Defining Luxury: online, on social and in-store

Monday, 24 June 2013

Uché Okonkwo at Club e-Luxe International Summit 2013

Two events in London and Paris this month have seen luxury industry figureheads discussing their thoughts on what luxury means today. From digital privacy to the importance of customer service, here's our edit of the key ideas to emerge from the Club e-Luxe International Summit 2013 in Paris and the Di Bridges Partnership panel discussion in London.

At the Club e-Luxe International Summit 2013, which took place on 12th June at the Hotel Meurice in Paris, topics focused around e-luxe and how to build luxury into the online experience.

Luxury is digital storytelling. 

"The digital world is no longer separate from the real world. Consumers need brands to feed their curiosity, their fantasy, and if you don't tell your story, someone else will for you," explained Uché Okonkwo, Executive Director of Luxe Corp and creator of the Club E-Luxe events. This summer she is publishing a Digital Scorecard, to valuate digital medial and make a link between digital medial investments and earnings results.

Luxury is conversation.

"Luxury has moved from couture to conversation," said Joerg Zuber, Creative Director of global design and branding agency Opium. "Whatever you sell, people want to hear more about it: the creativity, the passion, the craftsmanship."

Joerg Zuber in front of [wire]stone's digital history wall for Cartier

Luxury is detail.

Taking luxury online also gives retailers an opportunity to reimagine the experience around the brand. "Digital luxury means not just getting people's attention," Zuber said, "but that we need to seduce clients with unconventional beauty."

Christopher Rowlison, Managing Director of digital marketing brand [wire]stone, encouraged attendees to capitalise on the opportunity provided by digital to give the customer much more detail on the history and heritage of the product. A key example is Cartier, which created a digital wall in-store that allowed "each image to be brought up with information, and thousands of pieces of history."

Luxury is seamless.

E-luxe should mean no queues, no difficult navigation, and just as personalised an experience as the in-store visit. "Customers expect a seamless experience," said Rowlison.

Luxury is privacy (and increasingly will be).

"If things don't change, said Hélène Le Blanc of The Luxe Chronicles, "privacy will become a luxury good. Only the very wealthy will be able to afford these services. The others will be subject to exploitation."

Luxury is social.

Kate Barnett, Digital Director of fashion blog Man Repeller, explained that blogs are a way to create a loyal social community: "Think about creating something that other people would want to share. Interaction will build sustained loyalty. But I cannot stress enough that social media is not a sales channel, it is a community. The relationship is not a means to an end. Be true to it."

Club e-Luxe International Summit 2013

At the Di Bridges Partnership discussion - titled Is Affordable Luxury the New Luxury? - figureheads from Harvey Nichols, Louis Vuitton and Net-A-Porter joined an audience working in luxury retail to discuss what consumers want today.

Luxury is service.

Truly luxurious customer service means not just focusing on the customer who looks like they will spend most, but giving everyone a level of service that will make them a customer for life. "It’s a way in," said Tom Meggle, Managing Director of Louis Vuitton UK & Ireland. "It's something that's very difficult to teach." If you treat someone well the first time they shop with you, they’ll shop with you for the rest of their life. And this extends beyond the brand to the person themselves: "If you fall in love with a sales associate, you’ll follow them anywhere."

Personal service provides a key differentiator in every industry from luxury fashion to hospitality. "What’s your favourite Italian restaurant?" Meggle asked the audience. "It’s probably not because it’s the best one in London, it’s because you love the people.” Di Bridges continued the argument, asking attendees which coffee shop they headed for each morning. The one with the smiling, friendly barista who remembers you, she asked, or the one that’s 50p cheaper? We’ll pay for great service.

Louis Vuitton, Sydney

Luxury is exclusivity.

Customisation works very well, said Alison Loehnis, Managing Director of Net-A-Porter, “as long as the brand is staying true to itself and to its DNA.” As the world becomes ever more global (“Gone are the days when you could travel to different cities and actually see very different things”), exclusive colourways, customisation and the possibility of a super-bespoke piece cater to “that super-discerning customer who wants something that nobody else has.”

Luxury is heritage.

Brand authenticity is always vital in luxury retail. “It’s about a promise," says Meggle. "When I buy a Porsche, it has to be German engineering.”

Luxury is affordable (or can be).

The definition of luxury functions on a sliding scale. Susie Killbourn of Value Retail, the group that operates Bicester Village, made the point that, "We all have different levels of how much money we want to spend on certain things. I would love to wear more Valentino, and buying it in Bicester Village is for me a luxury – because at the moment, some of my income goes into other things. So I have my little moment every time I go into the Valentino store. And one day, I hope I’ll buy it at full price on Bond Street. It’s all relative to your lifestyle."

Homebuildlife subscribers can read more thought leader insights into luxury today in our Business Strategy directory.