The sensorial, opulent physical experience luxury creates has, of course, always been key to its appeal and success – and it is still what ignites our rapturous desire for it. But, this is now a digital world. And today we see brands outside the luxury sector – for the most part – outpacing it in terms of ideas, application and connected user experiences.

There is irony in the thought that an industry centered around the creation of iconic identities is seemingly struggling to create a natural flow to their digital expression and is instead providing a diluted – or even a completely incongruous – version of the offline experience.

A recent survey conducted by Worldwide Business Research and ShopIgniter confirmed that ‘faced with a luxury consumer who has high mobile expectations and a demonstrated tendency to spend big online, luxury marketers are upping the ante.’ (Source: This is true. But the real challenge now facing the luxury brand is to translate its very essence and definitive aesthetic to all potential audiences, merging the real and digital to one seamless experience. And, essentially, to create one immersive world and ‘living’ expression that captures all the emotions and desire of its real time existence.

The fact that today’s consumer is increasingly looking to brands to create new universal expressions and reach us in new and inspiring ways begs the question why many luxury brands are currently falling short? It’s not that luxury brands do not realize the opportunity. Virtually all have a website and social media presence – for better or worse, luxury and Facebook still seem uneasy bedfellows – but it is rather that they are not fully seizing the opportunity to create something that stems from an ownable and unique brand positioning. To once again show that the luxury market sets the pace and inspires our vision of what is desirable, rather than being in this state of digital catch up.

At present Burberry remains one of the most pacesetting pioneers of modern branded luxury, integrating the 360 experience by bringing digital in to the physical retail arena. It has demonstrated this future focused mindset since its reinvention and was one of the first to make a live link to its customer base when it live-streamed a catwalk show in 2011 choosing London’s Piccadilly Circus and its iconic 32 metre-long screens as a high profile platform.

The mighty power of the digital world and social media to connect to a whole new scale of audience was quickly recognised and utilized by the brand. Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative Officer, said it would enable them to ‘show to our widest audience yet in an immersive, interactive and entertaining experience’.

Today they continue to use digital innovation to add new dimension to their real time offer with the introduction of ‘smart personalization’ of their clothing – ordering clothing straight from the catwalk for delivery within a nine-week timeframe with personalized, engraved nameplates and most recently with their creation of ‘Burberry Kisses’.

A continued exploration of imagination and engagement and their continued partnership with Google and its experimental advertising initiative dubbed Art, Copy & Code, Kisses is a fun and whimsical initiative where both computer and mobile users can create a kiss by webcam or touch screen. A lipstick style ‘kiss’ (which can be picked from a menu of lip prints and Burberry lipstick colours) is generated and appears on the back of a virtual envelope which is delivered after users have filled out the virtual card inside.

The envelope then makes a soaring journey through a 3D virtual world until it arrives at its destination where the recipient can access it by email or Google+, and either answer with a kiss or share it across social networks. A world map then shows where the kisses are traveling between and which regions are ‘kissing’ the most.

While it might be the current frontrunner, there are other luxury leaders maximising their digital presence. Marc Jacobs Intl also partnered with Bumebox in February 2012 to add interactive social media overlays to the live stream of their shows. And they are reaping rewards. By adding these real-time interactions and shares from fan commentary, the recent Marc Jacobs show trended to the number eight most talked about topic on Twitter …and resulted in a 20% click-through rate to Marc Jacobs’ ecommerce site. (Source:

Valentino Garavani also pioneered a different but no less influential kind of launch – to critical acclaim – with his online museum in 2011. Allowing the work of 50 years to be shown, including almost 100 fashion shows on video, 5,000 dresses and original working sketches and photographs of the clothes, it creates a complete vision of the world of Valentino. Most importantly though it brings a legendary figurehead in design into contact with a new, connected generation.

Of course, ultimately it’s about making sales and how we find new and ever more inspiring ways to drive a compelling and cohesive brand vision resulting in commerce and e-commerce. It has to be about the sum of the parts: the user experience, the customer service in harmony with the design aesthetic and attention to detail. Successfully capturing this will have the power to transform our perception – and the realization – of future luxury expressions – across all touch-points.

Burberry, Marc Jacobs and Garavani aside, the current status quo does not seem to be reacting with enough speed or creativity. Yet there are a myriad of ways to bring luxury to life and to take us – brand and consumer – on a sensual journey of the brand in the digital context in a way that can be tailored to the individual.

And, it’s very much about the ‘us’. The real power of the digital world is how it can powerfully bridge the gap between exclusive product and global sales. Making luxury no longer an untouchable ideal but something to shape around and inspire our personal desires. The digital environment should not be viewed as taking away this special – and exclusive – relationship but in many ways as an authority that can actually enhance and tailor the relationship and consumer interaction.

Right across the brand spectrum, and now even more so with luxury, consumers are looking to co-create and interact with brands. And the digital world is allowing the luxury world to be immediately – and ultimately – reactive. So while it will remain grounded in its heritage and invested in equity it can also – as with Burberry Kisses – make short- term emotional overtures to its growing and global customer base. Short- term gain, long-term impact – perhaps still to be seen?

The online world allows us to build a world of luxury around the individual and could be said to create an even more personal, intimate – and less intimidating – relationship. Luxury makes desire real, granting its audience ultimate control, allowing them to shape their world, imagine and then realize their dreams – and nowhere is this more true than with the digital world in all its forms. It has the power to move the relationship from a distant to an ever more intimate, in-depth and dynamic connection.

Most importantly digital application should no longer be seen as the end of the line for a brand’s realization. It is an integral opportunity to get even more up close and personal with the brand, to help build and shape future identity and interactions and to maximize its potential for future creative and commercial success.

Brands today need to build complete and immersive worlds for their consumers. For an emerging global audience this can be the gateway and initiation into its world – a way of bringing its vision to life with brilliance, clarity and immediacy for both existing and potentially new consumers.

Originally published by Luxury Society