Option five the eretail mall

The e-retail mall is a website that sells the products of multiple luxury brands with a single check-out point. This strategy has been adopted mostly by offline luxury departmental stores such as Macy's and Neiman Marcus; and by pure-play e-retailers like net-a-porter.com, yoox.com and eluxury.com. Another notable company that has implemented the 'e-retail mall' strategy in an elevated manner is glam.com. The website innovatively and creatively combines the different aspects of fashion retail that online consumers seek. These include fashion and trends information, style news and celebrity features. They are provided in a unique space that also includes links to the websites where the featured items are retailed.

The e-retail mall streamlines the shopping experience for the consumer by grouping different brands together in one website. It could however lead to the opposite effect if mismanaged. This could happen when elements that enhance the online customer experience have not been effectively implemented.

High-impact web experiences are more challenging to produce in an e-retail mall than in a single brand e-boutique. This is because e-malls focus more on functionality and managing multiple brands than on creating a prestigious website. Also, a customer who intends to purchase the product of a particular luxury brand might not appreciate clicking through a website with multiple brands and products such as an e-retail mall. At the same time, some online consumers appreciate the variety of product offerings that e-retail malls offer. This poses a paradox that requires an appropriate strategic balance.

Online luxury consumers lack both physical contact with the products retailed online and human contact with the sales personnel; therefore their interaction with the brand is summed up in the visit to the e-store. This means that online customers would have a higher expectation for an enhanced brand experience with the brands they encounter online. The elevated brand experience is more difficult to attain in a website that features numerous brands but innovative companies like glam.com (Figure 6.10) have implemented tactics to overcome this through providing e-shoppers with links to luxury brands' websites.

A major challenge of the e-retail mall strategy option is that the aura of a luxury brand could be downgraded if the e-mall retails a mix of products from high-value and low-value brands. For example, the products of Louis Vuitton, which is considered the most valuable luxury brand in the world, are retailed on eluxury.com where products from little-known mass fashion brands with lower brand value are also found. This factor could affect the luxury brand equity in the long term.



Figure 6.10 Glam.com provides a combination of fashion, celebrity, trends and style news with direct links to e-retail the websites (May 2006)

The offline retail location choice of luxury brands is often in the most exclusive and prestigious districts of the world's fashion capitals, and the same principle of exclusive retail location ought to be applied online through exclusive websites. Streamlining offline and online retail strategies is crucial to generating online traffic and retaining brand loyalty.

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