Commentary

Yes, Luxury Brands, You Can Survive The Holidays Without A Discount

We just made it through a record-breaking Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but that’s just the beginning. It’s that time of year when retailers across the country go into hyper-sales mode to push brands in front of shoppers with open wallets. When consumers are conditioned to expect discounts and deals, we’ve got to look at how luxury brands stay authentic when taking on the holiday shopping season. While 2016 may not be particularly different than years past, there’s something refreshing about luxury brands that keep discounts off the table, staying true to an original brand, and innovating their approach to reaching target consumers.

It can be tough for luxury brands, as even now, high-end shoppers expect a deal. That doesn’t mean brands are giving in, though. As Glossy reported, luxury brands like Calvin Klein, Coach, Michael Kors and Neiman Marcus all tried out China’s Singles Day, but still hesitate on Black Friday. Nothing erodes a luxury brand’s cachet quicker than discounting. But in this age where the consumer — even the high-end consumer — has unprecedented access to pricing information, it is becoming increasingly difficult for retailers of luxury brands to maintain price integrity.  

So, brands take matters back into their own hands. Continuing to win over luxury shoppers now takes more than name recognition. High-end brands are turning to enhanced experiences in-store and tying in a philanthropic aspect of buying to play to that “do good this holiday season” feeling no one can avoid.

In-Store Activations and Experiences to Attract Shoppers

With the goal of luring shoppers to their stores and boutiques, high-end retailers are more than ever turning to unique experiences and in-store activations targeted at the affluent. Rebecca Minkoff’s SoHo boutique introduced smart dressing rooms this year and Kate Spade brought in shoppable windows, while Bloomingdale’s and Ralph Lauren installed smart mirrors in-store. From technology installations to wine tastings, this holiday season we’ll see others create unique pop-up shops inside retailers to bring another element to the shopping experience, drawing in traffic and, ultimately, sales, without a discount. Add an “enter to win” element, though, and there’s another reason to visit (and shop).

Technology and expectations have already made an impact on luxury shoppers in 2016. Innovation in pop-up shops and in-store activations is crucial. The days of adding lights and tinsel to traditional displays are gone. Luxury brands are now called to seamlessly integrate enhanced experiences into holiday marketing, without feeling overdone, in your face or cheesy. It takes a delicate hand. 

Charity Tie-Ins Can Push Luxury Brands 

With more regularity, retailers are testing — and succeeding — with charity tie-ins to drive purchase of luxury products. The holidays are the perfect time to incorporate a philanthropic aspect, when the season is ripe with giving back and doing good. But, it works. A Journal of Retailing study found that consumers are more likely to purchase luxury items when there is a marketed partnership with a charity organization. Specifically, in the study participants had the choice between Godiva and M&M’s, and yes, without any mention of charity, 47% chose the luxury brand. But, upon learning that Godiva was made and sold in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, Godiva buyers jumped to 78%. 

The key here, as reported in Phys.org, is that “the willingness to purchase luxury products increased because the association with charity diminished the participants' feelings of guilt for purchasing a luxury product.” 

With chocolates or high-end jeans, or even Rolex watches, the same pattern emerges and it’s something luxury brands tap into during the holidays. 

Embracing Traditional Holiday Themes

Perhaps the most important tactic for luxury brands, though, is staying true to traditional holiday themes. From the window displays at Barneys to, for the past several years, luxury automakers that leverage classic themes in their holiday campaigns. We all know that the only way Santa Claus is able to deliver all the gifts so fast is because he drives a Mercedes Benz AMG GT. And that mom’s letter to Santa is the only way she’ll get a new Lexus under the tree. Choosing Santa as a pitchman never gets old.

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