It’s 2018. Rimowa chief brand officer Hector Muelas recognizes that the 120-year-old luggage company is playing catch-up as it finally gets serious about e-commerce.
“At this point, we have the luxury to take our time to be the best, because we’re certainly not the first,” said Muelas. Before taking on his current role a year ago, Muelas served as the vp of content and creative at LVMH, which acquired Rimowa in 2016.
Tuesday, Rimowa’s new European site, built with the agency R/GA London, is relaunching with its first full e-commerce store and a new offline-online inventory strategy that unites the two retail groups. With the rollout, new digital services like repair appointments and customer service will be introduced to customers. The brand’s first e-commerce site in the U.S. will follow in September.
Rimowa’s web relaunch is timed to reflect its new branding, which was introduced in January. With a new logo, monogram, packaging and voice, Rimowa is now focused on using its online store as a way to connect directly with customers, rather than relying on wholesale relationships to promote the brand, said Muelas. On its side now is scale: Under LVMH, Rimowa has the resources to invest in new digital and technology tools like personalization, online customer experiences and a cross-channel inventory management system. It also has the perspective and experience of the 70 other LVMH-owned brands to take into consideration.
As a group, LVMH has pushed its brands to evolve e-commerce strategies on an individual basis, as well as for the good of the group, as its multi-brand e-commerce store, 24 Sèvres, is now the group’s de facto online flagship. Led by chief digital officer Ian Rogers, the overall attitude of LVMH’s unified e-commerce strategy has been to prioritize a luxury experience over speed.
“For luxury, there’s very little value to being the early adopter,” Rogers said in a previous Glossy interview. Muelas said that Rimowa is now positioned to learn what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for other LVMH brands.
There should be some fire under the brand now, though, to get closer to customers. The luggage industry has surged with direct-to-consumer brand competitors hoping to take a sleepy, impersonal market and rejuvenate it by giving it the modern, digitally native brand treatment. Companies like Away are grabbing market share by appealing to customers who never considered a luggage purchase before; Away even rolled out a Rimowa-style aluminum suitcase earlier this year.
“There is more competition today,” said Muelas. “But there’s also a lot of energy around our particular category, which is good. Luggage isn’t necessarily a category people have been excited about it. The fact that there’s a paradigm of change, new brands and new attention means travel has become an important part of the generation, and cultural and social status. What we have that others don’t is 120 years of technical expertise.”
Muelas said the website redesign is just the surface-level piece of a full overhaul of the company’s business model and ecosystem. As part of the reorganization, online and store inventory will be integrated, and a new CRM will be launched with focus on the luggage brand’s unique customer funnel. While LVMH brands may have inspired aspects of the new website and model, Muelas noted that different rules apply to a non-fashion brand.
“Things like product recommendations, new collection drops and seasonality don’t apply to us,” said Muelas. “There’s nothing impulsive or seasonal about this purchase. So we have to focus on benefits like maintenance, repairs and education around craftsmanship.”
No matter the category, though, customers want convenience, so Rimowa will also be introducing online tools like guided purchasing, click-and-collect, one-hour deliveries and appointment bookings. As the website matures, the brand plans to launch a responsive product feed that responds to customers’ specific locations, order histories, milestones (like upcoming graduations or anniversaries) and lifestyle preferences.
The long-term goals, especially as the brand heads into U.S. e-commerce for the first time, are to shift business from wholesale to direct retail and hammer home the significance of Rimowa’s heritage to a younger generation of customers, while also updating its customer experience offline and online.
“Selling directly is a much more lucrative business than wholesale,” said Muelas. “It’s better to understand the consumer that way and what you can do for them, and it forces you as a brand to be much more thoughtful about everything in that relationship — from the search to digital interactions to checkout — and what it takes people to get there. Owning that and knowing what matters from the perspective of the brand is critical today.”