Louis Vuitton Launches China-Specific Site in Push for Digital Domination

Louis Vuitton announced the launch of a China-specific e-commerce website on Friday, an attempt to tap a booming online shopping market in the Far East. The Paris-based brand, which, opened its first store in Beijing in 1992, confirmed in a statement that the website offers leather goods, small leather goods, shoes, accessories, watch and jewelry, luggage, and the newly launched Les Parfums Louis Vuitton, all of which can be purchased using UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat.

The move coincides with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s larger push to step up its efforts to capitalize on the luxury and fashion sectors' online sales boom. This recently took the form of the launch of 24 Sévres, the new LVMH digital platform that plays host all of its brands, as well as over 100 other luxury brands.

Operated in connection with its Paris-based department store, Le Bon Marche, "This platform should boost the visibility of the various LVMH brands," which include Louis Vuitton, Celine, Loewe, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, and Pucci, among others, sources said in March, adding that the site will also promote luxury goods brands that fall outside of the LVMH umbrella. 

Leading the initiative is former Apple executive Ian Rogers, who was brought on board in 2015 to spearhead digital strategy for the conglomerate. It is LVMH’s first major e-commerce project since Rogers' appointment and also its first foray back into the digital space since it discontinued sales on ELuxury.com - a multi-brand e-commerce platform - it launched in 2000. That venture, which lasted until 2009 before being shuttered, was, according to Bloomberg, "an early pioneer of luxury e-commerce, but fizzled as brands pulled out in favor of selling through their own online flagships." 

The digital revolution has proven difficult for the luxury world, which has been wary of courting a broader audience for fear of losing the mystique that fashion houses market along with their garments and accessories. "For many luxury firms, digital is a hard new reality," the Boston Consulting Group reported last year. "They have to confront the new tension between their traditional world of exclusivity and the web world of access for everyone."

Yet, with online sales representing the industry's most important engine of growth, brands cannot afford to fall behind. Until very recently, analysts estimated that LVMH's total online sales were less than 5 percent of its total sales. And still yet, its online strategy is wildly inconsistent from brand to brand.

Per Reuters, “Some labels such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi have made great strides along with cosmetics retailer Sephora, but Celine stands out as an apparent laggard.” As such, Arnault hired Rogers to help the conglomerate compete with rivals – such as Prada and Hermes, which are revamping their websites to offer a wider choice of products and communicate better about the brand with videos, photos and drawings, on top of other digital content.

Chris Morton, chief executive of Lyst.com, the multi-brand online luxury retailer, says change in this area is inevitable, even for those at the uppermost end of the luxury spectrum. "A luxury brand that avoids the internet is effectively refusing to engage with its customers where they are increasingly spending time and money," he said. "It is not listening to what its customers want, which is dangerous in any consumer-facing industry."