Volvo ran a series of ads earlier this year using the theme, “Our idea of Luxury is Simplicity.” What Volvo astutely realized is that a rewarding relationship feels easy and uncomplicated and that buyers of luxury goods and services are seeking a seamless, effortless experience, not only finely-crafted products.
The frenetic pace of modern life, the proliferation of information and the intrusion of technology have created an opportunity for luxury brands to offer an oasis of peace amidst chaos. Convenience, clarity, personalization and calm are new measures of luxury. Each of these is an ingredient of Simplicity.
You don’t feel connected to a brand if you have to repeat who you are and your likes and dis-likes each time you interact. Many luxury brands overlook the power of respecting a customer’s time, removing “fine print,” remembering preferences and communicating succinctly.
Creating simplified experiences by foreseeing and removing customer burdens requires an empathetic understanding of the target market. Luxury brands can charge a premium price when they deliver an exceptional level of personal attention and customization through in-depth understanding of customers’ wants and needs.
Technology can be a great facilitator for anchoring relationships if used deftly. After all, computers are giant memory banks—waiting to store measurements to show exactly how a garment will look on a specific person, existing to mix and match features for complete customization and remembering myriad preferences. Customized interactions convey caring.
Ritz-Carlton and Nordstrom’s have both done a good job of using technology to enhance the level of personalization without becoming intrusive. Curated information can also be used to advantage by luxury brands. For example, buyers of fine gemstones will cherish timely information about mining operations, currency fluctuations, political changes and fashion trends that affect the jewelry market. Finding and collecting that much disparate information would be time-consuming for a customer; smart luxury brands can do it for them.
Many luxury brands have failed to use even basic technology to enhance personal connection: live chat, customized product recommendations and advance notifications of new products should be table stakes. Technology isn’t the relationship—it is tool to facilitate informed relationships and luxury brands can use technology to shorten the distance between themselves and customers.
Breakthrough simplicity requires empathizing (by perceiving others' needs and expectations), distilling (by reducing to its essence the substance of one's offer) and clarifying (by making the offering easier to understand or use). Buyers of luxury goods and services are fiercely loyal and simplicity is a means to reward and reinforce that loyalty.
Empathetic listening tailors the experience in a way that increases the perceived value of the relationship.
Luxury brands are defined by passionate, enduring consumer loyalty—despite high price or scarcity—their buyers want particular brands and feel that they are part of the brand. Companies have a responsibility to minimize hassles, obstacles and intrusions that can potentially undermine that relationship. Complex products and complicated procedures are a reality—luxury brands thrive when they move that complexity out of sight of the customer. By transferring burdens from customers to the company, they are improving the customer experience. Simplicity is the new hallmark of luxury.