Forrester: Luxury Brands Fail on Website Functionality

Forrester’s Website Functionality Benchmark, shows world’s leading brands Gucci, Hermes and Louis Vuitton websites fall short in terms of online functionality.

A new report by Forrester Research, ‘Website Functionality Benchmark: 2011: Luxury Fashion Brands‘ revealed the overall functionality of some of the world’s leading fashion brand websites leave much to be desired, with none of the five sites evaluated scoring a passing grade across the full set of criteria.

The Website Functionality Benchmark (WFB) evaluates whether a website has market-leading functionality as determined by Forrester’s methodology (e.g. a combination of Forrester Technographics® data, executive survey data, published research, and accepted industry best practices).

Power Retail - Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton uses flash for its website, which makes it unusable for shopping on an iPad.

The study, which evaluated the Burberry, Dolce&Gabbana, Gucci, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton websites (as representative of European fashion luxury brands), found that ‘while these sites feature some advanced functionality… they miss on most of the very basic functionality that drivers conversion rates and creates a trusted environment online’. Although Burberry was the leading luxury brand (scoring -13), this was a long way off a passing score of 65.

Speaking exclusively to Power Retail, Steven Noble, Senior Analyst says, “It’s certainly not an unusual result, many brands that started before the era of online retail have been somewhat slow in embracing all the best practices that drive loyalty and conversion online.”

“In the luxury space in particular there has been a perception with brand managers that the internet is not a good fit with the brand proposition or their customer’s priorities. Initially they would have often felt that their customers simply wouldn’t want to purchase their products online and would prefer to go in store and be walked through the products in person,” he continues.

“There is a bit of a catch up going on, we’ve finally reached a point where it’s mainstream for luxury brand marketers to understand that digital and online retail are more than just ‘nice to have’, but actually are ‘must haves’.”

More in-depth findings from the report revealed:

  • The websites lack the basic online navigation tools (e.g. sorting and narrowing results in search), merchandising (e.g., video and recommendation engines), and customer support (e.g. consumer-friendly shipping and return policies, live support).
  • The brands have not followed the trend as with other online retailers to encourage community enhancing features (e.g. availability of user-generated photos, videos of products used in real settings or product ratings and reviews).
  • Multichannel functionality (e.g. store locators, in-store collection) was also limited on these sites and channel integration features, such as visibility of store stock or in-store returns of online purchases, were absent.
Power Retail - Dolce&Gabbana

Though the Dolce&Gabbana website is visually appealing, the brand is not leveraging the online channel to its fullest capability.

Noble comments that these brands should be embracing functionalities such as video, which would make sense in terms of their visual branding proposition and create a high quality and exclusive online experience.

“Likewise with filtered search,” he continues, “it can also be something quite elaborate and engaging. Imagine a rich internet application that allows you to explore luxury products in an interactive fashion, including elements of sound and video in the search process.

“These results really demonstrate that on and offline retail is not really an ‘either/or’ situation. Offline stores are important in many categories, especially this one. It’s how these brands update all retail channels for the way people shop – there is no reason if you go to a physical shop and a product is not available, why that shop shouldn’t be able to tell you if it’s available online or what other stores in the area have it.”

The full report is available for purchase on the Forrester Research website.

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