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Web design for the luxury market

Written by Ian Garstang on 13 September 2012

A clear understanding of the luxury consumer is key if you want to engage this target market. By knowing who will use the site, you will be able to design a website which appeals to that all-important consumer. I’ve seen a lot of sites try to be all things to all people in an attempt to cast the net as wide as possible, but this can prove counter productive. When designing for the luxury market there are many key factors that need to be addressed to in order for it to stand out in its selected vertical. It is a common misconception that because the luxury buyer has more disposable income than the average online shopper that they are impulsive and spend money quickly in order to continue on their luxury lifestyle. This however, couldn’t be further from the truth as high net worth individuals are often the most cautious shoppers and tend to research products thoroughly before reaching the buying decision.

A study recently conducted by the Luxury Institute called  "Luxury Branding and Marketing: A Global Comparison of Wealthy Consumers in Top Markets," showed a large percentage (73pc) of consumers said that the most important element of a luxury brand is superior quality, closely followed by craftsmanship (65pc), design (54pc) and finally customer service (47pc).

Less is more

When creating a website for luxury brands, I like to think of it as serving the user a meal in a 5 star restaurant. The first taste is in the eye, so by keeping the homepage design simple and uncluttered, and showing the user a ‘killer shot’ of the product you communicate a more personal experience. Like a starter at a restaurant this allows the user to marvel at the dish that increases the anticipation for the more substantial dish yet to come. Once you have their attention and they are suitably impressed, then they can delve deeper into the rest of the website and discover the further features, content and imagery giving them more of a flavour of the product. 

Photography

High quality photography is a must for any website trying to sell a product or service. Large images can convey quality better than any bullet point list so using a mix of full view, macro and action shots give the user a fuller experience. By enabling the visitor to see the product, inspect the details and visualise themselves using the product, you move them closer to that vital buying decision.

Functionality

When you are used to the finer things in life you see a lot of clever, and intelligent touches in the products you use daily. It might be as innovative as an air scarf designed to keep your head and neck warm when the top is down in your Mercedes SLS or a simple as a home thermostat which turns itself on and off when you leave. This kind of functionality, quality and style needs to be mirrored in the website. By using clear navigation, subtle movement, and intelligent code the user can feel that the website itself has been put together with the same craftsmanship as his car, watch or yacht. Over ten years ago Ralph Lauren was one of the pioneers of e-commerce websites and more recently they are using mobile applications and 3D webpage takeovers to engage users in order to "unite the retail experience with the Web experience," When nearing completion, testing is key and your finished website needs to be tested and retested as the smallest error can ruin the user experience and impact on sales.

Video

Video can be an expensive medium as it requires storyboarding, scripting, on location film shoots, product shoots, actor sourcing, audio creation and even CGI development. However, if a film would help communicate the experience, or substantiate the quality then having video content is a must. Video content would also differentiate you from a large number of websites which can enhance the user journey.

Copywriting

With the user's visual appetite catered for, it is the job of the copy to reinforce the visuals and assist the user in their research. Although the end client will know more about the product or service than anyone, it is essential that a copywriter takes that information, and weaves it into small readable morsels which are designed to inform, enchant and most importantly persuade. I have seem many websites which have favoured marketing ‘fluff’ over substance. By ‘fluff’ I mean long descriptive marketing terms which make the page read like a romance novel. Luxury consumers are far from susceptible to marketing jargon and want a considered balance of aspirational copy and cold hard facts. As with the functionality of the site, copy much be checked and rechecked as grammatical errors can burst the bubble of quality and affect the end purchase.

Experience

The combination of high quality design, photography, video and copy are all designed to inspire and motivate the user to making a buying decision. A quality website should also aim improve or retain the brand strength whilst demonstrating its market leadership. In a saturated market where website costs range from £50 to £18 million (Four Seasons) it is imperative that luxury brands choose experienced digital agencies to partner with in order to bring to market, enhance, or maintain a high quality product or service.

 

About the Author: Ian Garstang works at Kingsland Linassi, an award winning, Top 100 UK creative agency in London. When not being creative Ian enjoys social networking, sailing and good design.

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