Key eCommerce takeaways from Luxury Interactive 2010

It’s been a few weeks since retail and luxury executives convened on the 17th floor of NYC’s Sentry Centers for the annual Luxury Interactive conference, but the buzz is still around as we here at WBR and others in the industry continue to talk about the topics covered there. In case you missed the show, here’s a recap of some of its most important key points. Next year we know you’ll be there to hear them live.

Gerald Barnes, Neiman Marcus

– The debate between brick and mortar vs. online sales platforms goes on, but both sales methods are valid. Gerald Barnes, President and CEO, Neiman Marcus Direct, said “The idea of a sales associate having to stand behind a POS will soon be gone.” However, he also went on to say “Brick and mortar is just as important as online, especially if brick and mortar came first. Online should be seen as a tool to empower the customer to connect.” As Mobile Marketer reported, Neiman Marcus also claimed it would be completely mobile by fall as part of its multi-channel contact strategy to drive long-tern growth. According to Barnes, Neiman Marcus will also release a new application in the fall and the company is looking at mobile devices as a longer term, higher-tech solution.

Mickey Khan, Mobile Marketer

– Luxury retailers are still a bit afraid of current marketing practices that might go against their traditional brand practices. Mickey Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, makes the claim that today’s consumer is “used to” marketing messages in mediums like direct mail, display advertising in print and online, TV, social media, search engines and more yet he also asserts that most luxury brands are “stuck in 1995.”

“If luxury brands want to be relevant to their upscale and scaling-up audiences they need to have a user-friendly web site that allows visitors to shop and search for items – even, goodness gracious, buy,” he said. “The typical upscale luxury customer is aging. Mail and print ads might work for them. Not for the luxury customers of tomorrow: twenty-something bankers or Silicon Valley types or even Riviera-sort heirs – their language is social media, email, Web, SMS, applications.”

– Mega brands are starting to diversify their portfolios and even those not typically associated with luxury want to establish themselves as a niche authority in some aspect of online retail. At the conference an eBay exec revealed that the company is in the midst of rolling out an application for its eBay Fashion site which will push limited-time designer sales events, similar to sites like Gilt Groupe, whose entire business model revolves around such events. While they won’t be specializing in it they way Gilt does, they are opening their doors to high fashion in other ways too, such as through a partnership with luxury designer Narciso Rodriguez to collaborate on a collection specifically made for eBay. A big part of this focus is making sure that no counterfeits get sold on the site, according to Sandra Lin, general manager of eBay Fashion. As Mobile Commerce Daily first reported, the company is focusing on three areas, including education and prevention, detection and enforcement.

Speaking of Gilt, that company is also diversifying its eCommerce goals with sub-sites like “Jetsetter” which offers deals on travel as opposed to its staple of offerings in high fashion.

– No matter what your industry, content is king, but how to use it, create it and implement it is still unknown. During a round tablediscussion at Luxury Interactive, Sarah Beam Lukas, Corporate Manager, eCommerce, The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, attendees were eager to hear about how to incorporate editorial and user-generated content into site-marketing strategies. Suggestions for outsourcing or partnering with bloggers were made but generally speaking, attendees were unsure of how they could sell this to the higher-ups since ROI would have to almost immediately be provable. There’s no easy answer here, but it seems everyone is aware of how important content is to adding value to a brand – especially a luxury brand.