From charity tie-ins to public donations to full-blown foundations – there’s nary a luxury brand on Bond Street that doesn’t profess to “give back” in some way. Yet, in the public eye, ‘charity’ and ‘luxury’ are still uneasy bedfellows. Then comes along an individual who redefines the relationship between consumerism and giving in such a simple way that it’s mind-boggling nobody has done it before. That individual is Flavio Amorelli, the founder and CEO of Livoos – a luxury lifestyle e-commerce platform that donates 50 per cent of its revenue to charitable causes.
Launched earlier this month at an event at House of St Barnabas in Soho, Livoos stocks watches, jewellery, and men’s, women’s and children’s clothing from the likes of Backes & Strauss, Bremont, Annoushka, Johnstons of Elgin and Salvatore Ferragamo. It charges brands a standard 20 per cent commission, of which half is donated to a charity of the customer’s choice. That works out at 10 per cent of the retail price of every item sold. Considering that among the products online is a gold and diamond Backes & Strauss watch that retails for £28,400, the numbers soon rack up.
“We are creating a whole new way of fundraising: you’re buying a product that you love and supporting a cause that you care about without any additional cost,” says Amorelli. Rather than being an afterthought, the donation appears as centrally as selecting a size or colour; you can’t ‘add to bag’ without choosing a charity. “It’s not like Amazon where you buy something and at the end they say, by the way would you mind donating… we put giving at the centre of the shopping experience. There is no other luxury company in the world that donates such a huge amount.”
Why on earth not, you might ask, and the answer might be that no other luxury company has an individual quite like Flavio Amorelli at its helm. Born in a poor village in remote southern Italy, he describes his upbringing as “relatively safe but humble… in that environment you either stay there or you want to escape. Out of my four friends, I was always the one dreaming big”. After studying at business school, Amorelli became involved with politics in Italy before embarking on a career in finance, working his way up to vice president at a major corporate and investment bank in London. In 2007, he quit the corporate world in order to pursue his dream of making a difference, and in 2012, with those same childhood friends at his side, Livoos (the name comes from the phrase “live an outstanding life”) was born.
“I think everybody understood it was the right time to do something like this,” he says, giving an example of a company whose share price suffered as a result of negative press about the ethical conditions in its supply chain. “People are sensitive now to the impact of a brand. They want to relate to a brand that they know is actually doing something meaningful.”
The meaningful bit is important. Livoos lets customers choose whether their donation goes to a charity recommended by the brand, or to a cause closer to home; their local hospice, say. So long as it’s a bona fide charity, once the 30-day return period has expired, Livoos will donate.
For consumers, it’s a no-brainer; a way to assuage the uncomfortable feeling that sometimes accompanies a lavish purchase. “In the UK, 75 per cent of consumers who buy luxury goods feel guilty afterwards,” says Amorelli. “That’s the highest rate in the world. But imagine if you bought a handbag and you could tell your friends a story about it; I helped save a child’s life, I protected the environment… I’m not so naïve as to think people will wake up in the morning and say ‘now Livoos exists I need a handbag’ – obviously it’s the other way around. But now people can make a difference at the same time.”
An astute businessman and vociferous learner – our conversation spans philosophy, psychology and neuroscience (he is trialling a way to measure customers’ emotional reactions as they shop, via facial recognition technology) – Amorelli is keen to stress that Livoos is very much a business, not a charity. “Giving is a business value, for consumers and for brands. We don’t just look at it from a position of ethical responsibility.”
“It’s a challenge for luxury brands to sell a £5,000 handbag and then say ‘but we also donate’, because there’s a feeling that they’re doing it just to look good,” he says. “Usually it’s a one-off campaign, or it’s Christmas and everybody is giving… but Livoos is a consistent, authentic platform that is selling products and making donations 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Brands want to be associated with that. Giving is important to customers, and this is our commercial proposition.”
Just as the choice to buy that bag; that watch; those decidedly uncomfortable-looking yet must-have shoes, is driven by emotion, Amorelli aims to both harness and influence consumers’ non-rational thought processes. “We want to add an emotional aspect to the shopping experience – and the emotion of giving is one of the most wonderful.”
He pays careful attention to the emotions attached to the charitable side, too. “Some charities guilt people into donations – a model which in my mind is completely flawed. You might end up getting a donation but then people distance themselves because it’s overwhelming. We look in the direction of prosperity – you will never see a negative image on Livoos. Instead, we share the solution.” And so on each product page, along with the familiar marketing descriptions, customers see information about how, specifically, each charity will use the donation.
And he’s not stopping there; Amorelli aims to integrate the Livoos “giving experience” into other third-party platforms such as Matchesfashion.com or Net-a-Porter, and eventually assimilate the donation mechanism into the e-commerce platforms of the brands they stock, too.
“I don’t believe in competition, even if at the beginning we might sell similar products to the same customers,” he says. “I want to involve them so they can offer their customers the same amazing giving experience that they would have at Livoos.” Online shopping to make the world a better place – you can’t get much more game-changing than that.
Source: Levoos.com Photos: Levoos.com