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Dandelion Chandelier recently conducted an analysis of 120 luxury brands, 40 each in the fashion, beauty and watch & jewelry categories. We wanted to understand how these brands are showing up online, and which ones are truly market leaders in this space. Here’s what we found.

Of the 40 top fashion brands, 85% had some kind of e-commerce capability on their own websites. Not bad, given that it is 2016. However, only 78% had m-commerce capabilities, and most don’t offer a full product line for sale online — you’re more likely to find sunglasses and fragrance than pret-a-porter. You can look at the haute couture (which is really fun), but you definitely cannot buy it. Many brands are clearly making the primary focus of their sites the immersion of their consumers in the world of the brand, rather than moving product or providing service. The best of these sites signal in an elegant way what’s for sale and what isn’t – and many are now live- streaming their fashion shows. But there’s not as much new thinking going on here as one might hope, given the creative and financial resources of these brands.

Just a couple of examples: Chanel stages brilliant and wildly expensive fashion shows, and now one can view them online on But the brand could be doing so much more to bring us into the world of the maison. Why not also have an “out-takes” reel of what went on before and after the show? Or provide the soundtrack of the show for purchase via Spotify? I’d love to know what Mr. Lagerfeld’s routine is pre-and post-show, and how he determines which models will wear which clothes. I’d like to see what his cat, Choupette, is doing while the show is underway (does she stream it online?). Would he ever show us the reject pile and explain to us why certain ideas just didn’t work? That level of transparency and intimacy would be an amazing way to draw people into the brand in a way that even the best retail store never could. Of course, a veil of mystery around the creative process is part of what makes luxury work (pay no attention to the man behind that curtain). I’m not talking about letting us see exactly how the sausage is made – but a glimpse or two of the factory floor would be great fun.

What’s interesting is that Chanel actually does do some more revealing things online, but not on the brand’s own site. You can find “behind the scenes” videos on Chanel’s You Tube channel. So why not just take the leap and put in on

A second example: Burberry’s site is considered best-of-breed for many reasons, including the many customer service options it provides. You can find in-store pickup options, express delivery, chat, direct calling to customer service or scheduling a call-back to resolve any issues. But why not enable a Skype session with a stylist or a customer service representative? Or provide an online inventory of all of our purchases from the brand, whether we made them in-store or online, that we can easily access? How about a “special request” feature, where we could list our all-time favorite items from the brand and ask the house for a re-issue? Or a directory of locations where we might find vintage pieces that are certified authentic by the brand?

The beauty category is further along than the fashion brands in ecommerce, and they’ve shown a bit more creativity when it comes to leveraging the unique capabilities of the online channel.

85% of the 40 top luxury beauty brands have ecommerce capability, and all of those sites also have smartphone commerce capability. L’Oreal Paris has a number of filters and tools that enable consumers to quickly identify products that will address a specific need. The editorial that surrounds some of the product offerings is genuinely useful. The brand also has a free app – Makeup Genius – that allows you to do a virtual make-over on your smartphone and then buy the products you liked. Interestingly, however, there is no user-generated content of any type on the luxury beauty brands’ own sites – no peer-to-peer sharing, no open dialogue between the brand and its consumers about various products, and little sense of adventure and exploration in a category that should provide some plain old fun sometimes.

The watch and fine jewelry category is the worst by far in all dimensions. Some of the sites had the look-and-feel of a marketing after-thought – an attitude of “OK, if we have to do this, we’ll have a site. But we’re not putting our hearts into it.” Only 55% of the 40 brands we examined had any e-commerce capability at all, and only half had smartphone commerce ability. Very few of these sites offered a full product line via ecommerce, and the majority did not offer transparent pricing for all of the items on the site. Of course we all understand the possible sticker shock of seeing a $500,000 pair of earrings online. But given all of the options now for luxury consumers to buy these kinds of items on a marketplace site like Amazon, or to rent rather than buy, shouldn’t these brands be reaching for ways to educate, inspire and engage potential consumers? Why should I own a Rolex, rather than just renting one from Eleven James? Tell me the story about what ownership represents, and what a Rolex stands for, and maybe you’ll reel me in.

The designers and creative directors at any luxury house are true creative geniuses. So why do we see these brands timidly tip-toeing into this brave new world? Why don’t we see their brilliance, provocation, and elan deployed in this channel the way we see it done in the atelier, on the runway, and at retail?

The world is waiting for the best-of-the-best to take the lead and show how e-commerce can be a vital driver of building brand engagement, loyalty and incremental purchases. If the brightest in luxury don’t do it, the brightest in tech surely will.

Pamela Thomas-Graham

Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. She serves on the boards of several tech companies, and was previously a senior executive in finance, media and fashion, and a partner at McKinsey & Co.