Roxy Genier - Luxury Anti-Value - Disconnection

DISCONNECTION LUXURY ANTI-VALUE #4

Luxury has been too slow to create a compelling digital presence.

“Disconnecting from change does not recapture the past. It loses the future.” -Kathleen Norris

A large-scale cultural shift is underway and depending on your point of view this is either an incredibly exciting time to be in business or you feel like pressing the panic button.

Today’s consumer is independently minded, sophisticated, tuned in, and wanting to purchase from brands who build trust, drop the bull, and can effectively communicate with them.

One of the industries that seems to have faced the most challenges when it comes to this tidal wave of change is the luxury industry. It’s been a rough few years; the recession happened, technology worship has been on the rise, freedom of information led to suspicious minds in consumers, and a whole new value system seemed to settle in.

Consumer Control On the Rise

The luxury industry was slow to adapt, planting their feet firmly in the sand, placing too much faith in the old ways and refusing to accept this new world. It’s as though luxury brands are holding tight to the mythology that once held them in such esteem. In an article for Digiday titled The Biggest Myths in the Luxury Industry, Gabrielle de Papp from Farfetch states;

“The biggest myth in luxury is total control. With the rise of luxury e-commerce, fashion has no borders, and the rules are not so clear, so to try to control brand image, pricing, distribution and more globally is becoming increasingly difficult. The control is now in the hands of the consumer — they are dictating the rules, whenever, wherever, and on whatever device. The challenge is: how do you adapt to this brave new world of luxury retail, embrace new technologies and thinking, expose your brand to the web but still retain your luxury status – exclusivity, scarcity of product?”

This lack of control has led to luxury resting on its laurels, failing to innovate, and in short becoming disconnected.

Roxy Génier - New Luxury - Luxury must connect with our value and belief system

A Frustrating Online Space

Luxury brands have heavily relied on their beautiful bricks and mortar appeal. When consumers appear at their gilded and glorious door – they can woo them with the works; champagne, canapes, perfect personalized service, stunning showrooms – making an impression comes easy.

But how do you carry this showroom over to a digital space? Luxury brands have seemed baffled in the face of going digital. Some have tried to maintain that exclusive approach, making their websites members only access, turning to lavish designs that lead to mysterious navigation, dark color schemes, an over the top vernacular, auto video and sound and a painfully slow loading time. The whole thing is offkey, off-kilter, and leads to a terrible user experience.

We are talking big brand names here – Chanel with their awful UX, Manolo Blahnik with their poor placeholder presentation, Dolce & Gabbana with their missing e-commerce options, and Givenchy who make you download an app before you can even entertain buying something. Even those chic conglomerate brands are struggling to captivate online.

The Generic Look of Luxury

Then there are those brands who have turned down the opposite road. Those who use their web presence in a mainstream setting, who throw too much content at the wall and try to reach millions and millions of fans with a very impersonal method. Who turn luxury into something altogether much more generic and barely entertain the idea of responding to fans and followers. Contrast this online approach with their offline approach – stores that lock their doors, only allow certain clientele to enter, and fall over themselves to deliver diamond cut customer service.

The entire experience is completely disjointed.

In an industry that relies on its seamless ability to streamline an experience, to make everything silk through the fingers, and joyous delight – luxury brands are missing a thousand tricks when it comes to connecting with their online consumers.

Roxy Génier - Luxury Anti-Values - Disconnection

Fleeing the Fads

The challenges are there for sure; when it comes to the online world any brand can place themselves in good stead. As long as you are committed to understanding your consumer and dedicated to delivering a great experience, you are winning in the virtual space. For luxury brands it becomes difficult to stand out which often leads to a thinking that bold design or feigned VIP access is the way forward. Both of which lead to the problems outlined above and an unnecessarily difficult user experience.

Luxury online is a balancing act, as pointed out in this article by Gemic on How Luxury Brands Response to the Digital Age Misses the Big Opportunity, it points out that technology worship being the only way for luxury brands is not without peril;

It is not clear that Instagramable faddishness is the best strategy for brands outside fashion, or even others within fashion.  Indeed, faddishness militates against signifying luxury.  Much of luxury’s unique aura derives precisely from its non-faddishness.  “True” luxury seems to have something timeless about it – an ability to combine past, present and future, and to conjure escape from a world of transience.  Thus, it is not clear that many brands who simply chase digital trends are truly creating meaningful, long-lasting connections with consumers.

Keeping reverence with consumers while staying relevant in the online space can be tricky and many marketing companies will be keen to tell you its an art form, its about intuition, and divine inspiration. But the truth is, many luxury brands already have their answers – they have the meaning, the heritage, and the values – they just need to be ready to listen to the modern consumer and to align the online experience with the offline.

What Consumers Want

This seeps into social media. An article published by Brand Knew Mag on What Brands Post on Social VS What Consumers Want to See outlined a few facts and figures. According to research from Sprout Social;

Consumers say the types of social content they value most from brands are posts about discounts/sales (72% say so) and posts that showcase new products/services (60%).

In contrast, marketers say the types of social content they share most are posts that teach something (61% say so) and posts that tell a story (58%).

This piece from McKinsey makes a startling point about consumer control and social space;

Luxury consumers are also highly social, in digital sense. Some 80 percent of these shoppers use social media on a monthly basis, whether it’s Instagram, We-Chat, Facebook or Twitter. Half are weekly users and more than 25 percent are daily social media users. And they’re not passive users. Two-thirds generate social media content—photographs, videos, product reviews or re-postings of content created by others—at least once a month. Fifteen percent do it daily.

In this way, luxury consumers are amassing more and more power relative to luxury brands. For each image that luxury brands post on their official Instagram account, for instance, there are on average 10,000 more that consumers have posted containing the brand’s hashtag. This raises the inevitable question of who is creating the messages and information that define a brand’s identity—the brand itself or its consumers.

Luxury consumers are also highly social, in digital sense.

Luxury Shouldn’t be on Demand

A paper from the Wall Street Journal put its tongue firmly in cheek with the following statement “With luxury on the rebound, companies once again are obsessed with the mythical luxury consumer.  This dream spender is, we are told, wealthy, young, beautiful and prone to buying $4,500 bicycles for their dogs. As for the global financial crisis…well, what financial crisis?”

Luxury brands have a right to be wary of completely changing their enterprise to the ecommerce world but staying disconnected also won’t help. Some brands are starting to push back a little, to find their boundaries and draw their own lines in the sand, because luxury shouldn’t just be on demand.

Take a look at the brand Everlane, already a household name embracing the modern era and demand for transparency. Everlane also set up a private Instagram account recently, limiting numbers to only a hundred followers a day. Straightaway you can see the compelling link to how you would expect a high-class bricks and mortar store to carry itself.

An Anchor in a World of Discourse

We are already fighting against the fury of living in a disconnected time. The millennials feel it more than ever. We feel our way blindly through a world, often feeling a lack of direction. We feel disconnected from nature, loneliness is on the rise, our political landscape is rife with discourse, the voting population is close to being split straight down the middle in many grand elections.

Having all this information at our fingertips has opened a vault of knowledge that is equally terrifying and tantalizing to wade through.

Luxury brands have the chance to provide that anchor. To help us connect to our deepest and truest desires. Not in a fickle or fashionable way, but in a way that truly brings pleasure and meaning into our world.

New Luxury is about getting connected; not just in the online space but marrying our values and our ethics in the choices we make. To ground ourselves on this earth and to finally feel that invisible thread that ties us all together.

This is the essence of connection.

Now that we have  learned about the dangers of disconnection, let’s explore the solution.

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