By Amandine Rodrigues
There are three main myths about luxury that need to be discussed. One is the common misconception that luxury comes from the Latin word lux, or light, when in fact it comes from the term luxation, or dislocate. Luxury is not about glitter, shiny, and bling but about distance: it is about a product or a service accessible to the happy few.
There is also a geographical myth about luxury. Even though France has been proclaimed the leading country for luxury goods, with about a quarter of the global luxury market share (source: Deloitte, Global Powers of Luxury Goods, 2016), any culture can produce luxury, from Spain to China and from Brazil to South Korea.
Last but not least, there is no eternity or heritage in luxury. Luxury is always relative to an epoch, and its perception changes regarding time.
So what’s coming up next in the luxury market?
Beyond Excellence, Luxury Seeks Exclusivity
After an era of luxury democratization, one sees multiple high-end brands going back to basics and reconnecting with what originally forged them: exclusivity and ultra-exclusivity. In the meantime, a new class of luxury consumer is emerging, with an eye for subtle, understated quality and greater sophistication. Consumers are moving away from ostentatious high-end brands and re-engaging with inconspicuous brands that share the same emotional values. Even in China — the world’s biggest luxury market thanks to its booming middle-class — elites are turning their noses up at brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci as those brands explode in popularity with the masses. Brands are thus focusing on VIP access and exclusive behind-the-scenes storytelling in order to appeal to a luxury consumer in seek of covert and niche consumption.
New Luxury Perspectives
According to a recent survey, millennials and Gen Z will account for three-quarters of the global luxury market by 2020 (source: Bain Luxury Study 2016 Spring Update). These younger consumers are empowered by digital devices and social media, and looking for content-rich products, services, and brands. They also dictate now more than ever why, how, where, and when they engage with brands, including luxury brands. Brands cannot ignore technological disruption and can only benefit from the digital innovations. Digital technology is increasingly transforming luxury path-to-purchase and the customer experience.
The Rise of Experiential Luxury
Talking about experience, we have shifted from traditional luxury products (such as very expensive clothing or accessories) to more experiential forms of luxury that highlight an emotional and holistic experience (such as travel, food, or culture). Educated, well-traveled, and tech-savvy, the new luxury consumer privileges experience over purchasing, and a big part of the experience is shopping while traveling. Therefore, brands are reinvesting in travel retail formats to deliver a unique shopping experience on the go.
Many brands are developing services to facilitate the lives of consumers in an era when time is money and health is wealth. Uber or Kochhaus are a few examples of brands offering a high-end services to make your life easier, more seamless, and therefore more enjoyable — as easy as the click of a button. Therefore, luxury is not about price and purchase anymore but about how a brand makes you feel.
With a new wave of luxury consumers in search of simpler yet exclusive experiences with which to indulge themselves, any brand can offer a high-end product or service — from coffee to home appliances. As consumers juggle both online and bricks-and-mortar shopping experiences, luxury brands should take into account their omnichannel approach to deliver a luxurious and holistic brand experience beyond the intrinsic quality of the product or service. Today, anything can be luxury as long as it is branded properly.
Amandine Rodrigues is a brand strategist at MetaDesign Geneva.
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