Savvy affluent consumers have always had discerning taste. The trends we see in virtually all luxury segments indicate that consumers are being more focused and conscientious about their luxury purchases. No doubt unsettling times play a major role, and I believe a larger macro force is at play: limitless choices are causing consumers to think more diligently about where they focus their luxury dollars and the personalized choices they make.
The Internet has become the destination for consumers seeking options and opinions. On the one hand, digital provides a limitless portfolio of opportunities in every category. Yet on the other, an abundance of information and content provides the ability to assess, decipher, prioritize, and choose the most relevant, pertinent goods and services one is looking to acquire.
So as things go, it appears that content remains king. And while digital channels – web, mobile, social, search – provide an abundance of information, the quality of the content has become the new battleground among luxury brand competitors.
The powerful emotional communication that has worked for so many high end product companies remains extremely relevant, and has taken an interactive turn.
Yet it’s the in depth content savvy consumers seek. And for that, they rely on each other through the democratic power of the web for honest-to-goodness feedback from peers.
Brands should continue to engage their consumers with emotional content, and provide the de facto presentation of their offerings. Yet the brands that are leading are those that: a) encourage and enable social commentary on their site (reviews in commerce), and; b) meet consumers where they talk and provide insight.
Because the depth of research conducted by affluent consumers is on the rise, the power of search engine optimization is critical to competing for attention.
Organic search, or being found in a search, say, at Google, is vital to long-term brand reputation management.
Paid search, or advertisements made through, say, Google, related to keywords people search, presents compelling opportunities for luxury purveyors as well.
Working in tandem, organic and paid search help customers identify with possible solutions, and that’s exactly what discerning affluent consumers are seeking today. And as they search deeper into options, they become smarter about how to search, and become increasingly more specific in their search. Often referred to as “long tail” search, it is perhaps better thought of as “rifle search” where consumers are getting out a rifle to find the exact bulls eye of the target they seek.
Affluent marketers increasingly are seeking to understand the prevailing “bulls eye” their customers seek, and presenting optimized website copy and paid search that supports the keywords consumers are using.
No longer are they simply searching for “luxury wallet” or “[brand name] dress” or “five star [island name] resort.” Those same search strings are followed by “reviews of [hotel name]” or “[island name] amenities,” or “consumer reviews of [brand name] quality.”
Tapping into the next level of search yields a more discerning – and committed – prospect who more often will convert to a sale than a less discerning consumer.
And while search helps the inquisitor find content, it is social commentary that fuels his/her fire. People want to know what other people have experienced. Trust in brands remains, but trust in people is becoming more and more pertinent to consumer decisions.
Social interaction happens all over the web, and brands must work to engage where customers communicate. It is also true, fortunately, that the social interaction within a brands’ own site can have powerful affect on prospective customers. This requires intensive oversight and confidence in the brands’ attributes to be reflected in the actual experiences of its consumers, yet it creates immediate 3rd party endorsement that is by-and-for-the-people, right next to the point of sale at the zero moment of truth when customers commit to procure.
As such, retailers who integrate social commentary into the eCommerce process perform better than their peers. Service providers who enable customer reviews provide more compelling and relevant content, which in turn keeps the visitor more engaged and educated on the nuances of the service experience.
Marketers and eBusiness executives seeking to increase performance in digital channels need look no further than search and social commentary.
So as we usher in 2013, in a world of change and uncertainty, one thing is certain: affluent customers are searching more than ever. The specificity they seek combined with the authenticity they require, creates a golden opportunity to connect and captivate customers digitally and convert the discerning affluent shopper into a lifelong advocate who buys, and brags, digitally about his/her affinity to your brand.