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Digital First: Baby, I Was Born This Way

By Craig Crawford, Crawford IT


Jusbackground social networkt the other day, I asked my intern for a photograph of herself as a child for a presentation I was preparing for Jaeger. As a millennial, she was able to log onto several of her social media accounts and offer me a selection of photos right away. For her, access to data and images in the cloud is not a struggle—it’s a way of life. When I had to do the same task, I had to find and scan in a hardcopy baby picture.

This made me think: do brands that were born digital have it easier than those that weren’t?

While I worked at Burberry, we toiled to transform a brand that had more than 150 years of rich heritage. Our work began in 2009, and the journey still hadn’t ended in 2014 when I left the company. Burberry’s Digital Success wasn’t just about putting iPads in stores and iPhones in the hands of executives. It was about transforming ways of thinking, methods of working, and putting digital first. It was cultural change. And it was about being authentic.

Not all Burberry customers are millennials. However, today’s 20-somethings are the next wave, and as aspirational luxury consumers they now use their mobile phones as much as 40% of the time to purchase.

ThinkstockPhotos-480873591With no brick-and-mortar stores (and no plans to have any), ASOS.com (abbreviation for “As Seen on Screen”) caters to this trend and wins.

As the UK’s largest independent online fashion and beauty retailer, they sell 60,000 products for men and women in ways millennials shop: socially and digitally. As Seen On Me picks up customers’ Instagram posts with #AsSeenOnMe (photos of themselves in ASOS looks) that can then be directly shopped from and shared, while personal stylists like James Welsh offer advice via YouTube and chat with customers via Twitter. The latest evolution of the site now offers a catwalk video on product.

Consumer interactions are carefully monitored by a team of analysts, and when something works, it is scaled up. When something doesn’t, it is scaled down. (Women on average watch the catwalk videos twice, while men prefer 360 rotation views of product vs. catwalk videos).


StoreFarfetch.com is another UK online retailer that describes itself as a global community of more than 300 visionary fashion boutiques for fashion-forward consumers. They divide labels into Luxe (high-end designers) and Lab (contemporary, experimental and emerging labels). Editorials offer celebrity-curated lists of best dressed hipsters with links to shop or insider scoops on fashion topics like Red Carpet looks.

It’s not just consumers who find Farfetch fabulous. Young luxury design startups find them amazing because of the SEO optimization and digital visibility they provide that the young hot brands can’t afford to do alone.

New York-based Khirma Eliazov, whose handbags are worn by celebrities on and off the red carpet, says she gets maximum exposure from Farfetch’s established digital footprint.

“My online sell through is now 70%,” Khirma explained, “but that wouldn’t be possible unless I had the wholesale presence I do at stores like Bergdorf Goodman. My customers want to first touch my product. I learned this at my first trunk show. It’s the emotional connection to the brand that people have that allows for growth.”

ThinkstockPhotos-471655168Perhaps this is why Farfetch acquired the 45-year-old London boutique Browns?

This store as gallery or showroom concept serves MatchesFashion.com well. This London-based retailer views itself as online first and sees its network of stores as galleries. The depth and breadth of the collection is available online, and sales associates use mobile point of sale (POS) stock look up tools to move stock to client locations for fitting and trial while a Proximity Insight Dynamic clienteling tool helps sales associates look after customers on a one-to-one personal level.

So digital, it would appear, isn’t easier, nor does it replace the physical. Instead, it is now a mandatory new way for brands to transact business as part of a balanced eco system of physical and digital experience that today’s luxury consumers and millennials demand.

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