Luxury ecommerce – María del Carmen Fernández

María del Carmen Fernández has been working as an ecommerce consultant for over ten years and in the last three she has made the leap to her most exclusive specialization, luxury ecommerce. María del Carmen began her career as a web designer but ended up in this branch of marketing because of the demand of her company’s clients and the good eye of her boss, who saw her potential and encouraged her to enroll in an e-commerce master’s degree. In his training he was lucky to find a great professor who aroused his interest in “the infinite possibilities of ecommerce”. María del Carmen started a blog that she called “Infinitum Ecommerce”, in which she wrote news, strategies and resources for a business to be online. He began receiving orders for digital marketing until one day his first luxury brand knocked on his door. It fulfilled the order to internationalize it and this caused that more and more companies of the same level went to her. When he had to choose, he stayed with luxury ecommerce. María del Carmen tells us the peculiarities of luxury ecommerce, how she ended up in this sector, her differences with traditional ecommerce and many curiosities about luxury in retail, her specialty.

How did you get interested in ecommerce? When did you decide to make the leap to luxury ecommerce?

When I finished studying Computer Science, I worked for a few years in a web company, and since I really liked the design, that is, the pages were very nice, the manager of that company asked me to study design of online stores. Since they were starting to demand store orders and wanted me to take them. That’s how I enrolled in an e-commerce master’s degree. There, it was the beginning of everything, and of what I am today. I had a great teacher, who made me interested in investigating more and more the infinite possibilities of ecommerce. He always told us to see beyond, to not settle, to look for the new, the different… At the same time I worked and did the master, I started a blog that calls it “Infinitum Ecommerce”, where I wrote news, strategies and resources for a business to be online. Call it that, because ecommerce has endless possibilities. In less than a year of having the blog, I started to fall in charge of digital marketing and store creation, and I started to collaborate with big magazine like Modaes, and many more. Also, the word of mouth of the customers, made that each time had more, so in 2012 the company “Infinitum Ecommerce” was born. The company is called the same as the blog, because thanks to the success of the blog, I have a company today. The leap to luxury ecommerce came, thanks to a brand Alba Lazari. Your manager met me and put me to the test to take your brand and make it international. I had never worked with luxury brands, and there I saw how complicated it is, that in luxury things are not done the same as in other branches, that marketing is different, that each country is a world, and, as we had success internationalizing this brand, we fell more luxury brands, so I had to decide and choose the luxury, since I could not cover everything, but had to specialize, with the risk that implies. It was there, where I started with the luxury association of Spain, Luxury Spain, collaborating with them in their magazine, Luxury Trends. The biggest success came in 2016, from the hand of Emarketer, the US consultancy that makes digital marketing studies for brands such as Facebook, Mastercard, etc. He interviewed me and I participated in the luxury studio, which was a success, to the point that I went to Forbes (USA). In that study I was just like a Spaniard, so that made luxury brands look at my company, and I made the leap to having luxury brands from other countries. Currently, I can not reveal much, I am immersed in a very big jump of the company, where a showroom-sale will open in one of the countries that sells the most luxury online.  

What is luxury? Are there more differentiating factors besides a higher price?

Luxury is a difficult term to explain, but for me, luxury is exclusivity, perfection, something that makes you feel an incredible experience, and above all, that causes a “woow” effect when you see it. A luxury product, is that not just for the price. In fact, for me, that is in the background. The differential factors of a luxury product are several but, for example, you can cite the customer’s exquisite attention, loyalty, a perfect online shopping experience, packaging, care in details, a brand experience that makes you feel part of the brand, the constant search for innovation, to worry about giving the best to the customer, and not to lose that “woow” effect that falls in love when you see the product.  

In what kind of sectors do luxury products work best?

There are many, but without a doubt the best sectors are:

  • Retail
  • Tourism
  • Feeding
  • Beauty
  • Lifestyle (this sector is working very well)
“A luxury product, it’s that not just for the price, in fact, for me, that’s in the background.” María del Carmen Fernández

How and to whom is luxury sold? What aspects should we pay more attention to?

Luxury is for an average, medium-high and high target, as there are several types of products that are in affordable luxury and high-end luxury. Depending on the product, it focuses more on one target or another. On the other hand, it has nothing to do with marketing a luxury product to a millennial in China than to the same target in Germany. They are very different. That is why it is important to know well what types of target there are, to know their tastes, and how they arrive or consume that luxury offer. Knowing that customer journey is essential to succeed in luxury. In luxury you have to be careful with everything. The marketing strategies are not the same. It does not take for example using bots to get mass followers, but brand ambassadors. The vocabulary and expressions are different, for example, you can not put offers or rebates, but “special prices.” We must take care of the reputation of the brand, its philosophy and, above all, make the brand reach the target that is truly suitable. You do not want a massification, but a more polished, optimized and careful work. In addition, you have to know very well the tastes of different targets, how they behave, how they consume information, their tastes, know the rules of each country to avoid messing up in legal or cultural issues, know the most salable channels and how have the best presence in them, etc.  

When it comes to retail, what do you think of the rental platforms or purchase of second-hand luxury products? Has your appearance affected the sales of luxury ecommerce?

Not at all. Each platform goes to a well-defined target, so that consumers of the platforms of rent or purchase of second-hand luxury products are not the same, who buys in a platform of luxury products. There are many types of luxury target, hence the difficulty of doing digital marketing, because before launching to create a platform, or before launching a product, you must be very clear to whom you want to go. In other niche markets, the search for the target in such a defined way is less important, but in luxury, it is the basis. My opinion on these platforms is good, since I believe that everything has a place and, in addition, there must be a variety of platforms for the consumer to have what they are looking for in a simpler way.  

On the other hand, what do you think of false luxury in retail? That is, collections clearly inspired by large firms, collaborations of great designers with lowcost brands…

Logically this is the order of the day, and many brands that I have, have that concern, but it is something that we have to live with. Against that, nothing can be done. Many managers have asked me if they should register the designs, and I tell them that is silly, since with a minimum change they make when copying the design, it is no longer considered a copy, so they are losing money by registering. What you do, is to create a community of loyal to the brand, since a loyal customer, will never buy the fake luxury, but will acquire the product of the brand. For this reason, high-end brands must take care of their customers, give them an exquisite treatment, offer them the best, and care about what they feel. The stronger this bond is, the less danger there will be that false luxury will affect us. That a luxury designer makes a collaboration with a low cost brand, I think it’s good. A brand can target several targets, and nothing happens, for example we saw this type of collaboration with Balmain and H & M, these types of collaborations are normal, luxury can have variants, and reach another type of audience.  

Along the same lines, what do you think of sub-brands of large firms, increase market share or are they a direct competitor? Could you give me a good and bad example?

If done well it should not be bad, but a way to expand the market share, and reach a wide range of consumers. You have to bear in mind that the more you specialize in a target, the more successful you are. So, if for example, you are specialized in millennials, and suddenly with the same brand you want to include Generation Z, you can cause a disaster and confuse your audience. An example of this is the Loewe brand, which in 2012 had a great failure with its announcement of the “Gold” collection, which provoked a lot of criticism and made many of its loyal buyers feel outraged. LVMH has several brands under its umbrella, and as a bad example would be the case explained above, and as a very good example, the opening of 24 Sèvres, which is a marketplace where it gathers all its own and external brands. For LVMH, luxury ecommerce is the key to increasing sales, which is why they estimate that in 2025 they could bill around 70 billion euros in their own marketplace.  

What are the differences when planning a marketing strategy for a normal ecommerce and for a luxury one? How can we differentiate ourselves?

There are many differences in the marketing planning of a luxury ecommerce. The first is to know who you are going to, since that is the basis of planning. When the public is well defined, we have to see which channels are chosen, how we are going to have presence in them, the Kpi’s, etc. Everything that is going to be done must respect the philosophy of the brand, it must be in line with and aligned with it. You do not look for pure and hard conversion, which logically you need to have, what you want is to reach that target, make him fall in love, make him a participant and strengthen the image of the brand. To differentiate you have to be faithful to the principles of the brand, look for innovation, be in constant improvement, and work to offer a shopping experience of excellence.  

What kind of actions work in luxury ecommerce but not in the rest? And vice versa?

Many actions and strategies work in normal ecommerce, but in luxury, there are many things that do not. For example, a bots strategy to raise followers, bots for customer service, strategies to buy on impulse, strategies with microinfluencers or generalist influencers, sending discount to the email if you leave an abandoned cart, etc. does not work. But in the luxury package, loyalty clubs, affiliate strategies, brand ambassadors, augmented reality, smart search engines, actions to make pre-reservations or strategies for m-commerce work very well.  

Is there a large percentage of conversions in luxury ecommerce? How are they compared with the rest of ecommerce platforms?

Yes, there is. It must be understood that luxury has grown by 3% this year, and it is expected that in 2021 it will reach 8% (world rate). Online luxury in Spain has low conversion rates, but in the United States or the United Kingdom, high-end digital purchases are high. To understand this conversion rate more, it must be said that 64% of online purchases are made from mobile devices.  

Are there impulse purchases on luxury ecommerce platforms or do people often think a lot about buying? That is, do people make many online purchases of these types of products or prefer to use the platforms as a query and complete the purchase in the store?

Luxury consumers know very well what they buy, they are not impulsive, since they inform themselves very well before making the purchase. What is used a lot in luxury is omnichannel. Since, for example, Chinese consumers tend to go to a physical luxury store, see several clothes, try them on and then scan with the qr code of the clothes they liked to create a kind of wishlist on their phones for, then in their homes, and to select or discard what they want and make the purchase. In order to be successful in luxury it is important to be omnichannel. For it to work selling a luxury brand online only, it should be known in advance. Because, if not, it will not have many opportunities, since the high-end consumer is very distrustful and wants to make sure that he buys well.  

Do you use remarketing strategies?

If they are used, but not remarketing to use, but more optimized and filtered. Real Time Bidding (RTB), adword ads for mobile, prospecting and programmatic advertising are widely used.  

How can we internationalize a brand digitally?

To internationalize a brand digitally you must have a suitable online store, native translations, marketing strategies focused and optimized for each country, digital presence, SEO by countries or languages ​​(depends on the strategy), packaging and catalogs adapted to international requirements and have presence in the most compatible channels in each place where we want to be.  

Why do you recommend markets to bet to internationalize a luxury product?

That depends a lot on the product, but I can say that markets such as China, USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Dubai, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Kazakhstan and many others are among the places that buy luxury online.  

When a business focused on luxury is set up, should it be aimed at a national or international audience?

It depends, but generally international. But beware, you can not launch a brand and cover all countries from minute one, but you must choose at the most 2 countries, and work them well, and when you see that you can expand, it grows. One thing I want to emphasize, is that not all businesses are successful in any country where luxury is consumed, since there are often products that, at best, can only be sold well in 3 countries, for example.