverent take on traditional fashion advertising, it sees glossy high-production model shots teamed with overlaid phrases pulled from intelligence in the site’s search terms.

“Pointless” and “Rip Off” are just some of the unexpected headlines. They in turn refer to ideas like the six-fold increase of shoppers searching Lyst for Velcro shoes, or the growth in square and round-toe shoe sales.


There are 10 images in total, each of them shot by British fashion photographer Charlotte Wales. Other tongue-in-cheek taglines include “Bell End”, “Get High” and “On Your Knees New York”, relating to kick-flare trousers, high-waisted skirts and over-the-knee boots.

Chris Morton, CEO and co-founder of Lyst, said: “Our success to date has been driven by marrying insights from data science with the emotional nature of fashion. The campaign is a manifestation of this; in it these two worlds are combined in a seemingly dissonant form, celebrating the power of beautiful fashion imagery and the intelligent insights into the fashion consumer’s behavior. As a challenger brand we wanted to ensure our marketing was as disruptive as our product.”

Though an online-only brand, the campaign, which was executed with creative agency Anomaly, will appear in “real life” on billboards and wild postering in both New York and London over the next month, as well as in print, on taxi wraps and through some experiential street marketing.

Lyst Ad- On Your Knees

Lyst Ad- Wrong

Lyst Ad- Get A Wax

Lyst Ad- Rubber Up

Lyst Ad- Drop More Acid

Blocks business e-commerce film

Video: Net-a-Porter gives outgoing CEO send-off to remember


#Worldsmostlovedceo is the hashtag Net-a-Porter is using to say goodbye to its CEO of 11 years, Mark Sebba. That and a series of exotic dancers, steel drum players, Mariachi musicians, acrobats, a gospel choir and more.

The luxury e-tailer surprised Sebba on his final day at the office, with the entire staff lining the corridors holding placards featuring his face and applauding their boss as he was led past by a gentleman singing a cover of Aloe Blacc’s hit single, “The Man”.

Teams around the world including in New York and Hong Kong were also featured dancing to the tune, while an overwhelmed Sebba wandered his way through the company’s headquarters in Shepherd’s Bush, London, before being handed a cup of coffee at his desk by Natalie Massenet.

A film has been released of the event, as below. It’s a lovely example of company culture, not to mention the industry not taking itself too seriously. Let’s see how quickly it spreads.

H/T Daily Mail

social media

Matthew Williamson in Net-a-Porter Instagram takeover for #matthewmapped campaign


Matthew Williamson is guest posting on Net-a-Porter’s Instagram this week in a campaign that teases his own arrival on the social platform.

The London-based designer is sharing images of his favourite places from around the world on Net-a-Porter’s account twice daily for seven days. Each is tagged with #matthewmapped and the relevant location, therefore curating a geographic story of his travels that will result in a ‘Matthew Map’; an image that showcases all the shots together in one place.

“All week we will be sharing photos of [Matthew’s] inspirational travel destinations on our Instagram. Get inspired!” reads the intro post from Net-a-Porter.

“Follow me around the world in 7 days! MW x,” quotes the copy in the first shot from Matthew – one of him in Mauritius. Others so far have also come from Goa, Lake Tahoe, Venice and the Nevada Desert.

The initiative is being pushed across Net-a-Porter’s social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and its blog, Fashion Fix. There are also posts showing relevant product from Matthew Williamson, such as an ombré sweater inspired by the sunset hues from the Nevada desert snap (as below).

It all leads to Matthew launching his own Instagram account from April 1. This will be run by the designer himself and include everything from shots of his creative inspiration to insight into his daily life (the profile picture for his account is shown at the bottom).

Rosanna Falconer, head of digital at Matthew Williamson, said: “We both felt it was crucial Matthew was posting his own visual story and personal photo diary. His aim is to encapsulate our core brand DNA, be it about colour or travel, art, nature, or interiors. He’ll share his sketching and his styling when he’s in the studio, as well as shots when he’s out and about with friends.”

The new feed will also see images shared from the brand’s #MatthewMagnified and #OhMW campaigns – the former stitching together different shots that zoom in to the details of collection pieces, and the latter featuring fans themselves wearing Matthew Williamson. “They have both proved so popular on Facebook and Twitter, and I always find fans taking the images from those platforms to Instagram on their own accounts, so it’s an obvious fit.” Falconer added.

Matthew can be followed via @matthewwilliamson on Instagram from April 1.








e-commerce mobile Uncategorized

Asos introduces interactive mobile mag

Asos has launched an interactive weekly magazine designed especially for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Fashion Up, as it’s called, is a free app released every Monday featuring information on the latest fashion trends, inspiration from celebrity and street star styles, and how-to guides for nail art, make-up and hair. Created by the in-house team behind the e-tailer’s print magazine, it also incorporates click-to-shop technology.

“Available globally, Fashion Up is intuitive, easily digested and image based, meaning you can consume the weekly edition on the move,” said Duncan Edwards, editorial director of Asos Magazine.

The first issue, released yesterday, includes a beauty editorial from WAH Nails, and an exclusive acoustic performance from indie band Two Door Cinema Club.

An Android version will release later in the year. See more in the video below:

e-commerce mobile technology Uncategorized

Asos partners with Aurasma on scan to shop app

Asos is making its print magazine shoppable straight from the page, thanks to a new partnership with augmented reality technology company Aurasma.

The online retailer has introduced a “Scan to Shop” app that will enable the mag’s 450,000 readers to bring any one of 50 pages to video life via their smartphones, and then click to buy immediately from the Asos mobile site.

Asos has also incorporated a digital treasure hunt in the magazine, with hidden symbols leading to exclusive offers when unlocked.

Duncan Edwards of Asos Magazine, said: “We know our readers love fashion and their mobiles and this app unites the two. Our readers look forward to receiving the magazine in the post, but they also want the convenience and immediacy of shopping via their phones. Our new “Scan to Shop” app uses Aurasma to bring the two experiences – reading the magazine and shopping online – together seamlessly.”

To use the feature, readers must just download the Scan to Shop app from the App Store or Google Play.

The initiative sees Asos added to a rapidly growing list of fashion brands using Aurasma’s innovative image-recognition technology, included among them Net-a-Porter, Dunhill, Debenhams and most recently eBay.

digital snippets e-commerce Uncategorized

Digital snippets: Grazia, Barbour, Dolce & Gabbana make-up, Diesel,

Some more great stories from around the web surrounding all things fashion and digital over the past week:


  • UK Grazia magazine teases its Fashion Issue Live documentary series ahead of London Fashion Week (as above), crowdsources content [Grazia Daily]
  • Barbour ups spend on search ads to fight fakes [Marketing]
  • Behind-the-scenes on the Felicity Jones for Dolce & Gabbana Make-up shoot [Beauty High]
  • a fashion e-tail revolution? Vanessa Friedman certainly thinks so [Material World]
  • Fashion tech boom: why it’s happening and how start-ups get funded [Fashionista]