Branding and marketing on the web have often been misinterpreted as one and the same thing. While the branding and marketing concepts complement one another, their application is hardly identical. As has been repeatedly emphasized throughout this book, a brand is the sum of all the feelings, perceptions and experiences a person has as a result of contact with a company and its products and services. This means that branding strategy constitutes of factors that can be linked to consumers' minds, where the branding associations reside.
Several luxury brands have defined both their online and offline marketing strategies but are often found wanting in the aspect of online branding. This is mainly because attaining the desired brand perception and brand positioning on the web is a challenge that requires clear-cut strategies. However, a
Case Analysis Coach.com and the 10 Cs
Customer value It is not clear if the full product range of Coach is available online; what is clear is that the online shopper has a wide selection (including limited editions!) and ease of navigation to view them. Products are categorized for easy retrieval through uncluttered pages. There is also a search facility for a quick tour. There are multiple tools for product views such as zoom, image enlargement, colour selection, complementary product selection, avatar product view and an online flip over catalogue!
Cost Coach maintains a consistent online and offline pricing strategy. Nowhere on the website are products marked with 'Sales' or 'Discount' signs.
Convenience The Coach e-store as a retail destination offers several features that enhance and stimulate an enjoyable shopping experience, except sound. The website can also be found easily on search engines.
Communication Coach.com provides visible ways of communicating with the online customer. The Customer Services telephone number appears on the homepage and on all subsequent pages. Links to customer services, email signup and store locations are also visible on multiple pages including those in the online catalogue.
Computing Coach has made excellent use of computing technology to design an effective website. Orders are shipped within two to three working days of purchase and the customer can track the status of their purchased merchandise online. There is also a facility for express shipping.
Customer franchise Coach.com communicates a consistent brand image through its website. The overall experience of the customer after each visit is expected to be positive. The service is quick, well-organized and provides value and a high satisfaction level.
Customer care The online customer care of Coach.com is one of the most efficient in the luxury fashion industry. Online customers are offered the possibility to return or exchange new and unused merchandise either at a Coach store or through shipping. Merchandise can also be exchanged for store credit. Provisions are also made for telephone contact, email contact, free catalogue order, viral marketing and product registration. Consumers also have the possibility to purchase and check the balance of gift cards online.
Community At the time of writing, neither Coach nor its consumer group had developed a visible user community platform.
Content Coach.com features relevant corporate and product and services information, presented in a highly functional and uncluttered layout. However the website is deficient in social benefits.
Customization The website of Coach lacks customization features for products, services and web contents.
well-defined offline brand strategy can be streamlined into the online branding strategy. This boosts the response of consumers because when the brand perception and equity are positive, the consumer response to new channels of sales is likely to be high. Online branding can prove to be an indispensable brand power booster, when expertly managed.
In the development of online branding strategy, the online consumer forms the central point from which the strategy is built. The aim is to enhance the brand's perception in the consumer's mind. Consumers have exceptionally high expectations from luxury brands on the internet. In order to meet their needs, luxury brands need to apply effective strategies to differentiate the luxury brand's website from the clutter of millions of existing websites.
The following questions are particularly important in the development of an online luxury branding strategy:
• Does the website capture the interest of the consumer through its design, layout and structure?
• Will each visitor to the website experience a high impact through the key brand associations?
• Does the website epitomize the key characteristics that make up the brand identity, personality and image?
• Does the website evoke the desired luxurious atmosphere?
• Will the website have a positive impact on the brand equity and increase the brand value?
Dior.com can be used to illustrate the points raised above. The website successfully captures the brand essence of Christian Dior. The cool and trendy yet luxurious elements of the brand are apparent on the homepage and on all the subsequent pages. The website's atmosphere exudes every emotion experienced in a Dior store, which gives it authenticity. This effect has been achieved through the use of online branding elements such as atmospheric features like visuals, flash animations, videos, sound, pictures, navigation, layout and customer care (Figure 6.15).
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