Tag Archives: luxury marketing

Authentic Luxury Brands and E-Commerce: Incompatible to their Core Values

By James D. Roumeliotis

online-luxury-sales-image

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Definitions of “luxury” vary significantly and depend on with whom you discuss the topic and in what context. The term “luxury” is not the easiest to define. It is relative, mysterious and elusive. In essence, it revolves around subjective criteria, depending who you ask. Irrespective what anyone considers the term, it denotes a privileged lifestyle and a “nice to have” product or experience.

Gary Harwood at HKLM, one of the founders and directors of a leading strategic branding and communication design consultancy, stated: “A luxury brand is very expensive, exclusive and very rare – not meant for everyone. When it ceases to be these things, then it’s lost its exclusive cachet. Commoditizing luxury brands and making them more accessible to the middle market puts them at risk of becoming ordinary, common and less desirable. And the more available a brand is, the less luxurious it becomes.”

Authentic luxury brands compete on the basis of their ability to invoke exclusivity, prestige and hedonism to their appropriate market segments not the masses. There is a classic litmus test:

  • Is the product manufactured in artificially limited quantities? (i.e. the rarity factor)
  • Does the firm have a story to tell? (i.e. history & pedigree)
  • Is the firm portraying a unique lifestyle?
  • Is craftsmanship the hallmark, which delivers products that only High Net Worth individuals can purchase without question?
  • Does the brand offer authenticity?
  • Does it implement an absolutely no discounting policy?
  • Is the product (and at least most of its materials/parts) manufactured only in its country of origin?

Rationale of an absence of “authentic” luxury sales online

Many genuine luxury brands such as Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton are reluctant to utilize the internet to sell their pricey merchandise ─ other than a limited number of more affordable items such as their cosmetic lines, fragrances and small leather goods, as well as their silk scarfs.

There are three major reasons why luxuries brands of this caliber should not sell their products online.

  • Unique business model: The top tier luxury brands such as Hermes, Chanel, Dior and Patek Philippe, amongst other prestige marques, require a controlled distribution environment whereby they determine merchandising and pricing. They are ultra-sensitive in the manner in which their label gets handled. This is why they target and legally pursue third party e-commerce sites vigorously. Moreover, unlike traditional marketing, the mention of price is considered a taboo in the unconventional luxury marketing strategy. In the ideal luxury world, price is not something which should be divulged ─ let alone online. As a golden rule of thumb, the presumptive price should be higher than it really is.
  • Total customer engagement: High-end luxury brand executives firmly and unanimously believe that high-priced and exclusive goods should be viewed and felt in person in a plush and attentive retail environment which attracts their best shoppers. Additionally, the well trained sales staff offer fashion advice and alterations on the spot. Their swanky online presence serves to bring the consumers to their bricks and mortar shops. This approach confirms the answer to this question: Do the well-heeled, who seek exclusivity and personalized experiences with their luxury purchases, want to make their extravagant purchases online such as a $15,000 watch or handbag? Probably not.
  • They are privately owned and operated: Unlike the mainstream market and publicly traded luxury brands such as Ralph Lauren, Coach, Tiffany & Co and others, top tier luxury brands are not eager for volume sales. To retain their scarcity, cache, and avoid diluting their intrinsic value, they refuse to respond to rising demand. They also include a conservative policy of making it more inaccessible to consumers whom they are not targeting. Consequently, with privately held luxury brands, profits are done with the long term in mind, not necessarily the next quarter. In comparison, the publicly traded ones, which are accountable to their shareholders, are constantly under pressure to trim production costs and increase revenues and profits which lead them to cater to a larger audience ‒ the mass affluent. So much for all the elements of ‘genuine’ luxury purveyors who are doing away with scarcity and exclusivity.

Vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, stated, “Yes, maybe they could increase sales (through e-commerce).” However, she elaborated, “a brand’s goals aren’t always to increase sales. It may be to preserve the quality of the brand so that it stays in business for another 100 years.

According to David Sadigh, founder and CEO of the Swiss digital banking magazine, “Swissquote”, the share of e-commerce sales in the luxury domain amounts to about 5%.

Authentic luxury brands who are not catering to the mass affluent are in a league of their own when it comes to e-commerce. Having said that, their present conservative strategy achieves its intended purpose. Essentially, when someone acquires an object of desire, he or she purchases craftsmanship, cache, pedigree, created in limited quantities, enhance one’s lifestyle and offer exclusivity ─ the top tier in its domain.  This is a contrast to the “masstige” brands such as Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors, which according to a trend report from PMX – a marketing and research agency, revealed that both of those fashion labels dominated the online market share in their luxury category.

When it comes to authentic luxury sales, every touch point in the purchase process affects brand perception, which in turn makes customer service and presentation vital.

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The Genuine Luxury Establishment: Perception, Ambiance & the Total Shopping Experience

Luxury Street - Cartier

by James D. Roumeliotis with a special contribution by Stephane Delille

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Consider this! You are walking on, what is considered, a prestigious street in a downtown area of a major city lined up with a slew of luxury shops. What do you particularly notice about the look of the shops as compared to mainstream stores? Would you say it’s the window displays which are striking? The entrance? The upscale and inviting interior design? The way the merchandise is displayed?

Designing a luxury shop is much more than four walls, racks and lighting. It’s a meticulous creative and holistic process taking into account that luxury stores have to transmit the identity of a luxury brand, so that the image the customer has of this brand is affirmed by each store visit. Needless to say, it’s a design concept coupled with the total customer experience in mind.

Piaget timepieces, Bond Street, London boutique

Piaget timepieces, Bond Street, London

Ambiance, personalized service and the total shopping experience 

In a world where the consumer has become savvier, luxury products more accessible through an increase in democratization of luxury brands and the rapid emergence of prestige brands, the retail environment in luxury branding is all about heightening the consumer’s brand experience and amplifying the brand aura.

A well designed luxury retail boutique should embody an extraordinary design that is timeless while maintaining a striking interior that is unique, inviting, functional, and most certainly portray a luxurious setting.

A custom designed attractive setting – yet alluring with captivating style, invites customers to truly feel the brand experience by adding character. It exudes a “You’ve arrived!” underlying message. This is accomplished by connecting the feeling of warmth and acceptance ‒ via emotions to a product or service, and infusing it with a tangible and intangible essence that remain in the customers’ minds. The vital elements are:

  • Location: The luxury brand store perception all begins with its location. A prestigious address/neighborhood makes an initial luxury statement ‒ whether on a prominent avenue such as Bond Street in London, Rue Saint Honoré in Paris or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and at other renowned high-fashion streets worldwide. A high-end mall and airport outlets are becoming ever more popular due to their convenient spots along with an increasingly sophisticated environment.
  • Facade/Window Display: transparency/opacity of the windows, display highlights for outside windows (product type, arrangement of space, animation, colors and much more.), frequent creative displays and themes all play a vital role in showcasing merchandise with pizazz.
  • Main entryway: This should reflect an imposing appearance by creating the feeling of grand luxury access to the interior of the boutique. Elizabeth Arden’s signature red door is a distinguishable fixture at her stores and spas worldwide.
  • Decor: Attention to details including well-crafted attractive furnishings and materials (pillows or decorative accents) throughout. Choice of color palette, textures, combination of materials and accents all influence the overall store image in addition to being part of the overall design esthetics.
  • Lighting and its effects: The proper choice of illumination adds to the overall design and ambiance.Lighting can bring focus to merchandise displays, hide imperfections, add warmth, and help create a positive shopping experience for the brand’s clients. Halogen spots and LED lighting are the preferred variety for interior designers.
  • Smell and Background Music environment: These reflect the store’s personality. Smell is considered the olfactory of the fifth human sense. The scenting strategy is part of “sensory”/”sensorial” marketing and branding that’s meant to attach certain smells to brands, drive loyalty, and make people feel at home. Whereas, music/sound supports refining brand communication and in designing a better sounding environment. A discreet volume should be considered as an ideal comfort level.
  • Merchandising appeal ‒ display and layout: localization of displays (size, colors, kits, messages) while keeping in line with brand values and guidelines. The spaces where your clients see and touch your products have an effect on the visual aspect along with their shopping experience.
  • Lounge area: possibility or not to have private salons for VIPs, to utilize for private shows/demonstrations, presentations and other special gathering purposes.
  • Service amenities: Washrooms should possess panache and be spotless. Their design can achieve the look and feel of luxury with both functionality and comfort. A kitchenette can be an additional amenity for preparing and catering light food/hors d’oeuvres. A workshop for bespoke functions such as product setting on the spot, size customization, engraving etc). Perhaps a kid’s space with animation to keep a child/children busy while their mum/dad/parents are shopping. The kids can eventually be converted to the luxury label themselves.
  • Staff Caliber and Overall Customer Care: Luxury goes beyond good looks. The service offered is a major event in itself. This comprises of dress code, attitude, and politeness regardless of what the client looks/wears. As well as responsiveness, a consultative sales approach and accessibility. This requires proper hiring criteria, on-boarding and repeated training in product knowledge, presentation skills, and anticipating customer expectations to go above and beyond. Luxury firms need to implement KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to gauge their service effectiveness which do not only measure the performance of organizational processes, but also warrant a consistent quality level of in-store service.

Bijan Boutique

Bijan Boutique, Rodeo Drive

Artisans of timeless and artistic retail interior design

It takes bold strokes to prevail from the competition by showcasing a distinctive look along with creating an emotional bond with the clientele. As such, luxury brands are making their mark on the map with a radical and explosive architectural vision. It’s where design innovation coupled with creativity are paramount when delivering artistic solutions driven by each individual brand’s image.

When it comes to commissioning distinctiveness with luxury ambiance interiors in the retail, restaurant and hotel sectors respectively, Yabu & Pushelberg have become the go-to interior designers akin to what Frank Gehry is to deconstructivist architecture. In over three decades, the duo partners, based in Toronto along with a New York City design studio, have fostered a client list that ranges from Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co to Four Seasons Hotels and renowned French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. In their work, Yabu and Pushelberg manage to articulate luxury through contrasts, austere designs with fine materials, as well as through comfort and the casual, strong points of view, including a crafty mix of art and artisanship. For them, luxury is a state of mind, not a material.

Yabu-pushelberg-lane-crawford-sitting-area

A Yabu & Pushelberg sample interior

The final take

The ambiance created in a luxury boutique is one of the finest marketing tools. The aesthetic appeal to human senses, the feel of the brand creates the image. Along with great service, it is one of the most important reasons customers will choose to shop repeatedly. It’s where the brand lives by orchestrating immaculate detailing that engages all senses of the discerning target audience. Surround the brand and its products/services with fashion, beauty, design and attractive models – without any characteristics of tackiness.

It all begins with the choice of store location, the immediate initial impression (window display, entrance, store layout, merchandising, furnishings, lighting and much more), the sales staff presentation and the impact of each touch-point in creating a unique indulging experience. The small touches that regularly go unnoticed help to create a distinct sense of place in luxury commercial spaces.

Emporio Luxury Mall, New Delhi, India

Emporio Luxury Mall, New Delhi, India

All that said, today’s savvy luxury consumers are increasingly seeking much more than merely a cosmetically elegant looking bricks and mortar shops. They have become more discerning and seeking a more knowledgeable and professional assistance to help them in managing their lifestyle and stature. It all boils down to the total customer experience which embraces knowledgeable and helpful staff, alluring presentations, storytelling, exclusive invites and privileged previews amongst other lifestyle themed activities.

FOR THE “15 Retail Essentials – Your Opening Toolbox” PRESENTATION, KINDLY COMMUNICATE WITH JAMES AT: jdr(AT)affluencemarketing(DOT) ca

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Defining the Luxury Brand

by James D. Roumeliotis

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Open any quality fashion or lifestyle magazine, and you will see how brands conceptualize and package luxury. The hype is deafening, and in reality can be quite confusing. Everyone wants “luxury” brands, and from a marketing point of view defy sales trends and seem recession proof.

As consumers, we want to be made to feel special. Definitions of “luxury” can vary enormously and depend on who you ask and in what context. The term “Luxury” has never been something easy to define. It is in my view, a mysterious and elusive concept. Studies highlight that no one is immune and when properly executed makes products and services highly desirable by broad market segments.

To put things into perspective, I will discuss the nature of luxury, and how luxury and premium brands differ in the marketplace although both types of products and services can be targeted to similar audiences.

Why Luxury Brands?

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