Digital courage in luxury: the LuisaViaRoma case

Nicola Antonelli
Project Manager @LuisaViaRoma.com

The relationship between luxury and digital is a complex, hamletic one, not exempt from lights and shadows. How is it possible to reconcile the exclusivity of luxury with the openness of the web and social media, which are by nature sharing tools?

About ten years ago, brands of the luxury industry looked down on these new platforms as a mass phenomenon that did not affect their audience, and the first experiences were not encouraging: their social pages were targeted by haters on issues such as anorexia or the use of animal fur.

LuisaViaRoma, one of the most important online fashion retailers with 5 million visits per month and shipments worldwide, was among the first companies in the industry to believe in digital. Active on the Net since 1999, its core business is retail, so its strategy consists of conveying and selling products from other brands, selecting the best collections of important fashion designers and the most interesting emerging talents.

LuisaViaRoma has walked a tightrope, telling the story of products on social media without direct support from their respective brands, given their primordial prudence towards these new phenomena. LuisaViaRoma was facilitated by its agile nature, and for being more prone to risk than other companies.

This allowed it to be ahead of its time. Even before social networks became advertising platforms, as they are currently intended, it invested heavily in social networks to create communities - on Facebook first and later on Instagram - and it has been using its public as an ambassador of brand values.

 

LuisaViaRoma's strategy

  • Social Community

Luxury brands feared the impact of opening to the public, as digital disintermediation for the first time favored direct contact with users. By focusing heavily on communities, LuisaViaRoma has shown that it has made the right choice.

While many haters offended and criticized the products, an extremely faithful base of "fans" formed, who flocked to defend the brand. At a certain point, the company was no longer forced to intervene with official posts to moderate the page, because there was a sort of self-moderation between haters and lovers, or those who, thanks to digital, had been engaged to the extent of acting as advocates

  • Brand building and digital speed

Timing was fundamental in the strategy of brand awareness building, at a global level. In fact, LuisaViaRoma went online in the late nineties, in a completely different context from today’s. Investing in digital channels many years before other, more structured competitors, gave the company a competitive edge.

Done is better than perfect. The company embraced this quotation, found in the Dublin Facebook offices, which remarks the importance of acting fast on the market without necessarily aiming at perfection, because digital burns everything out quickly. LuisaViaRoma, followed the try, try again, make mistakes and change philosophy, choosing a strategy of differentiation from other retailers: it did not stick with selling products of other brands, but became a fashion consultant for its customers, offering ideas and insights on how to create the perfect look.

This process took place in two steps:

1) the product selection phase of a very attentive kind of buyers, who do not purchase an entire collection but only the selection considered the best, and in line with the style of LuisaViaRoma; following that logic of creation of a "total look" that often translates into a mix of great designers and emerging talents. LuisaViaRoma offers the same products at the same prices that can be found in other physical and virtual stores around the world, so the customer’s motivation to buy comes from what is called the inspirational part, which is conveyed by content.

2) content dissemination: the customer must be guided by a consulting and inspiration service while creating their total look. For this reason, the Marketing & Communication department takes up a large part of the company staff, and has a structure that is comparable to that of an editorial staff. It is composed of stylists, fashion editors, photographers, etc. who are in charge of producing and sharing content consistent with the style of the brand. This can be seen, for example, in the LVR Diary section that gives a clear overview of the value that the company offers its users.

In the world of online luxury, LuisaViaRoma has remained the only private company: unlike competitors, with large investment funds behind them, or are listed on the stock exchange, LVR counts on its own strengths and knows that the best way to leave a mark is to implement customer engagement strategies, rather than discount operations.

 

The perfect recipe for creating content

The company has carried on the precise choice of working in-house, dictated above all by time requirements. Although working with creative agencies could guarantee better content, it would also mean wasting much more time, from the briefing, to the execution by the agency, to the receipt of various proposals, etc. In the meantime, days and weeks pass, which is dangerous in digital.

For this reason, LuisaViaRoma decided to trust young people, talent scouting on skilled professionals not yet established (photographers, designers, etc..), and investing heavily on the creativity of individuals, while remaining within the guidelines provided. The end result is a very fast content production and at much lower costs than that of creative agency market.

Once the content has been created, the publishing and distributing machine is activated, in accord with the logic and processes of trans-creation. The content, initially produced in English, is not translated by the 9 mother-tongue teams (the main languages in which the site is translated), but is trans-created, i.e. it is partly translated partly recreated, and then reinterpreted by the various native speakers depending on the country where it is to be distributed.

Last year the company shipped to over 160 countries around the world, but it is difficult to implement marketing campaigns for so many different countries and very different cultures. For example, the idea of entering China with a Western logic and mentality is strongly discouraged.

 

In conclusion, the perfect recipe for creating content is:

- Produce it in-house, for reasons of speed, volume and cost

- Make way for young talents

- Pay attention to individual cultures when distributing content.