Mining Data from Online Luxury Consumers

The online world allows retailers to learn more about their customers than ever before. How you use that data will be the key to success of any luxury business online, according to three online luxury professionals who participated in a panel discussion Wednesday at the Luxury Interactive conference in New York.

Ed Foy, Jr., chief executive officer of eFashionSolutions, which provides outsourced e-commerce services to fashion retailers, says that it is vital for companies to understand, evaluate, and properly use the data they collect. In fact, he says that is one of his major responsibilities.

“Finding the time to get in front of the client and have them understand which data is timely, relevant, and actionable,” said Foy, whose clients include Oscar de la Renta, Judith Leiber, Kimora Lee Simmons, and DKNY. “Consolidating the relevant data and give them the actual key indicators. A lot of it can be used.”

With the correct use of this data, companies can have access to “actual key business indicators” that will allow them to determine which new products to launch and where to focus products and services, he says. It even helps with making offline business decisions.

Diane McDavitt, president of LuxuryLink, an online luxury travel resource company, said she used online data information to buck conventional wisdom and focus on affluent consumers when others said they had little interest in buying luxury goods online.

“Our research showed that affluents are more inclined to use the Web,” she said.

She added that the Web allows her company to track customers as they enter the site, while they are on their site, and when they leave. Because of this, the Web is great place to advertise and sell products.

“At the end of the day we always go online because of the accountability,” she said. “We are able to track people to our site. All of the elements of online advertising are not available in traditional media. We can know more specifically where our more organic customers and visitors are coming from.”

McDavitt also found email to be a great tool to communicate with customers. Her company produces weekly and monthly emails that are “received warmly” by their customers. On various occasions, they produce a “Wish List” newsletter that coincides with something unique that customers expressed an interest in, such as a luxury trip to Africa.

“That has been highly successful,” she said.

Cecilia Pagkalinawan, director of Web and e-commerce for Frette, which sells luxury linens to households and hotels online, their own stores, and at other retailers, also said she likes the fact that she can track where customers come from on the Web. For example, she said, she saw a lot of hits coming from Forbes.com. It was because the magazine Web site had written about the company.

In addition, she said she learned about the importance of using proper search terms so customers can more easily find her company’s Web site. For example, she learned that she would receive more hits from their U.S. Web site by using the American term for bed linens her company sells.

“We always used ‘bed covers’ which is the European term for bed linens,” she said. “We were not coming up on ‘bed spreads,’ so we changed our language online to bed spreads.”