PARIS — An overwhelming majority of Chinese consumers — and more than half of French ones — are interested in buying luxury goods online, suggesting that digital remains one of the most promising growth avenues for the sector.

 

That’s a key finding of a recent survey of 500 luxury consumers in China and 250 in France conducted by Royal Bank of Canada, which estimates that digital sales accounted for 5.5 percent of luxury sales last year to total 12 billion euros, or $15.95 billion at average exchange rates.

 

In a research note, analyst Rogerio Fujimori argues that, “increasing use of digital for browsing and shopping has partially explained the decreasing store traffic across the sector in the last couple of years.”

 

In the survey, 59 percent of Chinese luxury consumers said they search for information online more than once a week, with 92 percent of respondents interested in buying luxury goods online. For reasons, they give convenience, ease of comparison and searching for information on the latest trends, the RBC report says.

 

By comparison, only 28 percent of French luxury shoppers searched online weekly, and only 53 percent were interested in buying online.

 

Still, RBC was surprised to learn that 42 percent of French respondents see a strong digital presence as a positive for luxury brands versus only 10 percent who see it negatively.

 

Chinese consumers ranked Chanel, Hermès and Louis Vuitton as their top three “next dream luxury purchase,” while Chanel and Dior were the top two among French consumers.

 

If digital sustains 20 percent compound annual growth in the next three years, it may represent nearly 8 percent of the total luxury market in 2017, RBC said.

 

“U.S. digital penetration is more than double the global average, hence a strong digital platform is even more important for luxury brands to gain market share in the U.S.,” the report notes.

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