This is part two (here’s part one) of a recent, qualitative survey of C-suite executives, when asked, “What are the trends that must be addressed by top management of luxury brands in 2016?” here, ranked in order of importance, is a summary of what they said.
7. The leverage of social media/the conundrum of the web. A veritable plethora of options exists for luxury brands to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and drive highly targeted customers to their web sites. It’s no big news that an effective online sales and marketing strategy and presence is essential to the success of any brand, luxury brands included. It’s also no news that the luxury arena has been one of the most skeptical and lagging in adopting best online selling and marketing practices. Most luxury brand C-suite execs now see the web as a critically important channel for sales, brand expansion, customer service and building brand loyalty. Most, sadly, agree that too few focus on a proactive plan for promoting, monitoring and protecting their reputations and brands in a realm that’s now more dangerous than ever. Most will frankly admit to playing catch-up.
8. Segmentation, segmentation. While CEOs and CMOs almost universally acknowledge the fact that technology exists and allows for greater drilling down of best customers’ buying habits and how to reach them more surgically, most expressed serious concerns that integrating store information, inspiring the sales associates to gather and use important customer data and ultimately leverage this information to make it accessible to help sales associates more effectively close and cross-sell remains a major challenge.
9. Making special events more special. Since 2008 there has been a seismic shift away from lavish, big-glitz events to more targeted to best customers (bring-a-friend), intimate (no more than 100, most often fewer) educational/experiential events that broaden the most sophisticated customers’ appreciation of luxury products and services. When they understand the inherent value, what Stanley Marcus called “the impact of the hand: the best that the mind of man can imagine and the hand of man create,” price becomes largely irrelevant. And those educated customers, relishing being in the know, become robust brand ambassadors.
10. The new public relations. In the now long gone, old traditional luxury world, public relations often meant events. Now it means thought leadership, taking the high ground on explaining trends, assembling and energizing communities of brand fans, doing a better job of monitoring the yelpers of this world, replying in real time to critics and, most importantly, integrating this important discipline with all other facets of the marketing mix. Increasingly, CEOs are seeing public relations more broadly defined as one of their primary roles.
11. Better recognizing and talking to niche markets. The buying power of niche markets (GLBT; women who have inherited, married into or made big dollars on their own; the black/African American; Hispanic/Latino; Asian communities has yet to be fully tapped.) Each has their own media, preferences, buying habits and authentic voice. Each expects luxury brands to address them in the most sophisticated way in order to win their loyalty and spend.
12. Suppliers and publishers are the new consultants. Still hidden in plain sight are the communities of suppliers and publishers too often seen and treated as vendors while offering, if embraced as true partners, advisors, consultants, entrée to communities of best buyers, only if inspired and asked to serve as brand ambassadors. This requires a cultural shift on the part of luxury brands. The people that serve are also the people with an ear to the ground, with the influence to move markets and buyers. But only if sincerely embraced for this long-unrecognized aspect of their business portfolios.
13. Beyond .com, opportunities, threats, pitfalls, challenges. With the explosion of new domain names come new, more relevant branding options other than .com such as .jewelry, .luxury, .clothes, .shop, .web, and .yourcompanyname. These new choices present marketing opportunities for luxury brands, but at the same time also paths to brand infringement and exploitation for the bad guys who register domains of luxury brand or mistypes of luxury brands in order to capitalize on (i.e., steal) the aura of your precious brand. These threats are real.
The World Wide Web can be the Wild West. There are pirates, hijackers, extortionist registrars and hackers with malicious intentions, all wanting a piece of what is invaluable and has taken luxury brands decades upon decades to build. Luxury brand C-suite execs continue to wrestle with how their companies can stay well ahead of the curve on new developments and how to manage them.
We hope this two-part series has touched some nerves and, perhaps, made you think differently or served as a confirmation about how you are defining the challenges you are facing this year. And, of course, we welcome your thoughts and comments.