The big numbers at luxury retailers typically appear on price tags, but here's one to which they should pay close attention: 204.

That would be $204 billion, the forecast for overall e-commerce revenues for 2008—a projected jump of 17% over 2007. And if history is any indication, you can expect the luxury market to keep pace. Upscale apparel alone accounted for $1 billion in online sales in 2007, according to Forrester Research.

Considering the stakes, it's no surprise that the online sales channel is becoming increasingly important to the bottom line of top-shelf brands as consumers of luxury products and services continue to demonstrate their willingness to spend as much through commerce-enabled Web sites as they do in stores.

Despite this trend, many luxury brands continue to separate their online and mainline marketing efforts, confusing customers with disconnected messaging and missing golden opportunities to cross-support expensive marketing initiatives.

What few realize is that the best experience—the experience that the customer wants—results when all channels work together and complement each other.

Here are five guiding principles to help brands achieve this goal:

1. Web sites are the perfect venues for impulse purchasers and those who want to do deep research on your product or service

Optimize your Web site to capture those impulse and research opportunities. For example, brands can take advantage of customers' desire for immediate gratification by making all merchandise available online, no matter how expensive. Even if it's a bespoke item with a flexible price, take a deposit and give your customer the chance to commit.

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Suzanne Hader is principal of 400twin (, a New York City-based consulting firm that provides research and strategic direction for luxury brands. She can be reached at