As the conditions in the luxury retail market grow increasingly difficult, Gucci uses a strong digital strategy to their advantage.

The luxury business is not an easy one for any company. No greater can this be seen than with luxury fashion. New and existing competition is a constant, global economic changes and fluctuations are rampant, and consumer behavior is perpetually changing. It then comes as no surprise that many brands in the luxury fashion industry struggle.

The collision of technology and shifting media landscape, where the speed to market has become critical to maintaining consumer interest, has only increased the challenge. The days of collections showing on runways, followed by months of time to bring to market, have been replaced with a consumer who wants what they see instantly—or they move on. Add to this that e-commerce is now proliferating in luxury fashion in ways it had not in the past. The consumer, once reluctant to buy luxury goods online, has more than changed its tune and is now driving upwards of four times growth in online luxury sales in just five years (2009 – 2014). Though most luxury brands report that the majority of sales are still offline, many industry analysts believe that e-commerce will be the third largest luxury market after China and the U.S.

Industry forecasts are estimations that may not always prove accurate, but luxury brands are certainly in a new world, forcing many to change how they do business.

The great news is, adapting to this new and changing marketplace can be done—and done successfully—with real benefit the bottom line in unique and dynamic ways. The savviest brands today no longer make a distinction between online and offline, and include digital in the core of all their major marketing initiatives. The luxury fashion house Gucci is an outstanding example.

From Success To Near Bankruptcy And Back

In the past two decades, Gucci has gone from being one of Italy’s most preeminent brands to almost bankrupt, then back to the top again. A major component of its turnaround has been credited to its digital strategy and efforts. Founded in 1921, the company has not only succeeded in adapting its business to the new digital landscape with modern technology and marketing techniques, but has done so while maintaining its rich heritage and brand identity.

The key has been in Gucci’s effort to take its legacy offline business and seamlessly mesh in online capabilities, including e-commerce, social media, digital marketing and integration of mobile apps and tactics. Its use of content, once limited to offline and print initiatives, is carried cohesively across all of its channels and touchpoints. Whereas in the past, the line between digital and traditional were often separated—with online playing a lesser role—today’s top brands operate across both arenas in tandem. Gucci’s campaigns draw online consumers into a clever multi-media experience that leverages the power of video, photography and more—and when the shopper is offline they’ll see the campaign consistently adapted to that environment. Whether the Gucci customer is shopping online or in a store, this omni channel experience and product access is identical. If a customer wants to find an item offline, they can utilize Gucci’s website as well. Gucci’s smartphone and tablet website experiences were customized for these user environments, yet were seamless to the main site and consistent with the stores.

By leveraging fragmentation—versus allowing it to limit the brand—Gucci has created new and exciting avenues for customers to enjoy, access, and purchase its products.

Letting Content Do The Talking

All great brands understand that for consumers, it’s about conveying a lifestyle. Exclusivity once played a role but today’s consumer taps brands for much more. A deeper look into Gucci’s content efforts across all of its touchpoints and price points is an excellent example of how content can drive both marketing and messaging. For example, in celebrating its iconic Horsebit loafers, Gucci used a suite of content methods, from shoppable mobile videos to user-generated photography. It then distributed this across its social network pages on Facebook, Instagram, etc. as well as in email newsletters and on its website. Content was adapted to formats for every environment, yet remained consistent and on-brand across its overall ecosystem. A traditional media effort complimented Gucci’s offline and online strategy, putting the brand in front of customers no matter where they are.

Using Collaborations And Partnerships To Expand Reach

Gucci utilized strong partnerships to help grow its digital efforts, working with partners from Hollywood to car manufacturers, to art museums and digital influencers. This empowers the brand to reach into other demographics and customer bases while maintaining its own identity and brand. It’s proven to be a win for the company’s digital business, helping to not just create online buzz but establish Gucci as an innovative, creative “new” world luxury brand—despite that the company has been in business for nearly a century.

Luxury brands that have not begun to adapt to digital transformation, or those who continue to see it as a lesser channel, will struggle in today’s marketplace as well as the future. But with the success of approaches used by Gucci and other luxury brands (or even brands outside of the luxury category), combined with the wealth of consumer data available to help businesses make choices, the opportunities that lie ahead far exceed the challenges—providing that brands adapt their business accordingly.