By: Eamonn Leacy

A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been luxury’s accelerated adoption of digital.
While the personal goods luxury market contracted in 2020 by its biggest share since 2009, according to Bain & Co’s latest Luxury Study, the outlook for e-commerce sales is nothing short of transformational.
”Online shopping for luxury goods has soared, doubling its share of the market to 23% in 2020 from 12% in 2019,” says the report. ”The turmoil of COVID-19 has been the catalyst for change for the luxury industry, which is on a path to recovery by 2022-2023.”
With the global luxury goods market driven by a large share of Chinese shoppers (around 30-40% and currently shifting to China’s domestic market), it’s about time luxury brands and retailers became more adept at following the likes of WeChat, Weibo and Little Red Book in their ability to offer niche digital marketing.
Yes, there may be downward pressure on advertising budgets as global travel remains subdued, but this presents even more reason to take a strategic and narrow approach to customer targeting. While brands in travel retail are not converting at the moment, that could be addressed with a campaign that layers fresh, niche data sets over existing ones to offer new customer touchpoint opportunities. There is pent-up demand for leisure travel that is likely to spring back as 2021 develops hand-in-hand with vaccines being rolled out, together with more airlines accepting passengers that can prove they’re COVID-free. This has all become digitised and could be a programmatic factor in planning highly targeted campaigns.
One key learning from the fallout of the UK’s decision to abolish the VAT refund scheme for overseas shoppers is the clear need for digitalisation infrastructure.
It’s a few years since the retail world started to become obsessed with ‘rich data’ and the old-new adage that ‘data is the new oil’. But imagine what the UK government could do with all that tourist spending data? Transaction analytics and CRM data insights could be pooled to gain a better picture of where, when and how overseas shoppers are spending their money. But apparently the UK government is not interested in leveraging tourism data for any in-bound economic benefits. However, I’ll bet travel retail stakeholders are, though – if the traditional Trinity model of airport, travel retailer and brand can expand the business model to include airlines (the ‘quaternity’) – then passenger data can be introduced to the mix. Then it starts to become much more interesting.
Echolution also adds into this mix its tiered data stack technology. The agency has an agnostic approach to utilising insights from branded data partners. Echolutions proprietary software transforms a number of data sources into actionable targeting audiences – from brands’ own web and CRM data, exclusive partnerships with travel booking companies and location data providers, to Global Blue’s 13m+ frequent tax free shopper loyalty programme data.
The advertising industry is shifting away from cookie data usage in favour of more robust methods. When Echolution builds an audience plan, it includes where and how consumer profiling data is sourced, so brands can understand the shift towards a more transparent approach to delivering the right kind of ad message.
Brands increasingly want to investigate and identify audience relevance. They want to drill down into behaviour intent. For example, people who want to travel – have they clicked on to book? have they clicked on a specific date for travel?That is the kind of data footprint that will have to come from media agencies as part of the planning process. Brands will start to see the value of developing relationships with third party data providers to build up more robust and contextual consumer profiling.
For a major luxury brand like Burberry, global reach by demographic and destination/origin markets are key campaign drivers.
For Echolution’s Golden Week 2019 campaign work with Burberry, the brief was to maintain a strong online presence and create awareness for Burberry’s new collection among international travellers who planned to travel to, or were travelling in the UK, Italy and France. The key origin markets were China, Japan, South Korea and UAE.
Echolution created a campaign programme that reached HNW target prospects on the most relevant websites and apps, with the goal to increase sales both online and in-store.
Major learnings from the month-long campaign were for Chinese social media platforms; video ads had the best CTR (click-through rate), while both mobile and desktop executions saw distinct advantages. Mobile-only assets achieved very high CTR (6.4% – 7.8%) vs desktop plus mobile (1.05%); video ads achieved a high range for completion rate (80% – 85%) due to Chinese video platforms’ user access behaviours.
Burberry’s aim is to continue to invest in digital programmatic tools. An ongoing brief for them is to explore new marketing channels through learning, testing and measuring the results to be able to identify new doors of opportunities.
This is just a snapshot from an advertising perspective. Data has become a key prize for retailers, too. Shopper analytics are driven by a new world order that sees businesses operating their B2C marketing activity akin to the digital mega-systems that have become known as FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google).
Just imagine a world where data partnerships are not an oft-quoted whimsy and collaborations produce mutually beneficial customer targeting tools. Campaigns could be stored via a cloud-based SaaS platform that helps stakeholders with predictive analytics to close the sale for their customers.
So, with a new laser sharp focus on digitalisation, the travel retail industry can learn a thing or two from the FAANG playbook. By layering first party CRM data with streams of passenger data, tourism data and incentivised shopper marketing activity, travel retail sits in a good place as a robust sales channel. But it needs to adopt a more digital mindset and just be more FAANG, in order to kickstart an e-commerce revolution.

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