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ECommerceTimes.com

Do Luxury Retailers 'Get' E-Commerce?

By Chet Dembeck
Nov 5, 1999 12:00 AM PT

According to a new report by Forrester Research, Inc., luxury brick-and-mortar retailers such as Neiman Marcus are approaching e-commerce with a bargain basement mentality.

Do Luxury Retailers 'Get' E-Commerce?

The report says that while the retailer has upgraded its site from brochureware to an e-commerce offering just in time for the holiday season, its site is definitely out of sync with what affluent Internet consumers want.

The new and not-so-improved neimanmarcus.com "is light on functionality and product assortment," according to Forrester. It also knocks the site's men's shoe department, which only features three pairs of footwear.

The bottom line is that high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus have created a low-rent customer experience that could ultimately take the luster off of its offline luxury image.

Missing A Golden Opportunity

The irony of Neiman Marcus' Internet cheapness is that now, more than ever before, the affluent are spending time and money online.

"Consumers with more than $750,000 (US$) in investable assets are technology optimists who are online and shopping more than the less well-heeled," the report said.

This fact alone is why luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus and Chanel should be bending over backward in an attempt to cultivate the same online loyalty with the same big spenders that they cater to offline.

Facing More Competition

Another reason that these stores should quickly pump some money into their no frills e-commerce sites is because of the fierce competition they are facing from pure plays that are specifically targeting the rich.

For instance, jet setters can log on for Isabella Fiore bags from Ashford.com or chat in real time about diamonds with a customer service rep on Mondera.com.

In addition to opening up their wallets and improving their cyberspace stores, Forrester recommends that luxury brick-and-mortars also stop snubbing proven e-commerce marketing techniques such as affiliate programs and e-mail.

"Luxuryfinder.com hasn't launched yet, but it's already collecting e-mail addresses for future mailings," the report says.

How Many Warnings Does It Take?

The only logical explanation for Forrester's findings is that the CEOs running these luxury sites must either be blinded by arrogance -- or simply ignorant to the importance of e-commerce.

I wonder what percentage of business lost, or missed holiday opportunities will finally shake them out of their brick-and-mortar stupor.

My guess is that if they have not realized by now that the Internet is the only future they have, then it may be time for them to be tossed onto a junk heap of their own making.

What do you think? Let's talk about it.


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