New Era Luxury

Crowd DNA senior trends consultant, Rebecca Coleman, shares some notes from Shoreditch House's recent Rising Minds' New Era Luxury briefing...

The luxury labels succeeding in today’s crowded marketplace are those that think of their customers as fans, providing a brand encounter that parallels membership of an exclusive club. From ritualising the shopper journey to co-creation and ultra limited product runs, luxury is entering an age where access and experience trump pure acquisition and display.

These were some key insights touched upon by Katie Baron, head of retail at innovation advisory firm Stylus, during a talk entitled New Era Luxury at Shoreditch House. Part of the Rising Minds series of inspirational talks, the session focused on examples from major players getting it right in the world of high-end retail and branding.

Here’s a rundown of the top takeaways:

“Fans before consumers, interests over age”

Katie echoed sentiments from Crowd DNA’s 2015 trend Flat Society Consumerism by saying that now, more than ever, demographics play a limited role in assessing consumer needs and desires. The rise of social media and increasingly connected lives, as well as aging populations and healthier lifestyles, has made traditional models of grouping people by life stage, income or location much less relevant. Instead the luxury brands that are winning are the ones thinking about their customers as fan tribes, united by interests, attitude and behaviour.

She cited Dunhill’s houses (in various locations across the world) as an example. These “stores” encompass a holistic lifestyle offer with humidors, bars and barbers sitting alongside more conventional fashion retail space.

“Co-creation is essential”

Brand Me is a much discussed trend – especially in relation (though not limited) to the youth market – as a generation grows up increasingly selfie-obsessed. One could argue that this trend towards narcissism is nowhere more applicable than in the realm of the luxury brand.

For this reason, retail experiences that invite co-creation and customisation are ever more popular. High levels of personalisation also increase shareability of products and thus heighten brand awareness. Anya Hindmarch’s bespoke handbag monogramming service was mentioned as an example here, as was her 2014 campaign, pictured in our header image, in which she enabled consumers to virtually customise accessories with emoji-emblazoned leather “stickers” online.

“Build anticipation and use delay to inject desire”

In our modern world of instant gratification, delayed, staggered or fleeting experiences are prized. Luxury brands are using these tactics to heighten consumer lust. Katie’s top example here was Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons’ 2014 collaboration with US artist Sterling Ruby. Their collection was sold via a dedicated online portal, which stocked just one outfit per week, creating buzz and frenzied buying with each new release.

Into the future…

Katie also touched on more future facing concepts, forecasting how the luxury market might jump on burgeoning tech to enhance the customer journey in the next five to 30 years. Innovations in the area of haptics were highlighted – by allowing consumers to virtually touch fabrics, they have the potential to significantly shift the online shopping experience. For similar reasons, VR also featured as a powerful tool for altering the luxury retail landscape.

Revisit Flat Society Consumerism, among Crowd DNA’s other trends for 2015, here.