After years of seeing the Internet as the gateway to a whole world of shoppers, brands are going to start to use the increasingly ever-present and mobile technology to speak to not millions, but individuals.
“What we see as happening over the next couple of years is very much becoming about me — me as the individual consumer,” said James Gardner, chief executive officer and founder of e-commerce firm Createthe Group, which counts Burberry, Donna Karan and Juicy Couture as clients.
Gardner skipped past this year and 2011, and focused his presentation on what the digital world would look like in 2012, when he said brands would be speaking specifically to individual consumers about their own personal needs. The Web, he said, is still “pretty mass, one size fits all.”
“The days of luxury brands preaching and publishing to consumers and telling consumers the way it is are really over,” he said. “It’s about establishing a two-way dialogue with the consumer, listening to the consumer.”
This means more give and take through social networking, more opportunities to create custom looks online and bringing the online shopper into stores and the design studio.
“We’re looking forward very soon to the day when I buy from my iPhone, I walk into the store and I pick it up,” Gardner said, noting the feel and brand messaging would be consistent at both touch points.
High-end shoppers online also want to be treated like insiders, a type of inclusion that some big names are embracing.
“The Web is democratic by its very nature,” Gardner said. “The luxury consumer, though, is actually a pretty elite consumer. So how do we marry the two of these together? Many people are thinking about ways to really bring the consumer onto the inside of the brand.”
For Marc Jacobs, the answer involved tweets by president Robert Duffy that included, among other behind-the-scenes tidbits, a picture of the designer sketching.
Another Createthe Group client, Burberry, curried favor with shoppers by giving them a front-row seat to their fashion show by live-streaming it on the Web. Gardner noted shoppers could see the new fashions at the same time press and buyers did and, for a limited time, could beat retailers to the punch and buy the looks directly.
“This feeling of being on the inside, being special, getting something other people can’t have is very powerful to the luxury consumer,” he said. “Being there, being first and being on the inside, you’re going to see a lot more of this in the next couple of years.”