Luxury Institute News

March 7, 2016

Saks extends associates’ knowledge, expertise to curated online service

Luxury Daily
By: Jen King
March 7, 2016

Department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue is personalizing its online shopping experience to transfer the service received in-store to anywhere consumers wish to shop.

In recent months, omnichannel strategy has taken hold over retailing, with brands coming to execute programs that enhance the relationship between in-store shopping and that conducted online. As such, the luxury industry will benefit from increasing personalized interaction online as a reflection, and continuation, of the experience while in a physical store location, thus offering its consumers a consistent presentation and level of service regardless of the platform.

“When it comes to luxury shopping, there is no substitute for the personalized experience offered by a knowledgeable Saks Associate,” said Joe Milano, senior vice president, general manager, digital retail and ecommerce at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York.

“Providing our customers with the same high-touch Saks experience and store environment online will not only help us strengthen relationships with existing customers, but also allow us to connect personally with the saks.com customer,” he said.

“Saks Fifth Avenue prides itself on the relationships and experiences built between its associates and customers. With this new technology, Saks has the ability to provide all customers the same 1 to 1 personalized experience no matter the channel.”

Personal shoppers online
Saks’ latest endeavor introduces a consumer offering that brings the retailer’s in-store experience directly to its online shoppers. Through the initiative, consumers can connect with Saks Associates around the clock, every day of the week, to reap the benefits of its personalized services.

For the online service program, Saks teamed with retail technology firm Salesfloor. As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, Salesfloor works to connect local retail sales associates with online shoppers to create a personalized experience.

With quick integration that melds easily with a retailer’s existing CRM and client software, Salesfloor can be customized to fit with a retailer’s specifications. According to Salesfloor, retailers that partner with its SaaS platform see a tenfold lift in online conversations, and up to a 75 percent increase in average order value.

“In today’s world we have omni-channel customers, therefore associates in the store need to be omnichannel as well, so they can serve the customer even after they have left the store,” said Oscar Sachs, CEO of Salesfloor. “Salesfloor redefines the role of a sales associate so that they can directly drive the online business as much as the in-store business.

“With Salesfloor, retailers can empower associates to develop relationships at scale with customers and to personalize the online experience with curated product, content and live service,” he said.

Using Salesfloor’s SaaS, Saks now has the ability to create customizable saks.com boutique pages with the help of its team of dedicated Saks Associates. Each customized online boutique will be personally curated by a Saks Associate to include an assortment of merchandise and will be easily found through a dedicated URL.

Similar to a favorite in-store associate, consumers can continue to refer to the dedicated URL that houses their curated merchandise picks based on their personal taste and needs. The program also gives Saks Associates another way to connect with new and established consumers in the online space.

Connections can be had over hand-picked merchandise, styling expertise and industry knowledge. Further adapting to how the consumer wishes to shop, the Saks Associates can be reached via live chat, email or through scheduled appointments.

Additional touchpoints include the Saks Associate’s ability to showcase their online storefronts to consumers through email and social media tools built within a mobile application.

“Luxury brands depend on creating relationships with their customers and offering a high level of service,” Mr. Sachs said. “In-store, luxury brands do a great job at differentiating themselves from the competition through store design, sales associates and merchandising.

“However online the differentiation is much more narrow and retailers are struggling to maintain loyal online customers, which is increasingly becoming a large part of the retail business,” he said. “With Salesfloor, retailers can now leverage their trusted associates to better serve the online customer and to personalize the online experience.”

Furthering experience
The human element is going to be the top differentiator among luxury brands going forward, according to the CEO of Luxury Institute at Luxury Interactive Europe 2015.

As consumers increasingly experience the world through screens, they will come to crave the now-rare human connection. Here is where luxury brands can help themselves stand apart by outperforming their peers at relationship building and delivering a worthwhile personal touch (see story).

For instance, department store chain Neiman Marcus is changing the apparel shopping experience for consumers with a new digital mirror that remembers users.

The Memory Mirror takes a 360-degree video of a client modeling a particular outfit, allowing them to see clothing on themselves from all angles as well as save and share the visual. This interactive digital touchpoint will alter the in-store experience for Neiman Marcus’ consumers and further empower sales associates to provide customer service (see story).

Also, retailer Nordstrom expanded its mobile commerce capabilities with a new feature that enables shopping via text message.

The retailer claims its TextStyle is the first of its kind for a department store in the United States, allowing for a secure, one-to-one buying experience between a consumer and a sales associate. Consumers are constantly connected to their phones, so this enables Nordstrom to serve them in a personal way no matter where they are (see story).

“Retail’s landscape is changing –customers demand a seamless shopping experience across all channels,” Saks’ Mr. Milano said. “To capitalize on this, Saks Fifth Avenue found a digital solution that combines our highest trafficked channel with our highest converting channel, our stores. Now, Saks Associates can connect directly to customers 24/7 via this new technology.”

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/saks-extends-associates-knowledge-expertise-to-curated-online-service/

March 2, 2016

Retail store system is broken: Luxury Institute

Luxury Daily
By: Sarah Jones
March 2, 2016

Bricks-and-mortar retail is still generally operating in an out-of-date fashion, creating obstacles for sales staff, according to the Luxury Institute.

The consultancy conducted a focus group with 40 store managers who oversee multi-brand, premium and luxury stores, and found that there are a number of improvements that companies could make to help their in-store staff be more productive and effective. From updating technology and CRM systems to reallocating employee resources, there is room for improvement that needs to begin at the top.

“Currently, stores are designed to be points of sale rather than relationship building centers,” said  Milton Pedraza, founder and CEO of Luxury Institute. “Stores need to be redesigned aesthetically and digitally to be spaces that make clients feel special and inspires them to buy.”

In-store solutions
Store managers frequently find themselves off the sales floor as they work to fulfill organizational tasks in the back of the house, such as sorting inventory, generating reports and communicating with the corporate office. This time they spend in their offices takes away from time they could be spending creating a relationship with customers.

In addition, sales associates may run into the back to open boxes, leaving them frazzled and potentially dirty when they return to meet clients on the sales floor.

Apple, for one, has changed this division of responsibilities, separating the functions of operations and consumer engagement into different positions. In place of the store staff, a specialized team could take care of back of house operations for a small region.

Hugo Boss New York Fifth Ave store 400
Hugo Boss store on Fifth Avenue

This frees up sales staff to focus on client retention, data collection and conversion, which will add up to sales in the long term. In this environment, Luxury Institute found store managers would feel more comfortable having higher sales goals set.

More than half of managers said they have absolutely no control over hiring and firing their employees, and none have complete control, creating an environment where up to 40 percent of workers are underperforming.

While they do not have the ability to build their teams to their specifications, store managers are still held accountable for the results generated by their employees. These managers would like corporate to enact educational outreach to train managers and associates in employee selection, helping them to assess a candidate’s fit for the job outside of their skills and experience.

Size of staff is also a concern, as the managers polled agreed that just raising their employee number by 10 percent could boost sales by 25 percent.

Most managers appreciate the annual meetings that bring together store employees and corporate representatives to discuss products and store challenges. However, most feel that this one-time meeting is not enough, preferring a biannual schedule or a meeting per new season.

Gucci_Store_ Montenpoleone_handbags
Gucci Montenapoleone store

Managers are also concerned about their coaching of employees, something that many say they never received any training on. The efficacy and frequency of coaching from a manager to a sales associate can have a great impact on sales.

Corporate should also give store-level managers a certain level of freedom to respond and react to opportunities in their local market to drive growth. This may mean sharing best practices with a non-competitive brand or using insights to innovate the store experience.

Typically, corporate chooses to dictate down to the stores, allowing minimal room for flexibility.

In-store technology has not caught up to today’s omnichannel shopping patterns. Retailers could be missing out on 10 to 20 percent of sales by not sharing inventory across channels, as they are unable to offer another option to purchase an out-of-stock item in their store.

Another investment that would change client engagement is the implementation of a customer relationship management platform. Many retailers have no CRM system in place, choosing to store data gathered at point of sale in clunky spreadsheets, and only half have a CRM that they like.

DFS shopper3
DFS shopper

CRM platforms allow associates to access data more easily, helping them to spot opportunities for client engagement. Technology is a big deal to staff, and stores without upgraded platforms may see their top performers leaving to join a competitor who does have the necessary technology to help them be more successful.

“Brands have spent millions of dollars on the best technology and digitization in their stores, yet are seeing no return on investment due to low usage of the technology,” Mr. Pedraza said.

“However, these tools cannot help the associates increase their effectiveness if they are not actively engaged in using them,” he said. “Training and education dramatically increase the probability that the front line will use these tools to build client relationships and drive sales.”

Another step toward retaining staff is through compensation. Bonuses, which can be anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of a base salary, are hinged on reaching what are often considered unrealistic goals, particularly in the face of turbulent economies.

Instead, managers suggest incentives based on exceeding the previous year’s results.

Millennial mindset
Millennials are growing into luxury shoppers, but despite having the same income levels as their boomer parents at their age, the more youthful set are saddled with more debt. In addition, this group favors experiences over things, making for a tougher sell for those marketing hard luxury.

One of the engagement tools that managers feel is underused is social media. Often, they are not empowered to use Instagram or Pinterest to communicate with a potential client by letting her know about new products or by sharing inspiration.

Consumers social media
Millennial consumers turn to social media for research

Social media has opened the world up for millennials and for the first time has allowed luxury brands to directly interact with tomorrow’s affluent consumers.

During Luxury Interactive 2015’s panel “Millennial Marketing — Tapping Into the Social-Obsessed Segment” on Oct. 15, executives from brands not typically associated with the millennial consumer discussed the importance of reaching out to this demographic while they are young to establish a connection and cement a bond that will mature as they age. Social media has emerged as the driving force behind these connections as various platforms allow the creativity and personalities of millennial consumers to flourish as they share and embrace their interests and passions (see story).

Leaders feel they do not have the resources or time available to effectively court millennials, either through special events catered to them.

“A common misconception is that millennials do not want human interaction,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Like other generations, millennials value relationships with those who prove to be experts on the product and are empathetic, trustworthy and generous. Luxury brands need to drive consumers to the stores through social media, outreach and events.”

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/the-retail-store-system-is-broken-luxury-institute/

February 9, 2016

Using digital to connect luxury shoppers with luxury brands

Luxury Daily
By: James Green
February 9, 2016

Every industry has been disrupted by technology and pushed to evolve their marketing strategy. In some ways, luxury advertisers have embraced the digital revolution and found new methods of improving the customer and user experience. But a large number of luxury marketing spend is still happening offline, despite the brand opportunities that are now available online.

There seems to be a common understanding among luxury brands that high-priced items are not going to thrive online and that using an ecommerce platform may even devalue products. True or not, direct sales are not the only way to get value out of the digital world.

Net net
Most luxury brands have a very specific target audience, typically affluent individuals. Therefore, luxury brands have traditionally bought digital media within specific owners such as The New York Times, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal because they feel that it is the best way they can safely find their audience online.

But what about all the people signaling their intent to buy luxury items across the Greater Internet? How do brands effectively reach out them?

Research from Epsilon and The Luxury Institute shows that 98 percent of luxury shoppers use the Internet regularly.

In addition, more than 50 percent of the time they are online, they are researching products and comparing prices on their mobile devices.

Throughout the years, studies from Google and McKinsey have shown that people spend a good amount of time researching luxury or high cost goods online before making their purchase.

And most likely, the number of times people visit a store to browse and conduct research has diminished because of the availability of information online.

With all this data about people, including demographic and information about brand affinity, along with precise data related to what people are searching for or what items they have recently purchased, there is a tremendous opportunity to use digital to identify luxury shoppers, provide them with immersive experiences and forge stronger customer relationships.

Researching signals purchase intent
Data offers established brands the opportunity to get in front of in-market buyers, including new customers and previous buyers.

Consider the amount of research that takes place before making a luxury purchase, whether that is a new car, piece of jewelry, handbag or high-end vacation.

According to WBR Digital, 45 percent of luxury purchases are influenced by what consumers find online.

The benefit of digital is that you can depict who is actually looking for information about your product and use that trail of data to determine intent to purchase.

For the luxury category, these insights will help brands determine who is ready to make a purchase and allow you to predict which people to keep informed about brand updates, such as new products, sales and seasonal marketing promotions.

Intent-based targeting is a strong complement to more traditional brand-centric media buying and helps luxury brands zero in on the people who are more likely to buy their products. It is also a great way to help them move through the buying journey, either in-store or online.

Enticing luxury buyers with digital creative
Luxury shoppers are very much part of the digital nation. They are using laptops, tablets and smartphones to follow trends, connect with brands, research products and make purchases.

Digital creative is critical to the luxury shopper – it needs to drive awareness without jeopardizing brand integrity and exclusivity.

Digital platforms have transformed their environments into creative canvasses for luxury brands. We have seen this through beautifully produced digital videos, immersive creative experiences and native advertising taking place across mobile devices and platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.

There is enough creative stability in digital for luxury buyers to bring their brand to life and to do so amongst the people who are most likely to buy. The dynamic characteristics of digital also allow brands to feature more products and change up creative more easily than television or print ads.

Forging lasting relationships online
People do not have to visit a store for you to know when and how interact to with them.

Online interactions between consumers and brands inform content, marketing frequency and promotions at the individual level, which can help increase customer loyalty and brand awareness.

Loyalty can be accelerated through social, email and digital display advertising at any point within the customer’s lifetime, and data can help predict these optimal moments.

This means that you need to be constantly learning and adapting to what people want so that your brand remains relevant and generates the engagement and desired response. There is simply way too much insight and value rooted in the digital medium for brands not to invest in it.

DIGITAL MARKETING may appear to be about data and targeting, but it is more about customer interaction, immersive experiences and interactive communication.

The luxury experience is more likely to stay very much in-store focused in the next few years. But this might be able to change once luxury advertisers find a way to prolong the experience that they are providing in-store across digital channels.

Data, adaptability and device versatility makes digital a strong brand vehicle for the luxury category.

 Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/using-digital-to-connect-luxury-shoppers-with-luxury-brands/

October 27, 2015

Relationship building critical to luxury retail: Luxury Institute CEO

Luxury Daily
October 27, 2015
By: Sarah Jones

LONDON – The human element is going to be the top differentiator among luxury brands going forward, according to the CEO of Luxury Institute at Luxury Interactive Europe 2015 on Oct. 26.

As consumers increasingly experience the world through screens, they will come to crave the now-rare human connection. Here is where luxury brands can help themselves stand apart by outperforming their peers at relationship building and delivering a worthwhile personal touch.

“As consumers are more sophisticated, and as products become more commoditized, it’s the delivery of an optimized experience across channels that is critical and that high performance client relationships are our differentiators,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute, New York.

Brand image
Brands are struggling to define themselves, especially as they bleed into more affordable price points. For instance, a representative from an Italian jeweler told Mr. Pedraza that his brand does not know its own identity anymore, after a move down market left it straddling premium and exclusive.

Luxury Institute client Nordstrom now makes half of its sales via outlet stores. Recognizing that the customer retains a level of mystery, Nordstrom similarly remains ambiguous. Despite this non-specific label, the retailer still scores first in customer service in surveys conducted by the consultancy.

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Nordstrom heavily promotes its anniversary sale on social media

Consumers are becoming more sophisticated, and brands need to optimize their user experience for their requirements.

Across channels, brands in the luxury space are struggling to connect the dots between policy, procedure and system to deliver a rewarding customer experience.

While 37 percent of men and 49 percent of women find browsing without help from a store associate to be most effective, this does not remove a brand’s place in the process. For brands to guide consumers’ exploration, they should include signage in an on-brand way or have store associates communicate with the shopper to help them find what they are looking for.

Valentino Rome store women
Valentino store in Rome

Even in the digital space, which tends to be thought of as a do-it-yourself shopping channel, the human element cannot be entirely removed. Walmart might be able to automate and take out that the personal interaction from the buying experience, but for luxury brands, the relationship is everything. It is especially important to invest in this personal approach for top tier clients.

Therefore, sales associates should be taught interpersonal skills, such as trustworthiness. While often thought of as innate, these can be learned. Ensuring that all associates are pulling their weight will also help to retain top frontline employees over time.

For best practices, Mr. Pedraza suggests looking outside of the luxury industry rather than studying peers. Those that excel at relationship building are within the military, medicine and airline industries. For instance, brands can look to the military, which has developed successful methods of empowering soldiers, to gain insights on store associate education and guidance.

Making a connection
Mr. Pedraza asked each of the tables to discuss what changes they would make to their organizational structure, front line associates and compensation to help foster strong client relationships.

Ideas from around the room included rotating employees within roles to develop empathy, looking at the company from the consumer’s perspective and empowering sales associates with access to technology and a CRM system. Other suggestions included new roles, such as a customer information officer, which would span sales and marketing.

After hearing from the room, Mr. Pedraza shared his suggestions. These include empowering employees by shifting the organizational structure from a top-down management style to one where individuals are self-managed.

Milton Lux Int Europe
Milton Pedraza

On the same note, employees should be educated rather than trained, with the focus on ideas for creative relationship building rather than delving out a strict formula to follow.

Associates should be compensated for their actions, such as messages sent and appointments booked, rather than their sales results.

Brands should also make sure that each and every member of their team fits the culture. For many companies, this would mean eliminating employees who do not want to talk to anyone.

In addition, brands should ensure that the technology they are providing their staff with is up-to-date. Ineffective systems are often a dealbreaker for associates, particularly younger employees, and they will take their talent elsewhere.

While technology can help to deliver a high-touch experience to consumers, data and automation cannot replicate the level of engagement that a salesperson can create with shoppers, according to an executive from Moda Operandi at Luxury Interactive 2015 on Oct. 13.

Moda Operandi employs stylists, who work with its most valued consumers to provide personalized recommendations and one-to-one communications, but the process being used to deliver this service was tedious. Keeping the same human touch business model, Moda Operandi built a new platform to help its stylists deliver more relevant, visually appealing messages to the most important customers (see story).

“The key is that we’ve created these great channels, but we haven’t connected the dots,” Mr. Pedraza said. “And that I think is the critical issue.

“It’s not that we’re not innovating in each of those channels. It’s that we have not connected the dots to the point where, for example, a sales associate is empowered and inspired and maybe incentivized to send the client online,” he said. “Or that when the client buys online, the sales associate reaches out with a thank you card and a follow-up.

“We haven’t figured out those little basics that really create realtionships. Today we are very digital, very technical, we’ve disempowered the people in the stores, is one of my premises. We haven’t connected the dots, as simple as they are to connect, whether it’s technologically or humanistically, we haven’t figured out the policies, the procedures, the systems yet.”

Source: http://www.luxurydaily.com/relationship-building-critical-to-luxury-retail-luxury-institute-ceo/

October 16, 2015

Authenticity, engagement make for stronger social media presence

Luxury Daily
October 15, 2015
By: Forrest Cardamenis

NEW YORK – Any brand can create a social media account, but using these platforms to create a natural extension of the label and leverage social clout to generate sales and loyalty is another matter, according to a speaker at Luxury Interactive 2015 on Oct. 13.

Social media has shrunk the distance between brands and consumers, but bringing these parties closer together has also destroyed traditional business/customer relationships. To be successful on social media, consumers need to be treated like equals and people, otherwise social presence could, counterproductively, push consumers to competition.

“A lot of brands think ‘We have to do this, we have to create content, we have to get out there,’” said Aliza Licht, also known as “DKNY PR Girl,” former public relations executive for DKNY. “A lot of times the need or the urgency to create content is overshadowing the importance of staying true to your brand’s DNA.”

Social engagement
Establishing your brand’s DNA is crucial to creating an authentic and admired social media presence. Brands must identify their core values and ideas and set up boundaries on what topics they will and will not get involved in online.

Tweeting and posting only about promotions and new products creates an inhuman distance from the consumer’s standpoint, but getting involved in serious sociopolitical discussions could alienate those with differing viewpoints.

DKNY Scandal tweet
DKNY PR Girl often tweeted about social happenings to build authenticity

Any active user on social media will inevitably find themselves in some sort of a crisis, but that only makes it more important to engage with consumers as equals. When communication is this direct, the traditional positioning of the brand being above the consumer no longer works, and it won’t create a network of loyal consumers and defenders when that crisis comes along.

“When you’re friends with a customer you create respect and create a situation where, when you make a mistake – and we all do – you are more easily forgiven,” Ms. Licht said.

In addition, when trying to reach international consumers, the same tricks that work in one country might not work elsewhere, so international partners are crucial in helping brands find effective ways to engage. That said, there are common denominators. People all around the world want to be heard.

dknyprgirl twitter
DKNY PR Girl twitter

In one case, Ms. Licht tweeted about the 100 percent humidity in New York on a summer day. “Of course it’s a hair-wash day,” she added. By doing so, she found a natural and enticing way for followers all over the world to share their thoughts with the weather, and retweeting replies from different countries showed that DKNY listened to global consumers.

Search functions also make it easy to “listen” on social media. Users talking negatively about a brand may not be tagging that brand in their posts, but they can easily be searched, and the findings can be used to make changes that will satisfy doubters before competitors steal them away.

As it is in everything else, self-reflection and self-criticism is crucial to creating a strong social presence. A brand should examine its output to ensure it is putting forth the best version possible of itself in terms of message and attitude.

Youth movement
With millennials growing into affluence and becoming a key market, social media presence will only grow in importance.

Social media has created a unique environment that allows for personal engagement between consumers and brands, according to the creative director of Loewe at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference April 23.

Social media allows consumers to be involved with brands on an instant basis. The stories that can be told and the people that can be reached through modern mediums change the face of the luxury industry (see story).

The genuine and personal connection that social media lends itself to is more attractive to consumers who want more from businesses than constantly being sold to.

Consumers are split on their willingness to download luxury brand applications, but when dispersed into generations, 72 percent of millennials are inclined to download a branded app, according to a report from The Luxury Institute.

Digitization of the luxury world is slowly evolving as younger generations grow into being affluent consumers. Luxury clients differ across more than just generations, but understanding the prime and upcoming consumer can prepare marketing teams for the future (see story).

“A lot of brands still maintain that position of ‘We’re up here, you’re down here, we’ll push content to you when we feel like you need to know something, we’re not going to respond to you, but we’ll let you know what is important,’” Ms. Licht said. “I don’t agree with that approach. I think being likable and being an engaging platform makes a huge difference in growing a community.

“The anti-elitist mentality is a winning mentality,” she said.

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/151568/

September 17, 2015

What The Apple Watch Hermès Tells Us About the Future of Tech and Luxury

ForbesLife
By: Eustacia Huen
September 17, 2015

Last week, Apple unveiled Apple Watch Hermès, a new collection of Apple watches that links the tech giant with French fashion house Hermès for a striking opening act to fashion month. The new watches in stainless steel feature an etching of Hermès signature and a customizable face with three exclusive dial designs inspired by Clipper, Cape Cod and Espace Hermès watches.

Joined by the brands’ mutual focus on design, the Apple Watch Hermès is a result of what Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of Hermès called “an alliance in excellence; like horse and carriage, a perfect team.” Beyond the obvious strategic move of two companies at the top of their games, the partnership holds implications about the future of tech and luxury.

First of all, there is the obvious progression of tech products becoming more luxury-oriented, and luxury products becoming more tech-oriented. The Apple Watch is unique for having no visible Apple logo when the product is being worn. Giving Hermès the limelight, Apple is able to reach out to an affluent yet fashion-centric audience that was not previously reachable. Coupled with the fact that Apple shelled out for plenty of advertising pages in Vogue and delivered devices to models, the brand sends a clear signal that it’s trying to sell the Apple watch to the fashion world. As for Hermès, a 178-year-old brand famous for its iconic handbags and leather goods, entering any partnership like this is a rare yet strong statement that it wants to be viewed as contemporary.

With Apple wanting a luxurious edge, and Hermès hoping to branch out from their ‘wealthy grandmother and mother’ clientele, the Apple-Hermès partnership also informs us about the millennial demographic targeted by both companies, according to Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute.

Perhaps the best way to understand the demographic, as the luxury expert noticed, is the pricing of the watches. Ranging from $1,100 for the 38mm stainless steel case with the Single Tour (single band) to $1,500 for the 42mm stainless steel case with the cuff, the Apple Watch Hermès is not the most expensive watch for either brands.

While I think the Apple Watch Hermès could benefit from more refined elements from Hermès and more technological features from Apple, it’s a decent first attempt nonetheless. According to Pedraza, the collaboration is significant as it marks the transitional period before millennials become fully capable as primary consumers. And during this “period of positive disruption and innovation,” there are a few things he said we should expect: “Even fewer people will visit actual stores, and future products—whether they are in the tech or luxury market—will become more experiential.”

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/eustaciahuen/2015/09/17/what-the-apple-watch-hermes-tells-us-about-the-future-of-tech-and-luxury/

August 10, 2015

The Death of the Swiss Fine Timepiece Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

The Lilian Raji Agency
By: Lilian Raji
August 10, 2015

Late last month, Edward Faber, co-owner of Aaron Faber Gallery and author of  American Wristwatches: Five Decades of Style and Design,  Gary Girdvainis, editor of WristWatch magazine and AboutTime magazineand Jeffrey Hess, CEO of Ball Watch USAMilton Pedraza, CEO and Founder of The Luxury Institute, and Jason Alan Snyder, Chief Technology Officer of Momentum Worldwide reconvened Aaron Faber Gallery’s annual Watch Collectors’ Roundtable to debate the question, “Will Smartwatches Disrupt the Swiss Watch Industry?” The Roundtable was moderated by Eleven James CEO, Randy Brandoff.

With the recent  release of a report by market research firm Slice Intelligence announcing that Apple watch sales have declined 90% since their initial launch, the unanimous predictions of the Roundtable panelists has been proven accurate:  no, smartwatches will not disrupt the Swiss watch industry.

What the panelists couldn’t agree on, however, was if smartwatches would impact the industry in any way.

  • Jeff Hess, who also owns Hess Fine Art, noted his customers have been coming in wearing a smartwatch on one wrist and a fine Swiss timepiece on the other.  In this, there seems to be the possibility of harmony between the two types of watches.
  • Edward Faber asserted that a smartwatch will never seem as prestigious as walking into a boardroom wearing a Rolex Presidential or other high status watch.  Smartwatches will only be a gadget.
  • Milton Pedraza agrees on the novelty factor of watches, but didn’t dismiss that smartwatches could ultimately be more a fashion statement than a power statement.
  • Gary Girdvainis predicted that smartwatches would ultimately become gateways for the millennials who gave up watches for their smartphones to now begin entertaining the idea of wearing a watch.  When these same millennials reach their 30s, after spending the last few years wearing a smartwatch, graduating to a Swiss timepiece will be their next step.
  • For tech industry expert, Jason Alan Snyder, smartwatches are about functionality and features.  They are about advancing technology to make our lives easier. The debate shouldn’t be about smartwatches vs timepieces, they should be about smartwatches and all the major advancements going on in technology.

As Randy Brandoff moderated the panel, addressing such issues as the future of the watch industry for collectors, what future technological functions make sense for wristwear and Swiss watch manufacturers pursuing their own smartwatches, panelists made predictions and gave insights that will make many watch, technology and luxury industry people “wait and see” over the next few months as smartwatches set the stage for the evolution of how people tell time.

Click the link to watch the video of the roundtable for quotes by Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute: The Watch Collectors’ Roundtable – Will Smart Watches Disrupt the Swiss Watch Industry?

To learn more about the Roundtable at http://smartwatches.lmrpr.com or contact The Lilian Raji Agency at lilianraji@lmrpr.com or (646) 789-4427.

September 25, 2014

Social network aims for country club status

StarTribune
September 25, 2014
By Katie Humphrey

It could be a story from “The Onion”: Join an online country club for the elite, memberships starting at $9,000.

Except it’s true. Last week, a Minneapolis man launched Netropolitan.Club, a social network for the rich and exclusive. Forget the commoners on Twitter and Facebook. Netropolitan founder James Touchi-Peters bills his site as “a place to talk about fine wine, fancy cars and lucrative business decisions without judgment.”

Its Sept. 16 launch got so much buzz — mostly of the snarky variety — that Jimmy Fallon mentioned it on “The Tonight Show,” imagining posts about firing the gardener and the caviar bucket challenge.

The site’s landing page got so many hits it was slow to load. Then the hackers descended. On Sunday evening, Touchi-Peters, who used to conduct the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra, pulled the site down for security upgrades.

“We were aware that people would try to hack the Netropolitan Club, but we were not prepared for the overwhelming amount of attacks,” he said in a statement posted on the Netropolitan Club’s Facebook page. (Because, apparently, even elite social networks need Facebook.)
He said it would be back up by the end of the week.

But will it catch on? We may never know. Touchi-Peters won’t say how many members have joined the site, or give any hint of their backgrounds. He also won’t give anyone a peek at the advertising-free network — unless they pony up the whopping membership payment.

“The attraction is that it’s private,” he said. “So far it’s exceeded our wildest expectations.”
Still, it could be a tough sell.

Privacy is valuable to the wealthy, but so is value, said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a New York City research firm specializing in data and insights of high-net-worth consumers.

“I’m a bit of a skeptic,” Pedraza said of Netropolitan. “What are the benefits?”

Previous attempts to create elite-only networks have mostly fizzled, Pedraza said. One that is still active, ASmallWorld, is focused on jet-setting young adults, offering travel perks and hosting parties around the world. Membership, by invitation only, is $105 a year.

Touchi-Peters, a musician who travels frequently, said Netropolitan is aimed at like-minded people who may not have time to socialize in person, a group he calls the “working wealthy.” Or, he said, it could also appeal to rich people who live in rural areas and don’t have access to traditional social clubs. Users create profiles and can post on message boards organized by interest.

“Most people are going to join to meet other people,” Touchi-Peters said.

More specifically, people who can afford $9,000 upfront and the subsequent $3,000 annual fee.
So much for the idea of an open, egalitarian Internet.

That was a myth, anyway, said Seth Lewis, assistant professor of digital media and journalism at the University of Minnesota. Even Facebook started as the digital playground of Ivy League college students.

“It’s almost like [Netropolitan is] trying to put the genie back in the bottle,” Lewis said, referring to the site’s exclusivity. “The proposition is interesting. It’s hard to see how it succeeds.”As for the name Netropolitan, Touchi-Peters said, it’s a play on the words “metropolitan” and “Internet.” He wanted something that spoke to a cosmopolitan crowd, but the title “Cosmopolitan” was already taken.

“Netropolitan does not stand for ‘net worth,’ ” Touchi-Peters said.

But you’d better be worth a lot if you’re going to get past the virtual gate.

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/blogs/277098901.html

February 27, 2014

Handset Makers Go Big on Smartphones

By Brian X. Chen
New York Times
February 26, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain — Smartphones are going against one of the long-held rules in portable electronics, that smaller is better.

Year by year, computers, storage devices and music players have shed size and weight. And for decades, it has been happening with cellphones, too.

But now cellphones, and smartphones in particular, are going the way of the television: They just keep getting bigger and bigger. And people keep buying them.

The trend became even more apparent this week, as handset makers introduced a number of big-screen smartphones — from five diagonal inches to more than seven inches — at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain.

Click the link to read the entire article which includes a quote from Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/technology/handset-makers-go-big-on-smartphones.html?hpw&rref=fashion

February 5, 2014

Wealthy Shoppers Tell Brands How They Want Technology Integrated Into The Shopping Experience

(NEW YORK) February 5, 2014 – The New York-based Luxury Institute asked consumers 21 years of age and older from U.S. households with minimum annual income of $250,000 about their views on incorporating technology in the shopping experience.

Nearly half (47%) of wealthy consumers say that a sales professional providing live chat or video assistance online would help them understand more product details, and 58% appreciate the convenience of instant answers.  Only 15% of shoppers say that they have tried chat or video and refuse to do it again.

Wealthy shoppers do not mind companies collecting personal data and using it for customized marketing, but they do show strong distaste for clandestine data gathering via mobile phones, facial recognition software and GPS tracking; 69% say information collected in this manner is a privacy violation.  Just 24% approve of retailers using facial recognition software to identify them and observe shopping habits.

Using technology in-stores to accelerate checkout is popular, but many affluent shoppers shy away from self-checkout.  Almost three-fourths (73%) say that they appreciate the time savings of checking out via mobile devices instead of standing in line at cash registers.  Although 45% say that self-checkout is more efficient, 44% prefer transactions with help from staff.

Technology has little to do with what wealthy shoppers desire most: free shipping and returns, cited by 92% of respondents.

“Habits of today’s wealthy consumer have increased the desire to browse, reserve and purchase using a mix of channels,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Technology allows brands to leverage customer data and shopping habits, however salespeople still play a vital role into creating unique and engaging experiences.”

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