FIRST IMPRESSIONS PROMPT A SWIFT ELUXURY MAKEOVER
Byline: Valerie Seckler
NEW YORK — Alain Lorenzo isn’t letting any grass grow under eLuxury.com, luxury titan Bernard Arnault’s ambitious, pricy project to sell upscale fashion in cyberspace that went live a scant 3 1/2 months ago.
Quite the opposite. The president and chief executive officer of eLuxury is taking a series of rapid steps to appeal to a customer that is trending younger than anticipated, with more of them falling in the 25-to-35-year-old range rather than the 25-to-35-year old luxe consumer typically found in traditional stores.
“We’ve had four months, or so, until we have to blow the big marketing guns for Christmas shopping,” observed Lorenzo, former president and ceo of LVMH’s Parfums Givenchy, who joined eLuxury.com in May, just ahead of its launch in mid-June. “We’ve learned from the many dot-coms that blew their financing away that it makes no sense to spend a lot of money up front on marketing, before you fine-tune the business.
“We’ve spent the last few months,” he added, “responding to our customers’ feedback so that when Christmas comes, we’re optimized for the holiday season.”
In an exclusive interview with WWD, Lorenzo, the energetic, charismatic leader of the upscale Internet venture, revealed the e-tailer has:
Redesigned the Web site to convey a fresher, younger attitude by using bold colors to replace much of the black-and-white that previously dominated, and adding more product illustrations, photographs and bolder typefaces.
Begun to widen and deepen merchandise assortments beyond the 2,200 stockkeeping units it opened with, placing a greater emphasis on forward fashion in an attempt to cater to its youthful users.
Put up video clips from 14 of the recent New York runway collections in the Catwalk section of its e-zine and plans to do the same for the upcoming shows in Milan and Paris. Some of the clips, which include designer interviews, were online by nighttime of the same day as the runway show was held.
Added the e-zine to its navigation bar, making it accessible from anywhere on the Web site, after noting that around a third of the e-mail to eLuxury.com has mentioned the e-zine.
Revised the selection of key words the Web site responds to in user searches conducted through the trio of Internet portals eLuxury.com notched deals with in July: AltaVista, Yahoo, and LookSmart.
Established links between eLuxury.com and the corporate Web sites of some of its vendors, including Louis Vuitton (another LVMH property), with Baccarat set to come onstream shortly.
Firmed up details of a high-impact holiday ad campaign that will feature two or three consecutive ad spreads, in more than a dozen fashion and lifestyle magazines, and is set to break in mid-October.
Created a 56-page shopping guide it will mail just before Thanksgiving, to a half-million people in the U.S. who are luxury shoppers or Internet users. The guide will promote various items available at eLuxury.com and offer a synopsis of its mission.
There’s more to come.
The Web site’s redesign, which began to be phased in on Sept. 22, will soon feature merchandise from two designer brands new to eLuxury.com, Donna Karan and John Galliano and will also add technologies over the next four weeks, including one that will portray 3-D product images and another enabling users to look inside items such as handbags, as well as trigger the de rigueur spin-and-zoom actions.
Although eLuxury.com began to execute its makeover just 10 days ago, Lorenzo said, “The thing we saw immediately was a doubling of the average number of pages viewed by visitors versus two months ago. Even though our traffic was building, our average number of page views was not. Now, what has started to occur at eLuxury is a decrease in our traffic, but an increase in purchases,” he added, without specifying. “That’s why we decided not to do a lot of TV [commercials] this fall. We’d get lots of new customer traffic, but our conversion rates would not be good.”
According to Web ratings agency Media Metrix, eLuxury.com’s user traffic for August amounted to fewer than 200,000 different people, the agency’s benchmark figure for measuring traffic at a given Web site.
Lorenzo declined to reveal the Web site’s volume to date, or the size of its average transaction, but he noted, “So far, our experience has been really positive. We’re meeting our budget, which was reasonably modest, but will increase to a more demanding plan in a few weeks.”
According to eLuxury.com’s ceo, “The money spent on the redesign was not a big deal. It’s the aesthetics that have changed [the most]. The big money was spent on the engine behind the pictures.” As reported, eLuxury.com spent approximately $50 million on its launch, which marked the first Internet joint venture between LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and EuropatWeb, the Internet industrial group controlled by LVMH chairman Arnault through Groupe Arnault, his family holding company.
As for his take on the redesign, executed by Paris-based firm Mother, which created Dior’s corporate Web site, Lorenzo said, “I think the first thing that hits you is that the new site is making a younger, fresher, bolder statement. One thing about this site is that it’s polarizing. The stronger an attitude you take about something, the more some people will love you and others will hate you.”
Pedestrian though it might sound, the reworking of the keywords that trigger responses at the portals where eLuxury.com has a presence sheds light on how the luxe Web site has sought to respond to the feedback it has gotten from users via e-mail, call centers and market research. “At first, we did what everybody did in the early days of portal deals: We put our name all over the [Web sites],” Lorenzo related. “But the click-throughs weren’t high because no one knew what eLuxury was.”
As a result, he explained, “We’ve moved away from using eLuxury alone, or product names alone, and have added a number of the key brands we carry, like Ferragamo, Christian Dior, Michael Kors.”
So far, Kors has proven one of the hottest fashion labels on the Web site, Lorenzo said. “Since late July, the traffic for Michael Kors’s fall preview collection and e-mails asking to purchase items have been many. They do sell. That’s why we’ve decided to add more edgy products.”
Similarly, eLuxury.com mounted direct mail and e-mail campaigns to test consumers’ response to three potential themes for its fall ads: a broad assortment of hot fashion; a wide range of prices, from $20 to $20,000, and the Web site’s association with one of the world’s major luxury goods groups. The strongest response was registered by the breadth of the fashion assortment and eLuxury.com’s association with LVMH, Lorenzo said, but he declined to state which theme would be used in the ads.
“One thing that became increasingly clear to us about our overall positioning was to try and stand for the latest styles,” Lorenzo noted. “Therefore, we decided to reflect this more in our fall assortment and in our upcoming winter assortment, adding more products and making greater use of illustrations and photos of hot items, like a Trussardi python bag, that users can click on for product details and prices.”
And while saying he’s pleased so far with eLuxury.com’s performance, Lorenzo remains cautious in his outlook. “I don’t want to blow the trumpets yet,” he said. “What we’ve achieved so far is encouraging, but is not yet sufficient to say, ‘Yeah, it’s great, we’re making it.’
“We should know how high is up,” he said added, “by the end of December.”