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Hermès Online
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  Hermès - static symbol
Hermès
static symbol
by Vivian Manning-Schaffel
February 27, 2006

Founded in 1837 as a saddlery company, Hermès is a brand best known for creating leather goods, hand-printed silks, jewelry, and assorted glamorous accoutrements that are considered among the most elite status symbols in the world. With over 200 retail locations worldwide, Hermès is a rare family-run brand, as descendants of founder Thierry Hermès still possess 75 percent of the company.

 
Since the late 1930s, its hand-printed silk scarves have made fashion headlines, and to this day are favored by dignitaries (Queen Elizabeth II) and celebrities (Madonna) alike. With a wait list longer than that of the most chi-chi restaurants, its world-famous Birkin bags start at US$ 5,000; some have been sold at auction for upwards of US$ 60,000.

Recently, Hermès received a lot of negative publicity for allegedly snubbing American media queen Oprah Winfrey when she tried to shop after hours. So we decided to stop by Hermès.com to see how this Parisian purveyor of luxury brings its 24/7 shopping experience to the virtual public.

 
 
Hermès - static symbol Initially, you are confronted with a whimsical illustrated visual of a woman interacting with a featured item—a new scarf design in the brand’s trademark orange, in the case of this visit. The brand logo almost seems stamped in the upper right corner, and there are two very mismatched fonts (neither complementing the logo) displaying the site navigation and featured product lines. On the top line, visitors can choose from more perfunctory tasks, such as subscribing to the newsletter, accessing store locations, perusing online art and design exhibitions, finding out about corporate gifts, customer service, or viewing their account. Below that is the product line navigation, where users can view products by category. To the side, a few casually placed links display featured products that are augmented by photo visuals.

There is nary a Birkin bag available on this website, but it does allow visitors to purchase a limited amount of Hermès items, running the gamut from baby high-chair linens to printed beach towels to its famous silk scarves. The whimsical illustrations featured on the home page continue to embellish real product photos throughout the site, providing a nice touch, even in more functional site areas such as the store locator section.

Of course, a luxury brand selling items at a lofty price point such as Hermès should also make it a point to offer consumers premium customer service. The Hermès.com customer service area is thoroughly informative, offering information about all of Hermès’ policies including security issues and means of payment. It deserves kudos for offering a live help feature, where users can enter their phone number and request a call back within a certain time frame (e.g., right now); this reflects the brand’s dedication to service.

With respect to value-added content, Hermès does offer an “Encounters” page that features detailed information about art and design exhibitions at assorted retail locations. This page is right on brand, designed with clickable signature packaging ribbons as links to the exhibitions or online gallery pages. Visitors can click through to find out exhibition details, or access the more inclusive online gallery area that includes an interview with the featured artist, a video, and a downloadable screen saver.

Given the brand’s legacy and reputation, one would expect a bit more glamour from Hermès.com. From a design perspective, the inventive, charming use of illustration lends a nice visual touch, but it doesn’t take away from the ways the site seems lacking, as depicted by the mismatched fonts and ample negative space throughout.

Hats go off for well-developed customer service offerings, but there are many missing pieces content-wise that could further enrich the user experience. A legacy brand such as this could create a compelling brand history section or a small online magazine component to perpetuate the Hermès glamour, invite return visits, and educate consumers about the Hermès brand. We might not have been left standing outside its doors, but Hermès.com might want to consider going a little further in making us feel a bit more welcome in its online flagship.

 

Vivian Manning-Schaffel is a freelance writer who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

     
*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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