January 18, 2017
Global luxury from autos to jets to watches, jewelry, home, arts, beauty, and travel is a trillion dollar industry. What will it take for luxury brands to successfully sell and serve you? Top executives gathered in New York today at Luxury Daily’s annual Luxury FirstLook 2017 to discuss best practices in getting you to open your wallet. Below are some highlights.
1. It takes impeccable service. Luxury providers need to give front-line staff more decision-making authority. Mehdi Eftekari, the general manager of Four Seasons Hotel New York, says the group allows its employees to resolve complaints. As an example, he says a customer checking out complains his room service coffee was cold. The typical hotel rulebook would have the clerk get a manager. Instead, Four Seasons’ employees can take the charge off the bill on their own. He says removed charges actually decreased. Hotels and airlines are often concerned about travelers who try to game the system. Eftekari told the audience, “That’s 1/10th of 1 percent. I tell my team to focus on the 99.9%.”
2. Look to Jeff. Amazon is already a powerhouse in luxury sales, according to Bob Shullman, CEO of The Shullman Research Center. He said 74% of the top 1% bought luxury from Amazon in the past year. Moreover, as luxury brands try to figure out how to better sell their wares in an omnichannel world, he says Amazon customers rate the retailer better than other retailers by an 110-to-1 margin. He says top luxury brands typically score a 2- or 3-to-1 margin. “(Amazon CEO and Founder) Jeff Bezos doesn’t see any limitations,” Shullman told the group, noting it has launched its own private label fashion line after many top luxury brands eschewed the sales platform. What’s more, Amazon has a power database of both customer emails and home addresses. Moderator Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, noted the online retailer needs to fix its reputation that it doesn’t treat its employees well. “It matters,” he says.
3. Shopping needs to be memorable. Retail stores have to move “from nicely furnished stock rooms with well-dressed stock people” to centers of experience, says Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA.. He notes with retail leases running 10 years or more, retailers are under pressure to figure out how you will shop not next month but five years from now. He says malls have increased “experiential” retail space that includes things like restaurants, exhibits and hair styling to 25% from 8%. He quoted Walt Disney, telling the executives, “A picture is worth a thousand words but an experience is worth a million.”
4. Sustainability needs to be relatable. Luxury companies haven’t done a good job communicating what they are doing let alone making it inspirational to you the consumer. Charles Stanley, US CEO for De Beers’ Forevermark said there are a multitude of statistics about how the diamond industry supports sustainability, however, to make an impact his company created short films to show consumers real examples. One vignette shows a single mother who was able to launch a successful business creating more jobs based on funding from Forevermark. Kane Sarhan, marketing boss for 1 Hotels, a new group based on the core value of sustainability (They know where everything from carpets to bathroom fixtures were made and how.) wants guests to go away understanding how they can bring sustainability back into their regular lives. He says a survey of over 50,000 guests found “49% said staying at our hotel made them change life at home.” The hotel has meters in its showers so you can moderate your water use. He says in the future the hotel may reward guests who consume less water or electricity.
5. Brands need to rethink their approach to events you get invited to. David Friedman, co-founder of research firm Wealth-X says most event marketing is based on trying to one-up other events and the guest list isn’t well targeted. He coined the phrase “Hope Marketing.” In other words, hold and party and hope the right people show up and then buy. Friedman says when targeting Super Rich/UHNW consumers, marketers need to turn it around and focus on what the customer is interested in, be it fishing, football, collecting stamps or the opera. Shamin Abas, who owns a PR company that works with jet and yacht companies told the audience to think small. For a client that makes $3.5 million submarines, an event meant bringing an Ultra High Net Worth prospect and his family to the Bahamas for a test dive. For another client that manages private jets, but was worried about what will happen as fathers grew older and turned over operations of their empires to their children, she helped orchestrate a father/son event so the jet company could get to know the next generation.
6. Traditional advertising no longer works. Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, said the average consumer gets 362 ad messages a day, but few of them resonate or stand out because they are in the wrong platforms. Greg Licciardi, chief revenue officer of Elite Traveler (Disclaimer: I co-founded the magazine in 2001 before selling my interest in 2014) said niche media is the key. For companies that want to reach the Super Rich, the publication is distributed on private jets and terminals. Shullman says digital media such as e-mail is effective in driving recall with luxury buyers. Tracy Doyle, creative director for fashion and luxury at The New York Times T Studio says more and more marketers want customized “native content” messages. Licciardi noted that with over 80% of UHNWs having made their money in the past 15 years, luxury marketers can’t assume you know about their heritage or what uniquely sets them apart. “Luxury marketers need to tell the story and educate,” he says.
Doug Gollan is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of DG Amazing Experiences, an e-newsletter for private jet owners.