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The changing image of online shopping

This article first appeared in the Summer issue (231) of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

If you thought that online shopping was all about consumers hunting out a deal, then it’s time to think again.

A recently released survey by consultants McKinsey and Italian luxury goods association Altagamma suggests that the online market for luxury goods is in fact becoming an increasingly important driver in ecommerce. At the end of last year worldwide online sales of luxury goods reached €6.2bn, and grew three times faster than the total luxury goods market.

Over the past few years we’ve worked with many high-end luxury fashion brands and the arguments are very often the same; that all but the most cutting-edge consumers will balk at spending €1,000 or more on a handbag and a dress if they cannot touch it and try it on first. Altagamma’s research clearly shows this to not be the case, and in fact highlights that online sales are much more important than most luxury brands realise.

So what’s driving this change? Well, undoubtedly we are becoming much more trusting about shopping online. Paying for items online has become an accepted part of our daily lives and as such we are much more comfortable spending larger sums of money digitally.

And of course, online experience is improving all the time, so luxury brands are able to reflect their brand more accurately online. Modern ecommerce sites are waking up to the power of experience to not only engage users, but also to help reassure that user that they are genuine. Where so much money is invested in creating a brand, you can’t let your online customers down with a second-rate site.

While luxury brands are pumping millions into trying to capitalise on the spending power of the BRIC countries, spending on digital is tiny. This should be a wake up call to the luxury market that digital has a huge part to play in its future.