The tech revolution has reached its final frontier: the luxury sector. On the surface, this decadent world may not be the prime candidate for technological innovation. Priding itself on tradition, the industry has been reticent to embrace ecommerce and digital marketing, concerned that the huge accessibility of digital would dilute the exclusivity of luxury brands.
Yet studies by Deloitte show that 45% of high-income earners now search online for information on luxury brands. This figure is even higher among millennials – more than half research brands online, while 31% use social media to do so. As the epicurean shopper becomes more tech-savvy, so too must luxury brands.
Spearheaded by luxury titans Burberry, Chanel and Hermès, high-end brands are evolving how they communicate their brand identity to luxury consumers. Chris Moody , Creative Director at brand consultant Wolff Olins, stresses that digital should not be confined to a department, but be intrinsic to the upper echelons of luxury brands: "It is critical that you have a creative input at that level because that can change how your whole organization begins to speak to the rest of the world."
Philippe Baumlin , Chanel’s Global Digital Programme Director, has taken this on board – the brand has now mastered slick integrated digital content. Its latest fragrance campaign ‘The One That I Want’, combines an iconic Baz Luhrmann short film, viewed 11 million times, ‘making of’ videos on YouTube, and a Twitter campaign. The brand has initiated a conversation with its online community, involving fans in the marketing process itself. Chanel has even merged the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience with digital in its flagship store, installing iPads in changing rooms for customers to take and share photos via social media, bringing digital marketing full circle.
But it’s not social media alone that is revolutionizing luxury brands’ communication. While social media platforms risk diluting the exclusive reputation of luxury brands, other digital avenues serve to heighten exclusivity. Credit Suisse predicts that in five years, up to £30 billion will be spent on wearable technology each year. ‘Techno-luxury’ has already inspired the Apple Watch Hermès , the smartphone Vertu for Bentley , and DVF Made for Glass from Google and Diane von Furstenburg.
Floriane de Saint Pierre, founder of an executive search firm specializing in the luxury sector, highlights that the qualities that define the luxury sector – design, intelligence and integrity – are often equally applicable to high-tech brands. Chairman of Condé Nast Jonathan Newhouse agrees that the two sectors are inseparable: "technology is luxury and luxury is technology."
Luxury brands must adapt their ROI-centric approach when revolutionizing the digital side of their business: the focus should be on potential return on interaction. Smart technology enables brands to analyze data generated from client interactions in order to better tailor their services. This personalization is a very modern take on luxury brands’ trademark individualized approach. Thus heritage and technology are no longer mortal enemies, but a match made in heaven. Digitizing the sector is no longer an attempt to be edgy – it’s the only way to create contemporary personalized services and forge long-lasting relationships with millennial consumers.
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