From diamonds and designer jewelry to high-end shoes and handbags, luxe goods are flying off virtual shelves. According to an April 2006 report from eMarketer, jewelry and luxury goods made up 7.5 percent of total online sales in 2005, a figure expected to nearly double to 14.1 percent by 2010.
Why are luxury goods so popular? "There are enough seasoned online buyers who have had good experiences purchasing basic items such as books and DVDs online," says Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer, "so they have the confidence to take it to the next level and [make] a more complex, more sophisticated, expensive purchase."
SimplySoles in Washington, DC, is one e-tailer finding success in the luxury market. The company, which sells the best in women's footwear through its catalog and website, brings in an average of $325 on each sale. Sales surpassed $1 million last year.
A key to the site's success is its stream-lined approach. It features only a few designers and styles per designer, and the shoes and information are presented in a creative way. "By offering a streamlined collection of truly unique items, there is more [of a] chance that something will catch the eye and speak to visitors on an emotional level," says Kassie Rempel, the 34-year-old owner and founder of SimplySoles. "When you are dealing with a $400 pair of shoes, your visitors don't want to have to sort through 10 pages of really small images."
Some additional tips for luring luxury shoppers to your website:
1. Be descriptive. "The number-one thing to focus on is education," says Grau. "When people are buying expensive items such as jewelry or cars online, they want to know as much as possible about what they are buying before they actually purchase them."
2. Focus on top-quality visuals. "Luxury goods require higher-quality images and special features that allow consumers to zoom in or view something from a 360-degree perspective," Grau says.
3. Offer stellar customer service. "Make the luxury shopper's experience a great one," Grau says. "For example, make it easy for them to return something they are not happy with. This helps overcome any [reservations] they may have about purchasing big-ticket items online."
Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at email@example.com.