Online and Offline as one Luxury Universe

According to the December 2010 edition of, consumers of luxury and premium goods and services, worldwide, are increasingly using mobile web devices – smartphones and tablets – to search for information about everything they want to buy. Quo vadis, Luxus?

Luxury smartphone

The use of mobile Web is experiencing impressive growth. It is estimated that there are about 5 billion mobile phones in the world and about 30% of users have regular Web access in this way. And although this percentage is not the same in all regions of the world – in Europe it is still relatively low – it surely is an indicator of the predictable evolution in the near future. And this evolution will be particularly fast in the premium market, because nowadays the luxury consumer belongs to the best educated generation ever, achieves wealth at younger age than previous generations, is very technology-savyy and knowledgeable of new ways of communication, using them bothto search for information about products and services, as well as to buy online, according to The Future of the Global Luxury Market survey by luxury market research expert Pamela Danzinger.

It is also worth noting that Portugal is on the list of 10 countries in the world with the highest penetration of 3G handsets, according to a recent survey by INFORMA, published on the website It is a somewhat revealing and interesting piece of information.

Considering this phenomenon and the prediction that its growth will be huge in the coming times, what can and should premium and luxury brands do, in order to win or keep customers with high purchasing power?

Is it feasible to tell luxurious stories using online tools? In the virtual world, how can one stimulate human senses and make consumers live experiences, which are key ingredients in the world of luxury? These are some of the issues that luxury brands face when considering to adopt the mobile Web.

I believe it makes sense to bet on four areas that are complementary to each other and should be developed simultaneously.


The website of a premium brand, nowadays, must be adapted to the mobile Web for optimal access and viewing in smartphones and tablets. And its main function should be to tell stories, engage the imagination of those who surf the website, sparkle curiosity, create mystery and all that should communicate the dream of the brand. The Night Train advertising video of Chanel No. 5 perfume is a good example. Movies, stories, imagination and mystery must be permanently in websites.

In many instances, websites must be prepared for selling and in e-commerce situations in the luxury world, it is vital to have support from the brand to consumers and direct communication with customers, whenever needed. This is part of the shopping experience. A study by the Luxury Institute confirms that more than 60% of luxury consumers prefer to buy online on sites that allow them to connect directly to the brand and ask for support when they have questions. About the same percentage of respondents admitted they abandon the process and do not finish the online purchase when the website does not provide quick answers to those questions.

Apps for mobile Web

Mobile apps are experiencing a truly unusual growth. The I-Tunes Apple store has sold well beyond 10 billion mobile applications. The adoption of this new medium, by the luxury brands, has been still modest but should grow rapidly, since these applications can be excellent vehicles to make the customer live experiences.

Apps may take the form of product catalogues, videos, games, contests and therefore create mystery, involvement, entertainment, excitement and enhance the shopping experience and consumer loyalty to the brand. And all this on the phone. Louis Vuitton created the application for IPhone “100 Legendary Trunks” which has 150 years of history of the brand and the development of the famous travel trunks over the decades.

The jewelry brand Tiffany launched a mobile app that helps you find the perfect engagement ring for each person. The leather bag and purse brand Tod’s has the application “My Life is in this bag,” also available for iPad, featuring six women and their lives, telling stories, showing products and enabling consumers to build emotional bond with the brand.

Several brands in the business of fashion, automobiles, hotels and spas, as well as in other categories of premium products and services are launching applications for these mobile platforms, and for all of them there is an important reminder: these applications can not be of trivial or monotonous use, which may lead to disappoint the consumer, frustrate expectations and damage brand reputation. The luxury market likes to be surprised.


Andreas Weigend, Digital Marketing expert, whom I met at the World Marketing and Sales Forum believes that luxury brands should create “social playgrounds” in virtual environments and use these social fun virtual hubs to enhance the luxury experience and entertainment that lead to customer loyalty.

Mobile devices in the stores

Luxury brands are increasingly using smartphones and tablets in stores, hotels, restaurants and spas to better interact with customers. These devices can be used to gather information about their contacts, preferences, register purchase history in the store or brand, enter this data directly into CRM systems, stimulate the client’s senses by showing video and audio presentations inside the shop, search product availability in other stores of the brand, place the order and arrange delivery.

Luxury brands are also increasingly joining Foursquare as a way to identify customers – profiled in that social network – who enter the store, and therefore be able to immediately address them by their name, access what they’ve bought in the past and show them customized offers, providing them with a level of attention and detail that embodies the true luxury experience. The Bergdorf Goodman store in New York City is already doing it.

Menus on iPad are also a must. The design restaurant Pearl in Australia was among the first to adopt the electronic menu and recently the Cafeina restaurant in Porto, surprised me with the wine list in a tablet. The use that every brand can make of technology has no boundaries and calls for imagination.

Mobile advertising 

The growing use of mobile Web by affluent consumers has turned smartphones and tablets into ideal advertising space and it is predictable that this will continue for years to come.

There are currently various mobile advertising formats in use. The main ones are the ads and banners, SMS text messages, presence in search engines and portals, website, advertising in applications and video to mobile platforms. It is recommended that luxury brands invest in knowing well their customers, understand how they deal with advertising and how they search and collect information on what they wish to buy, and then select the most appropriate formats for each market segment.

Brands are already using web advertising not only to boost online shopping, but mainly as a means to direct customer traffic to brick-and-mortar stores.

In this new world of mobile Internet, and still according to Andreas Weigend, luxury brands should develop a presence that help customers make better decisions, customizing the offers in order to deliver exclusivity and such presence should enable and foster customer interaction with the brand.

Luxury brands know that they will attract and seduce their audiences with innovation and quality, history and art, experience and culture, desire and authenticity, plenty of attention and detail, stimulation of the senses, imagination and mystery. Hence, it is sensible that despite this growing importance the mobile Internet, the brand uses a mixed communication strategy where digital marketing is just one piece of a larger puzzle.

Antonio Paraiso 
Marketing . Luxury . Innovation . Consultant and Speaker