But not for much longer. In the US last week, Amazon launched its latest bid for the luxury market with a glossy new mobile site where brands can create their own digital online boutiques without worrying that their wares will be advertised alongside phone chargers and nappies. With its individual storefronts and action model shots, it has attracted labels like Oscar de la Renta and is clearly closely based on Chinese platform Alibaba and its Tmall luxury site. Tmall has rapidly become one of the fastest growing fashion ecommerce platforms on earth, capturing a huge proportion of the Chinese luxury market – no wonder Amazon wants to copy it.
Amazon’s mobile-only release comes on the back of its Common Threads launch , which features brands like Anna Sui, Cushnie, Lemlem and Thakoon. Since it opened in spring, two labels – Tabitha Simmons and Chloe Gosselin – have asked to be removed from the site and sales to date have reportedly been lacklustre.
“It’s because the product brand is less important than the marketplace brand,” says James Thomson, partner at Amazon consultancy Buy Box Experts and former business head of Amazon Services. “The Amazon customer is much more likely to search for products using an unbranded keyword term like ‘women’s dress’, rather than a branded keyword term like ‘Preen evening dress’. With fashion that doesn’t work.”
Interestingly, many of the brands Amazon is trying to woo have already partnered with Alibaba – which offers a very similar model – but refuse to work with the American giant. This comes down to the fact that there are number of other channels brands can go through in Europe and the US, all of them offering the prestige luxury is looking for
“While Amazon’s algorithms market different products to every consumer, that’s not the same as a personal shopper experience one might expect in an exclusive luxury products platform,” says Thompson. “I don’t see Amazon ever trying to provide the same experience – instead it will offer an easy return policy, and the ability to get products delivered quickly. Unfortunately, because Amazon democratises the purchase of most products, that’s exactly what luxury brands don’t want.. they want exclusivity.”