There is a lot that goes into building a luxury brand. The prestige, the glamour, and the awe that accompanies the word luxury are traditionally not easy to come by, and thus once obtained, are fiercely guarded. From the design of products, through the outlets they are distributed, and the mediums of promotion that are used, luxury brands have long strived to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

For marketers, that often meant not using tools that decreased the perceived level of exclusivity to the brand. A 2014 study showed that 40% of luxury brands choose not to sell their merchandise online, with many citing the loss of the brand – consumer experience when purchases are made outside a brick and mortar store. Tools such as social media, which are generally lauded for their ability to connect consumers to one another and brands alike, were viewed as a threat to the status quo of distance for many luxury brands.

However, as the digital landscape has evolved and become more and more engrained in consumers’ daily lives and shopping habits, many luxury brands have started to adjust. Burberry, who with its 150-year heritage is no stranger to the prestige of luxury, has been leading the pack in luxury digital since 2009.

They were the first high profile luxury brand to open online ordering and the live stream of their 2010 London Fashion Week show garnered millions of viewers across the globe. Their microsite “The Art of the Trench,” which launched in 2009, showcases user-generated content featuring how consumers wear Burberry’s signature trench coat. Other notable highlights in their portfolio include a 2011 partnership with Twitter that allowed consumers to capture a photo from the Autumn show and their use of Twitter’s Buy Now button in 2014.

It is also important to note that brands do not need to engage in ecommerce to become part of the digital world. Hermes still refrains from selling their core collections online but has flourished by creating an online portal to the heritage and lifestyle of Hermes through their website.

Chanel’s YouTube channel, which features their enchanting commercials as well as behind the scenes and historical content, has captivated consumers, garnering over 11 million views. Though the brand now engages in ecommerce, their channel is an effective example of how to convey and maintain a brand’s image and heritage on a mainstream platform.

The evolution of the digital realm, and in particular social media, has forced even luxury brands to reevaluate how they reach their audience. Consumers will discuss and evaluate brands whether they have a digital presence or not. 34% of consumers say that they have expressed their feelings about a company on social media. Consumers, even those who appreciate the allure of exclusivity, are looking for an engaging experience with brands at the touch of a button.

The use of digital experiences and outreach increases a brand’s capacity to deliver customized content and product recommendations to fans. The adoption of digital platforms also provides brands with a medium to increase the aspirational effects of their brand by showcasing their level of excellence. Social media may bring these brands to the doorsteps of consumers, but if done correctly, it should not negatively impact brand equity or prestige. Instead, it should increase the consumer’s desire to become a member of that brand community and thus increases the halo around the brand.

Unlike many styles, the digital realm and social media are here to stay. As consumers increasingly turn to digital platforms for brand information and shopping guidance, luxury brands must too become a part of the conversations surrounding their space or run the risk of losing influence and relevance.

Originally appeared on Branch Creative Network

For detailed insights into which luxury brands have stayed on top, and which are emerging, download a copy of the NetBase Brand Passion Report: Luxury Brands 2016

Image from Elvert Barnes

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