Sell­ing lux­ury is all about SELL­ING EMO­TIONS

When it comes to lux­ury, sta­tus is be­com­ing less about “what I have” and more about “who I am” so brands are ex­plor­ing ways to en­hance the off-line and on­line re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence us­ing tra­di­tional and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and story telling

India Today - - COVERSTORY - By FRAN­COIS AR­PELS

it is in­deed iron­i­cal that de­spite be­ing at the heart of the lux­ury in­dus­try for 5,000 years, even while France and Italy have suc­cess­fully de­vel­oped and mar­keted lux­ury brands in the last cen­tury, in­flu­enced by the sub­con­ti­nent’s styles and aes­thet­ics, and crafts and skills, the per­sonal lux­ury goods in­dus­try (as it is known abroad) is still in its in­fancy in In­dia.

No in­ter­na­tional brands have built any sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in the coun­try; their stores al­most all man­aged by lo­cal dis­trib­u­tors, whereas they are di­rectly con­trolled by the brands in­ter­na­tion­ally. How­ever, the com­plex­ity of In­dia is not the main rea­son. Es­sen­tial for lux­ury brands to scale, the mid­dle class is still nar­row, and the ecosys­tem not pro­fes­sional enough. In­dia is not yet a strate­gic mar­ket but rather "good to have".

Even home­grown lux­ury brands have lim­ited scale as they rely highly on "one-time pur­chases" gen­er­ated on the oc­ca­sion of wed­dings. Also, the num­ber of high spend­ing power tourists vis­it­ing In­dia re­mains low. In ad­di­tion, ex­pe­ri­enced man­age­ment in the def­i­ni­tion and the ex­e­cu­tion of lux­ury brand strate­gies, which re­quire an ob­ses­sion for

de­tail and prod­uct qual­ity are too lim­ited.

This said, the per­sonal lux­ury goods in­dus­try in In­dia (fash­ion, beauty, ac­ces­sories, jew­ellery, gourmet food, home im­prove­ment) is evolv­ing, cap­i­tal­is­ing on in­creas­ing dis­pos­able in­comes, with more dis­cern­ing cus­tomers ready to ex­per­i­ment in­clud­ing mil­len­ni­als and gen­er­a­tion Z con­sumers, who will be­come the growth en­gine of lux­ury sales. When it comes to lux­ury, sta­tus is be­com­ing less about “what I have” and more about “who I am”.

As a re­sult, home­grown brands are be­gin­ning to ex­plore ways to im­prove the emo­tional con­nec­tion with cus­tomers at all touch points. ; in other words, at each op­por­tu­nity, the cus­tomer can be in touch with the brand, in­clud­ing prod­ucts (clearer dif­fer­en­ti­ated USP, bet­ter qual­ity, fo­cussed as­sort­ment con­vey­ing brand val­ues), tra­di­tional and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and story telling, off-line and on­line re­tail cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, etc.

With this mo­men­tum, new trends fu­elled by in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy have been emerg­ing that will be­come even more vis­i­ble in 2019. From 'lux­ury made to mea­sure' and 'lux­ury-ded­i­cated staff to 'cus­tomi­sa­tion', brands are em­pow­er­ing clients to play de­sign­ers of their fash­ion, fra­grances, skin care, cos­met­ics, or jew­ellery. And re­tail­ers are of­fer­ing per­sonal shop­ping ser­vices at the store, or con­nect­ing cus­tomers to sale as­sis­tants via Facetime to fi­nalise their pur­chase, or

RE­LY­ING ON AR­TI­FI­CIAL IN­TEL­LI­GENCE, PER­SONAL SHOP­PING AS­SIS­TANTS OR VIR­TUAL AS­SIS­TANTS HELP CUS­TOMERS FIND WHAT THEY ARE LOOK­ING FOR

AUG­MENTED RE­AL­ITY TECH­NOL­OGY SUCH AS SMART MIR­RORS IS CON­TRIBUT­ING TO THE CRE­ATION OF FUN AND EX­PE­RI­EN­TIAL RE­TAIL EX­PE­RI­ENCES

of­fer­ing text mes­sages ded­i­cated plat­forms to di­rectly or­der from staff.

In­tel­li­gent pre­dic­tion, also known as pre­dic­tive per­son­al­i­sa­tion, is mak­ing cus­tomers feel as if ev­ery prod­uct or brand ex­pe­ri­ence was tai­lored just for them. By un­der­stand­ing what drives cus­tomers, brands can an­tic­i­pate a pur­chase by rec­om­mend­ing prod­ucts re­flect­ing a buyer’s per­son­al­ity while in­creas­ing loy­alty through tai­lored ex­pe­ri­ences. As a re­sult, the same web­site may be of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent con­tent, and even a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence, tai­lored to the vis­i­tor’s back­ground, in­ter­ests, pur­chase his­tory, etc.

Seek­ing to em­pha­sise mem­ory cre­ation and value con­nec­tion with cus­tomers are es­sen­tial. Nowhere bet­ter than dur­ing the re­tail jour­ney, whether dig­i­tal or phys­i­cal, when the cus­tomer is cap­tive, can brands craft unique ex­pe­ri­ences to en­gage with the cus­tomer. As a re­sult, brands are con­tin­u­ously ex­plor­ing ways to reimag­ine off-line and on-line cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences and end-to-end cus­tomer jour­neys. Whether they are fun, in­ti­mate, in­ter­ac­tive, im­mer­sive, etc, they will pro­gres­sively feel more per­sonal and more nat­u­ral to cus­tomers thanks to the ad­vent of Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence and re­lated in­no­va­tions. For ex­am­ple, aug­mented re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy, such as smart mir­rors, is con­tribut­ing to the cre­ation of fun and ex­pe­ri­en­tial re­tail for cus­tomers to nat­u­rally in­ter­act with lux­ury prod­ucts.

Re­ly­ing on Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence, per­sonal shop­ping as­sis­tants or vir­tual as­sis­tants help cus­tomers find what they are look­ing for by en­gag­ing them in sim­ple con­ver­sa­tions. As a re­sult, brands are of­fer­ing, voice com­merce, a fric­tion­less cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, with pur­chase com­pleted as a sin­gle con­ver­sa­tional stream rather than mul­ti­ple clicks on a web site.

From so­cial me­dia to shop­ping, brands are now set­ting up mi­cro re­tail com­mu­ni­ties to in­ter­act more in­ti­mately with groups of cus­tomers who co-opt their own friends to shop to­gether and ben­e­fit from cus­tom­ized of­fers.

Sus­tain­able and eco-friendly lux­ury brands are emerg­ing on the back of evolv­ing cus­tomer pur­chase de­ci­sions in­creas­ingly in­flu­enced by en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial im­pact. As a re­sult, brands re­ly­ing le­git­i­mately on nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and crafts, are fast gain­ing trac­tion.

Thanks to a great his­tor­i­cal and spir­i­tual her­itage in crafts knowhow re­ly­ing on a large pool of lo­cal tra­di­tional ex­per­tise, nat­u­ral re­sources, and authen­tic story telling as­so­ci­ated with emerg­ing trends fu­eled by tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, the In­dian per­sonal lux­ury goods mar­ket is poised to grow do­mes­ti­cally as well as to pen­e­trate the in­ter­na­tional scene where con­sumers are look­ing for lux­ury that is be­spoke, ar­ti­sanal, artis­tic, sus­tain­able, and of­fer­ing a mem­o­rable emo­tional con­nec­tion.

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