After 21 years orchestrating hundreds of conversations and events with CEOs and CMOs representing every segment of luxury and given the furious pace of web-enabled change, here’s my “dirty dozen” top challenges/opportunities facing luxury marketers and their brands today.
These 12 keep or should keep top executives of luxury brands awake at night (even the sound sleepers) in their survival quest to ‘“surprise and delight” the richest most discriminating buyers of luxury products and services. Globally, some 12.7 million ‘best customers’ with liquid portfolios/investible assets of $1 million and often much more; not counting their residences, yachts, cars, art, private jets, etcetera.
1. Collaborations & Partnerships: Twenty years ago if you asked for a show of hands of a group of 100 senior level luxury marketers as to how many have engaged in a collaboration with a kindred spirit luxury brand, you might see half a dozen hands. Today you will easily see 75. Given the fact that all luxury purveyors share some 60% of the same best customers and that these customers can afford to buy top products and services from all categories, collaborations and partnerships are among the most cost effective strategies enabling brands to win more customers like their very best customers.
2. Keeping Pace With Changing Technology and Seamless Integration of Digital and Traditional Media: Talk to any CEO or any consulting firm, even those that specialized in integration of new technologies. If they’re honest, they’ll say no one has cracked the code. Just as an organization has adapted to and embraced the latest wave of change, a new app or totally new medium appears on the horizon.
3. Weak Phone Protocol: The incidence of rude, arrogant, lackadaisical phone “presence” is more rampant than one might think. Truly astonishing when many pay lip service to “first impression is most remembered.” Dull tone of voice; failure of person answering call to identify themselves; unwillingness to serve and accommodate; inability or unwillingness to put the caller in touch with someone who can help; inability to or prevented from giving senior management names, business emails, direct office numbers and administrative assistants’ names. The list goes on. If you’re doubtful, ‘mystery shop’ and call your own organization. First voice is first impression. Too often the phone voice, if you’re lucky enough to get a person at all, is aloof, disinterested, lacking warmth and ineffectual.
4. Leveraging Loyalty – Used to be loyalty programs were seen as bottomless pits of reward points and an unnecessary cost. Celebrating best customers’ anniversaries, interests, passions, families and acknowledging their buying preferences through special offers that demonstrate high touch and genuine personal warmth is one of the biggest opportunities for luxury brands to distinguish themselves. See Jack Mitchell’s Hug Your Customers for a brilliant road map as to how.
5. Better Listening: To Your Customers, To Your People, Your Team: Recent research on this topic shows that companies that have a rigorous, strategic approach to listening to their best customers and to their people, are more highly thought of and significantly more profitable. The big challenge is how.
6. Banishing Arrogance and Apathy: Sadly the “eyeball inventory” or “social x-raying” (an instant “net worth” calculation on the part of sales associates who calibrates service based on their own parochial judgment) facing customers has not yet become a thing of the past. Engagement — too much, too soon, too little? — is an art. Few people dress to shop. How do brands better inspire their team to walk this fine line more effectively and humanly?
I’ll be addressing the rest of the dirty dozen in my next column, so stay tuned.