We’ve recently seen some bold predictions for the continued growth of e-commerce and the rise in online spending on luxury items.
The latest forecasts estimate the overall e-commerce market will reach nearly $300 billion by 2015, according to industry analysts Forrester Research. Meanwhile, Verdict Research claims there will be a 65 percent increase in spending on luxury goods by 2015. While it remains to be seen how 2012 will shake out, it’s clear this market sector shows enormous potential for the affiliate marketing channel.
One measure of this opportunity is the pace at which luxury brands are launching or re-launching their e-commerce sites. E-commerce initiatives and related investments made by luxury brands, manufacturers and retailers are now consistently covered as news in the fashion trade press including Women’s Wear Daily.
As online luxury sales increase, the pace at which luxury brands are launching affiliate marketing programs is also increasing. The results are astounding with some networks seeing same-store sales increases in the luxury category up as much as 72% year-over-year in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2012 alone.
Key Drivers Of Luxury Affiliate Marketing
Many factors influence and drive the growth of the luxury segment within the affiliate marketing channel. Below are five of the most important influences, followed by tips to help advertisers and publishers navigate this burgeoning niche.
1. The evolution of technology. Improvements in website design and the display of luxury products online allow consumers to more easily search through hundreds of brands and zoom in with amazing clarity to see the specific features of a product, which is significant when you’re making more expensive purchases.
2. Consumer trust. Over time, luxury consumers have become more comfortable shopping online as the overall site experiences continue to improve. These consumers expect the luxury experience to translate from offline to online to the degree that it can, and demand great customer service and flexible return policies.
3. Shopping Anytime, Anywhere. The ubiquity of electronic devices has put more demands on retailers. Consumers now expect to be able to connect with their favorite luxury brands wherever and whenever they want.
Luxury retailers and publishers need to work together to make sure the end-to-end shopping experience is optimized for conversion on desktop, iPad and smartphones. If you are not at least measuring the traffic from each of these devices, you are already behind the curve.
4. The right luxury product at the right price at the right time. “Discounting, coupons, and deals,” are not typically in the lexicon of luxury online retailing, at least not with advertisers. That’s not to say that luxury shoppers don’t want great value because they do. For them it’s about finding the right products, at the right price, at the right time.
This makes a publisher’s ability to curate products even more important. It’s right up there with understanding luxury trends, hot brands, and seasonal patterns. Publishers that fully understand these elements stand to earn the most commissions.
5. Luxury consumers are citizens of the world. When you consider the luxury audience of consumers, keep in mind that they live and travel all over the world. When you realize this, you quickly see how luxury online retailing will propel global affiliate marketing.
Advertisers with advanced e-commerce capabilities to support multiple currencies and languages, combined with the most flexible shipping and customer service policies, will endear themselves to the luxury shopper. On a related note, publishers also need to consider the geographic source of their traffic when curating products and developing promotional strategies.
The Luxury Shopper
So who is the luxury shopper, how are they defined and what are their shopping habits? To some degree, advertisers and publishers will create their own definition of the luxury shopper.
However, as a guide, the 2011 study conducted by Ipsos Mendelsohn and featured in eMarketer categorized affluent consumers as those with $100K or more in annual yearly household income. This represents 58.5 million, or 21 percent of all U.S. households and accounted for 70 percent of consumer net worth. This demographic is spending more than $1.6 trillion in the 151 consumer-related categories that were tracked in the study.
One of the most critical facts to consider when working with luxury brands is that they are fiercely protective of their image, especially as they begin to immerse themselves in online merchandising. Publishers that are trying to partner with and earn commissions from luxury brands need to convince advertisers that they will maintain their identity and status online and will adhere to strict brand compliance requirements.
Additionally, here are some points to consider when targeting the luxury audience:
- The majority of this demographic doesn’t view itself as affluent, so a message that implies they are well off will not resonate.
- Their purchases don’t tend to be ostentations displays of affluence.
- Ninety-eight percent of this audience is spending an average of 26.2 hours per week online, according to an IAB study. Part of this time is spent doing research before making purchases. To reach them, be mindful that they are more likely to respond to email ads, sponsored websites from search results, and webpage links they’ve chosen to receive or have sought on their own.
The online luxury e-commerce market will continue to gain momentum right along with the expected overall growth of online retail. Affiliate marketing will play a key role in the online strategy of luxury advertisers as mobile commerce and other consumer behavior trends evolve at a fast pace. Those advertisers and publishers who successfully work together to maximize reach while staying true to the brands they are promoting will stand to gain the most from their efforts.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.