Luxury as a concept is defined within the scope of socio-psychology as a result of its connection to a culture, state of being, and lifestyle, whether personal or collective. In the context of brands, it relates to a signature style, identity, and strong emotional and symbolic associations that are interpreted in terms of products of high aesthetic quality, controlled distribution, and premium pricing. And this is what we refer to as exclusivity.
Even as luxury brands are taking to the digital space a little later than the other industries, they are bringing in their own energies to it. So, the product perception in case of premium goods is not incidental, but a cultivated outcome of a carefully crafted positioning strategy that largely hinges on ‘exclusivity’ in its appeal and aura.
We take up the case of very prominent Apple smartwatch and its marketing as not just a piece of tech innovation but also a luxe accessory. The launch campaign was a mix with exclusive editorial spreads in various editions of Vogue (which is fashion-specific and not a tech magazine) and also tactics like limited retail distribution, tie-ups with upscale retailers (Colette in Paris and Opening Ceremony in London), individual sales appointments in stores, and celebrity endorsements. The result of all these strategies was the phenomenal buzz around the smartwatch that came to figure on the coveted lists of many jetsetters.
Now there are luxury brands innovating to reinforce their unique brand USPs even as they creatively attempt to carve a distinct online echo for them to cut through the competition. By coming up with visually tempting and experiential digital platforms via short films, apps, microsites, and online events, luxury brands are revamping their digital personas and also influencing the Millennial consumer to look out for that special, singular brand experience like Flipkart’s exclusive Xiaomi phone launch in India.
Brands like Jimmy Choo, Tod’s, Louboutin, Gucci, Zegna and Burberry offer product customisation in terms of size, fit, personalisation such as monogramming and matching. These brands make up that section of luxury brands that have their fingers on the consumer’s pulse and study the fast-evolving consumer profile in terms of desires, buying behaviours. Such reflections then lead to creation of unique apps that enhance consumer’s interaction with the brand and also impart an exclusive experience, such as Hermès Tie Break and Burberry’s Art of the Trench15. Some luxury brands are also offering certain services availed only through their online portals and some are launching exclusive collections online first, for example, Ralph Lauren has launched its luxury pet essentials with Darveys.com, luxury brand Swiss military with Firefox bikes and designers like Manish Arora, Sabyasachi are tying up exclusively with portals like Jabong, Myntra, and Amazon.
In addition to the brand owned online offshoots, there are online departmental stores that are the other major outposts for the luxury shoppers. NET-A-PORTER is one of the most preferred leading online shopping sites in the UK and USA. Along with its high service ethic and unique content and exhaustive range of luxury brands, the site also marks out a preferred treatment strategy for its most valuable customers, the EIPS (extremely important people). Hence, they enjoy exclusive services like having their orders picked, packed, and dispatched, while also availing services like personalised look-books, personal shoppers, etc.
Customers need to feel special as they indulge their time and energy into a brand. According to a McKinsey report from February 2015, 60 per cent of US luxury consumers say they would be more likely to buy at an online shop if it offered luxury brands that no one else sold online, a sentiment echoed by their German counterparts. Forty-one per cent say they would be more likely to buy online if there were better prices offered.
Branching out further in the luxury domain are private shopping clubs that are members-only, where members are given special offers on big brands. Luxury flash-sale site Gilt Groupe has been offering exclusive sales to its Facebook fans – more reason for them to go online and buy and feel special.