Photo courtesy of SJX

Luxury brands primarily rely on their brand and reputation to advance sales. In an age where consumers have been shifting towards the desire to feel that they and their purchases are part of something bigger than themselves; luxury brands have been pivoting towards experiential marketing to better express their alignment with meaningful causes and communicate their brand essence on a deeper, emotional level.


With the coming of the pandemic, lockdowns and isolation have greatly amplified this consumer desire to be part of something bigger. When health concerns dictate that social distancing and staying at home are necessary, it has become even more critical for luxury brands to fulfill this need and bring their experiential marketing to consumers in their homes.


The Shift to Virtual

Louis Vuitton began its shift by launching an exclusive Valentine’s Day popup allowing customers to place orders online. Noting significant success through using social analytics, LV then moved all offline promotions online, along with consultations and post-sale services as well.


The result? They doubled their online sales from Valentine’s Day 2019.


Photo courtesy of Alizila.


The Shanghai Autumn-Winter Fashion Week 2020 was initially postponed due to the pandemic, but eventually partnered with Tmall to shift to a virtual event instead. It became the first ever fashion week to go completely digital – but it wasn’t merely about live streaming the event.


Many brands taking part in Shanghai Fashion Week such as Pinko and Rothy’s enhanced their experiences with commentaries, e-commerce functions and virtual afterparties in addition to their ongoing live streams.


This ‘cloud launch’ format will greatly disrupt the traditional product launch,” said Mike Hu, head of Tmall Fashion, Luxury and FMCG; where instead of a two-hour press conference or one-day physical event, brands get to interact with consumers over a vastly extended timeline, while reaching an audience of potentially millions instead of just a few hundred visitors. He followed up by saying: “It breaks down the physical limitations of time and geography for brands to engage their consumers.”


Here’s the ‘Why’

While there are certain setbacks to holding a virtual event, such as lack of urgency or personal touch; it would appear that the benefits greatly offset them.


I’ve mentioned audience expansion above, but there are many more opportunities for additional advantages. Take the heightened interactivity, for one. That audiences can contribute to the experience via live polling and Q&A, or have fun through gamification – this by itself is a game changer, as it makes the experience much more memorable and connects with audiences on a deeper level.


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Employing analytic tools that collect data on consumers is extremely important as well. It’s not enough that audiences are engaged, you need to know exactly how engaged they are. Who likes this, who hates that, what works and what doesn’t – this is all priceless information that helps you improve in the long term, as well as pivot in real time to really connect with consumers.


In an age where consumers buy luxury products not only for the status they bring but also to feel as they are part of an exclusive community – one that offers special privileges and really connects to them as individuals; these features are critical to staying relevant and keeping a competitive edge.



Photo courtesy of SJX.

A Step Ahead of the Competition
Other luxury brands have taken their virtual events to the next level. IWC Schaffhausen – a specialty luxury watchmaker owned by Swiss conglomerate Compagnie Financiere Richemont – used augmented reality to showcase its 2020 Portugieser collection, debuting it at the Watches & Wonders online trade fair.


In May, IWC started a Facebook chatbot program allowing customers to directly access a virtual advisor. This launched in the same month as their first Virtual Boutique; a 360° virtual reproduction of their physical flagship store in Singapore. The Boutique also featured two exclusive virtual events with mix-your-own cocktails, delivered to selected clients via snail mail.


Photo courtesy of SJX.

Perhaps the most subtle yet significant inclusion was a matching Spotify playlist to ensure the same vibe for all visitors. Customers could walk around in the Boutique, peruse watches and even interact with others as well – presenting an experience wholly similar to physically being in a store, but with the added convenience of browsing from home.


Your Meaningful Connections
The key motivation for these luxury brands when it comes to creating an online experience is ultimately to connect with consumers on a deeper, more meaningful level. Ensuring that consumers can interact with you regardless of where and when, creating new ways for them to engage and have fun – all these go towards building a better, more memorable relationship between the consumer and the brand.


Marie-Cécile Cervellon – professor of marketing at EDHEC Business School in France – states that experiential events offer an ROI roughly 10 times higher than traditional marketing campaigns. She adds that virtual events “provide a much larger audience and it proves a way to be visible much beyond the frontiers of the physical event”.


With that in mind, it is evident why luxury brands – being brands that significantly rely on curating a memorable and emotional connection with their consumers – are moving to utilise virtual events as fast as they can.

Because beyond all the benefits that pivoting to virtual brings, it sends a clear and simple message to consumers.

We’re here for you, we’ll reach out for you, even when you can’t come to us.


The Times are Changing… Again

It’s hard to argue with the results of virtual events, but the situation is changing once again. Successful brands have identified which way the winds were blowing and correctly pivoted to fulfill the need for consumers to be reminded of their normal lifestyles (such as shopping) and to be part of a bigger experience, a bigger crowd during a time when they were isolated.


But in many parts of the world, the lockdowns are gradually lifting. People are starting to come out of their homes again, and the challenge that luxury brands now face is evolving with the circumstances.


People aren’t as restricted as they were two months ago, but they have become relatively accustomed to brands being present online. We stand at a juncture where people are yearning for physical, personal interactions yet associate lack of online presence with brand weakness.


What’s Coming Next?

The British Fashion Council has announced that the London Fashion Week – originally slated to go fully virtual – will now proceed with both physical and digital shows this September. Brands like Burberry are in support of this venture, synonymously revealing their plans to host physical shows that can be viewed online.


This follows similar announcements from the organisers of both Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks that physical schedules will be in place, complemented by digital support.


Our hypothesis? Experiences are evolving once more to include both online and offline dimensions. The winds are changing, and the age of hybrid events – rather than completely virtual – is rapidly approaching.


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