Luxury brands embrace digital and social
For those of you that attend your share of industry conferences each year, you will recognize the fact that they can range from the intellectually stimulating to the painfully commercial. This week I had the pleasure of attending Luxury Interactive in New York, which to the credit of the organizers and the many speakers that gave their time, was a fascinating glimpse into how many of the world’s leading luxury brands are embracing the new worlds of digital and social to reinvent their customer engagement and retail strategies.
Leading brands such as Tourneau, Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan, Mercedes Benz, Swarovski, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Tods, Tory Burch, Tumi and L’Oreal were among those to present, which made for an interesting cross section of the luxury industry and an ever so slightly more stylish conference than yours truly is in the habit of attending.
It was clear from the offset that the sheer pace of change that the explosion of social interaction has driven in the industry. While nobody is declaring victory on these social strategies, there are clearly those that are making significant progress in figuring out how to engage global brands in a meaningful dialogue with individual customers around the globe. This conversation is occurring across multiple social platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram being the most common. Each social tool has its own role in engaging customers, yet there is also a centralized strategy and social framework with regional and local empowerment of employees that is required to effectively participate in conversation.
The engagement does not exist exclusively in the digital realm, however. Retailers such as Tourneau demonstrated how their customers are using digital commerce to initiate transactions that end up delivering a more compelling brick and mortar retail experience. Although I will not do it justice, think of customers engaging on the aspirations and desires associated with a product, building a virtual ‘watch tray’ or wish list on line and scheduling time with a retail associate to review this tray and complete the purchase in store. By providing this information to the retail associate—perhaps with iPads in the store—think of how much more meaningful that in-store interaction can become.
What strikes me as particularly compelling about this approach is that it is almost the exact opposite of the ‘showrooming’ concepts that many electronics retailers complain about where their brick and mortar stores are used as showrooms for transactions completed online with Amazon and other retailers. While the electronics retailers seem engaged in a race to the bottom in cost, it is maybe not surprising that luxury brands seem to be using similar technologies to create value by creating desire.
What I will call ‘humanizing’ the brand seems to be another critical element of the success. Whether it is the empowerment of a trusted employee to live the values of the brand in a digital environment as in the case of ‘DKNY PR GIRL’ (@DKNY – Aliza Licht) or the empowerment of associates in each of the Four Seasons properties around the world or the training and empowerment of retail sales associates in the case of Tourneau it is clear that Luxury brands really understand that people buy from people and want to engage with people rather than companies.
It is rather a timely reminder for me as I look at our client satisfaction surveys and recognize that in our own B2B service environment, our clients that scored highest for satisfaction also called out our front line people that enabled that satisfaction. Thank you to our team and our clients for that reminder—honestly, not a surprise but a good reminder.
Thanks to all who shared their time and experiences at the conference. In addition to the insights above, you have inspired some much needed further personal research on the emerging range of social sites, tools and best practices to better engage our customers and deliver value on behalf of ourselves and our clients.