NET-A-PORTER, the UK based luxury e-tailer has recently launched a shopping application for iPhone users. Users can download the application for free and can make purchases, browse latest offerings or update their wish list by using their iPhone. Other major companies such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Victorias Secret or Galeries Lafayette are also offering shopping on web enabled mobile phones.
But is this a viable alternative sales channel for luxury or rather for medium/ mass market products ? Alison Loehnis of NET-A-PORTER explains that the decision to launch this application is mainly based on the fact that people are likely to change their habits of online purchasing, many abandoning the idea of placing a purchase or browsing an online store while being seated at a desk in from of a laptop or PC. Interviewed on the same matter, David Lauren, VP Advertising&Marketing at Ralph Lauren motivates the companys strategic decision to invest in cell phone shopping with the immediacy of mobile engagement which has a major impact on consumers habits.
Oliver Petcu of CPP Management Consultants Ltd believes shopping via cell phone is likely to prove successfull for mass market products, pointing to the success of SEARS, one of largest retailers in the USA. In the case of mass market products, consumers are indeed seeking ways to reduce the time they allocate to shopping in a supermarket or a convenience store. From personal use products to home decorations and appliances, consumers would indeed be able to benefit from this immediacy. By contrast, Luxurys core essence is exclusivity and many top international brands pride the fact that their high end luxury products are produced in a limited quantity therefore, some customers need to wait on a shopping list. This generates desirability and it creates the magic luxury offers. Indeed luxury can benefit from this alternative channels but only for their cheapest product lines such as small accessories, T-shirt, underwear or sunglasses. We would highly doubt an Hermes customer would purchase a bag on its mobile phone. The other major shortcoming of shopping via the mobile phone for luxury brands is the fact that screens of such devices offer low resolution, which is essential for a luxury product (color, material, finishing etc).
In the case of NET-A-PORTER this new venture looks more like a push for publicity and awareness, benefiting from the potential of iPhone.
Oliver Petcu also warns that fake luxury products sites which have been flourishing since the debut of the crisis could benefit from this immediate availability. Mobile phone companies are most certainly viewing this as an increased motivation for customers to make use of their services. At the same time, they would be highly unlikely willing to differentiate between website and block the sites which sell counterfeit items. This has become even more difficult in the past 2,3 years, since developers of such sites have become more savvy and they mix their product offering with genuine stock (outlet) collections with counterfeit products, making it very difficult for luxury companies to fight back.
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