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The changing face of luxury in the digital world

Luxury in the Digital World | Edgar Allan

There’s been a shift in the concept of luxury as the needs and expectations of the high-dollar consumer have changed; no longer a formal, pretentious display of wealth, the idea of luxury is about a personalized “considered” experience — which means its brand expression online should be too.

The idea of luxury is layered and nuanced, but moreover, it’s ever-changing. Once the purview of extravagant displays of wealth (read: flashy jewels and velvet drapes), as consumers’ values, preferences and expectations have shifted over time — alongside evolving societal norms and trends — so too has the concept of luxury.

Where does that leave today’s definition of luxury? The biggest change has come courtesy of the experience-driven economy, wherein the average consumer now regularly trades the opportunity to possess material things for the chance to experience memorable events. It’s a shift from a need to display external wealth to a need for internal fulfillment. And for the buyer who already has the disposable income to have any brand and go anywhere they want, self-fulfillment becomes even more important. These lucky individuals are now seeking new ways to enhance their lives and satisfy their inner beings. On the marketing front, it’s being met with an approach to luxury that is more personalized and bespoke, rather than simply exclusive, with offerings that deliver on a mindset, not just a place or a thing.

For brands hoping to align with the new vision of luxury, the question then becomes: How do you translate that feeling of things and experiences into the digital realm, where those luxurious things are often researched and purchased?

If you’re thinking it’s about adding a dark background, gilded accents, big type or big images, you’d have been right 10 years ago. Luxury today is now a considered experience rather than a one-dimensional, peacock-like display. And that means its brand expression online must be as well.

At Edgar Allan, we’ve homed in on some important considerations when it comes to how digital can shine in the luxury realm.

1. Make it thoughtful and deeply storied.

At the center of the digital experience is a website, and it should be visually stunning and highly functional — that’s a given — but it should also be designed to dial up inspired dreaming, creating a world within which your products or services just happen to exist. Then, it should put your buyer smack at the center of it. Photography should create a contextual atmosphere so the user/buyer can imagine themselves in that same setting. For example, lonely product and cavernous, empty environments feel cold and out of touch rather than high-end or immersive. Written content too can be used to create a narrative, evoking the aspirational emotions connected with the new idea of luxury. It’s easy to fall into the “appy-casual” modern voice designed to speak directly to the user, (e.g. “Hello! We’re X Brand!”). Instead consider a flow of elevated language that evokes a sense of place, helping your audience feel like “this is my crowd” and “this experience is on my level,” but isn’t pretentious or overly trendy. It’s a balance that doesn’t scream “look at me!” and is confident, self-possessed and a reflected “best version” of our consumers’ own aspirational inner voices.

2. Think beyond the technology.

Most brands claim they want to be customer-focused, but then they let technology limitations or other organizational needs get in the way and stomp all over user experience. Providing a personal luxury digital experience means really making the customer the star: prioritizing the human connection at all times, even if that means having to find new solutions outside of your existing tools and frameworks to enhance the experience. The answer could be something as simple as offering up a phone number; you’d be surprised how difficult it can be to get the digits for most brands. That’s because for a long time, digital has been trained to steer people away from call centers, but it can be used as an opportunity to engage with your customer, especially in the luxury realm. The human component is precisely what makes it feel luxurious; automation feels cheap and expected in today’s world. If a customer is at the point of consideration of purchase, being able to pick up the phone and have someone on the other end take care of them is exceptional, and a super-simple way to offer an elevated level of service these consumers expect.

3. Look for opportunities to surprise and delight.  

Look for moments to pull all interactions up a few levels so the customer knows they’re experiencing something special. This could include tuning the CRM so after someone has completed a purchase, they receive a personalized email from a member of the brand team. Small, bespoke touches like this help the customer feel “seen” — which is one thing that is difficult in the digital world. It’s little things like that which can be a big first step toward development of a meaningful customer relationship. Even taking the effort to incorporate subtle motion or animations into a website conveys a heightened level of sophistication.

Luxury, after all, is about the details and well-considered differentiation, whether it’s experienced in the feel of 1500 threads per inch, or at 1440 pixels.

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