Luxury Institute News

July 20, 2016

How Leveling Up Your Offering Can Help Or Hinder Your Brand

MediaPost
By: Rachel Spiegelman
July 20, 2016

Uber Select. Soothe. Onefinestay. Now, even the pink mustache is getting fancy.

When Lyft announced it was launching its Premier service earlier this month, allowing its users to get picked up by a high-end luxury vehicle, it caught literally no one by surprise. With 70% of consumers demanding a more personalized shopping experience, brands are responding by providing “menus” of options. But only 26% of consumers feel it’s working, according to the Luxury Institute.

Back in the day, there was the haves and the have-nots. Rodeo or JC Penney. Chanel or Osh Kosh. Brands and businesses were all-in on a specific target and made sure those chosen ones felt special, taken care of, often making outsiders know they were exactly that.

Lyft was originally launched as an innovative way to connect drivers to riders in a world where young city dwellers were forgoing car purchases as part of everyday life. The whimsical pink mustache. The guessing game of what kind of car and driver you would get. “A ride whenever you need one.” It was all part of the lifestyle of Lyft and its every-day, mainstream users. But at the same time, the company was also (basically) telling my 65-year-old New Englander mother that if her Mercedes was ever in the shop, Lyft was not for her.

But now, with most of these services offering a “high-end” option, the lines are blurring around the types of consumers a brand can effectively reach.

So what’s changed?

First, it’s our definition of luxury. My mother’s generation thinks of luxury as a status symbol. This is not true for younger consumers. Millennials and Gen X — my generation — consider it a reward. A reward for dealing with work stress and life stress and family stress and so on. It’s something we deserve because of our effort, not something that defines our place in life.

Secondly, with the amount of exposure we now have on a daily basis — war, politics, hardship — our generation has adopted a “why wait” strategy. This is a primary reason experiences are becoming more important than savings accounts. We place the highest value on our own time, not on a logo.

This combination of immediate gratification for high-end rewards has redefined the luxury market. It’s what I often refer to as “expedited exclusivity.” We expect more, at a faster pace, than we ever have before. People are demanding higher-end treatment younger, and on a more regular basis.

Naturally, brands have adapted to it, or in the case of Lyft, adopted it. By taking it’s quirky, innovative service brand and slapping a “premium” next to it, they are going after a bigger-wallet consumer or more likely one who seeks expedited exclusivity and had not previously thought of Lyft as a brand that could offer that.

The lesson here is that making higher-end goods accessible to the mainstream needs discipline, but it can be done. With the right guardrails, most brands can do what Tiffany and Mercedes and Burberry successfully did: create lower-cost product lines, or mass awareness and appeal, without diminishing the true iconic value of the brand.

But can it go in reverse? Can brands that start out appealing to the masses create a truly leveled-up experience that will last?

Our history says it may be too far a bridge to cross. Walmart famously failed a decade ago when they launched Metro &, an upscale fashion line that intended to show they were on the cutting edge only to experience a disastrous launch that crippled national sales that year. And we all saw the public backlash that almost shuttered 114-year-old JCPenney when they decided to forgo coupons.

Have times changed enough to allow for brands to level up? I guess we’ll know the answer to that if you see my Mom riding sidecar with a pink mustache in the wind.

Source: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/280681/how-leveling-up-your-offering-can-help-or-hinder-y.html

March 7, 2016

Luxury Institute finds 7 improvements luxury retailers can make right now to improve sales

Luxsell
By: Victoria MacDonald
March 2, 2016

In the excellent article “Luxury Institute Reveals 7 Major Improvements Store Managers Recommend to Drive Sales Performance Right Now,” Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute, LLC, shares results of an intimate focus group he conducted with  store managers of premium and luxury brands and shares their best practices and recommendations to improve sales.

“…luxury and premium retail store management today is configured for rigid Industrial Age operational efficiency, rather than highly-adaptive, relationship-building effectiveness.”

– Milton Pedraza, Luxury Institute

The seven improvements include:

  1. Store teams desire to be more relationship-centric and want to be freed from back-office tasks.
    The suggestion is to separate back-of-house and customer-facing staff. This way your sales associates can do what they do best – build relationships with your customers.
  2. Select and maintain the right-sized team to drive superior results.
    Managers shared that 40% of their employees are poor performers. Make sure you’re hiring the right people! When I worked at Tiffany & Co., we moved away from hiring associates based on their experience in the jewelry industry, to using a pre-hire assessment to find those associates who best demonstrated the personality traits and behaviors we valued.
  3. Better, smarter, and faster ways to manage inventory and client data are needed right now.
  4. Teaching fundamentals once a year is great, but what is really needed in stores is coaching on a much more frequent basis.
    Learning is a process, not an event. Managers must become part of the training process in order to support, encourage and sustain the learning. But that means managers may need help in developing their coaching skills. Take a look at a simple coach-the-coach program I outlined in an earlier post.
  5. Use social media and other tools to connect with millennials and drive them to stores.
  6. Empower local innovation since store teams know clients better than anyone else.
  7. Compensation is fair, but the goals are sometimes not.

Though luxury store results thus far for 2016 may be less than outstanding, the collected wisdom from these store managers can help you refocus, revamp and revive your store’s approach to luxury sales.

http://luxsell.me/2016/03/02/luxury-institute-finds-7-improvements-luxury-retailers-can-make-right-now-to-improve-sales/

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/

February 8, 2016

Luxury Brands Can No Longer Ignore Sustainability

Harvard Business Review
By:  Andrew Winston
February 8, 2016

If I asked you to picture the consumer luxury market, you might imagine jewels, sports cars, watches, premium drinks, high-end shoes and apparel, and so on. A combination of high quality, glamour, celebrity, and attitude. With a few exceptions, it’s been an industry not traditionally associated with concerns about environmental impacts, human rights, and wellness, even while those trends have been sweeping through the mainstream consumer products sector. But according to a new report, 2016 Predictions for the Luxury Industry: Sustainability and Innovation, that sustainability gap is closing fast.

Two organizations that work closely with high-end product companies, the Luxury Institute and Positive Luxury, produced the study (disclosure: I’m on the latter’s informal advisory board, but I had no involvement in the research). Diana Verde Nieto, the founder of Positive Luxury and main author of the study, makes a compelling case that sustainability and social responsibility are no longer nice-to-have for luxury brands — they are now requirements.

The report lays out a few key pressures.

First, the direct pressure: the laws are changing. The report points to the passage of the Modern Slavery Act in the U.K. in 2015, which requires larger companies doing business in Britain to publish a board-approved, public annual slavery and human trafficking statement. This kind of law clearly drives much more transparency and tracking up the supply chain. And it’s a good thing, as 71% of U.K. retailers and suppliers think it’s likely there are slaves in their supply chain.

Second, the indirect and more powerful pressure: social norms are changing, starting with high-profile tastemakers. Celebrities are more invested than ever in sustainability. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo have produced movies and started organizations to tackle climate change and promote renewable energy. Harry Potter star Emma Watson is a vocal advocate on gender equality while also appearing regularly in fashion magazines. These names and others are lending their clout to the social and environmental agenda. Given their prominence in the fashion and luxury worlds, their beliefs, statements, and demands on companies matter.

On a larger scale, the expectations of companies are changing generationally — Millennials have different views on how companies should act. The report cites research showing that “88% of UK and US Millennials and Generation Xers believe brands need to do more good, not just ‘less bad.’” This generation is questioning consumption in general – a majority say they are spending more on experiences (meaning, less emphasis on stuff), which is a threat to the luxury world. And they are driving a “clean label” trend, where companies feel pressure to explain what’s in everything and where it came from.

Third, the report highlights the fact that the investment community is waking up to the value to consumer brands of managing environmental and social issues well. There are some early shoots of evidence to back this idea up: in 2015, a Morgan Stanley analyst raised the price target on some mainstream apparel players like Nike based on their sustainability performance. The report sees this pressure coming to luxury companies soon.

Finally, there’s the harsh reality of biophysical limits seriously compromising these companies’ ability to source their products. Luxury goods require digging up, growing, and processing materials throughout the value chain, and that’s all getting tougher. According to Verde Nieto, these are not just ethereal brand risks about labor or image, but actual business continuity risks. Climate change is changing water availability and crop production around the world. That affects cotton-based products and, as Verde Nieto says, cashmere and angora, for example, require a great deal of water to process.

For gems and minerals, Verde Nieto sees a range of challenges from the energy required in production to general availability. With slight hyperbole, she says, “we’re out of gold basically (almost all the gold we use is recycled), various substances and ingredients in skin care are threatening the environment, diamonds are scarce, and exotic skins are in trouble…basically — and this is the big ‘a-ha’ — some of the raw materials, crucial to the luxury industry, are under threat.”

The leading companies in this space have been acting on many of these pressures for years. Both Tiffany and Forevermark, a Debeers company, have certified their diamonds using the independent Kimberley Process as “conflict free.” L’Oreal has quietly been making itself one of the global leaders on climate change and renewable energy. The company has already cut greenhouse gases by 50% and has new targets to be carbon neutral (without buying renewable energy credits) by 2020.

Now all the big brands are jumping in. One of the report supporters, French luxury conglomerate LVMH, has been, according to Verde Nieto, conducting extensive lifecycle analyses of their business lines. Others like Veuve Cliquot Champagne are looking hard at packaging now. They’re all figuring out where their biggest risks and opportunities lie. The report has some additional good case studies in the watch, leather, diamond, and eco-tourism realms.

None of this is easy or obvious. This industry has some tough history to reconcile. “Blood diamonds” were not just a campaigners evocative phrase, but based on real money flows to brutal dictators. Slavery is still a problem. Mines are immense operations that can impoverish people and land — or create jobs and build the economy.

But in our transparent world, the risk of not tackling sustainability is extremely high for this sector. As CSR and sustainability evangelist John Elkington told the report writers. “The implicit promise [in luxury] is that the consumer need not worry about anything. Everything is taken care of… Until it isn’t, at which point the whole impression of invulnerability and perfection can deflate.”

An unsustainable piece of clothing or jewel is, in the end, anything but flawless. As we all wake up to that reality, the luxury companies have no choice but to act.

Source: https://hbr.org/2016/02/luxury-brands-can-no-longer-ignore-sustainability?

February 1, 2016

Analysis: + Mobile Internet Trend, from the Following Aspects of Tourism Enterprises to Build Brands

Research Papers Center
By: Hui Wen and Xu Liyang
January 31, 2016

REVIEW: After entering APP era, the development of service interactions between tourism brand and customer communication and service must keep pace with changes in the nature of, the traditional means of communication with customers and business relations to do to maintain the cold, in mobile Internet era, companies can solve the information service again reshape the strong association with customers.

Now the ‘Internet + wave’ has swept all walks of life, the focus of enterprise development are inclined to the mobile terminal, after entering APP era, the development of service interactions between tourism brand and customer communication and service must keep pace with changes in the nature. Although tourism brand want to speak with one voice, but the challenge in practice the flow of information so that each employee interaction with customers need to re-start. For consumers, the same requirements to be transferred back and forth between different departments, but also with a number of service personnel to communicate is unreasonable. For a long time, the industry’s customer service representative sounds like automated robots, reading scripted answers and impersonal.

Now people authenticity and demand for personalized, interactive model that is very problematic. Fortunately, the messaging service App era become the travel company to provide true and effective personalized communication tool.

What values will resonate with today’s consumers?

With the development of consumer preferences, service brands are increasingly based on the need to strengthen the values of customer contact. In some iconic brand service, authenticity and one on one personalized recognition emerged as the leading brand attributes.

Truth

According to their geographical location, local ingredients from a farm to table moved from the hotel the moment, ‘authenticity’ has become today’s traveler compass. Quote a travel writer David Sze’s words, ‘for the 21st century traveler, its authenticity has become a journey of objectives and measures.’ The traditional hotel brand based local culinary experience to realize the promise of authenticity.

However, although tourism brand and strive to create ‘real’ feeling, but to become more than just buy one of the new consumer brand needs convincing. Authenticity is difficult to define, but it can not be fake. As more hotel brands want to pursue the truth, it is difficult to ignore its existence. Airbnb’s CMO Jonathan Mildenhall believes that the brand experience is based on different approaches to millions of user generated. So how can we establish a set of standardized practices the traditional brands to revitalize it?

One relationship

Remember, each greeted by name, each a unique individual for the brand consolidate the relationship between them and the passengers are influential. Although the interaction between people has been a sign of good service, but consumers now see that these interactions will be an important cornerstone of the brand consolidation. In the luxury summit last October, CEO Milton Pedraza, the Luxury Institute, said, ‘As consumers become increasingly sophisticated, increasingly commoditized product, cross-channel interactive experiences and people will be to distinguish between brands key. ‘and recognized by customers and guests personalized communication brand will stand out. 

How will these consumption values associated with the mobile Internet era?

As we said, ‘Welcome to the mobile Internet (after APP) era’, consumers increasingly want to interact with companies through the information platform, while commercial traffic is also growing rapidly. However, the information platform is not just a communication channel, the interaction of information makes us totally different customer experience, it shows that consumers desire is real, one to one relationship, the following instructions to do so three a bonus:

It helps create intelligent brand. In a voice or face to face interactive virtual world, or cross-sectoral team to share information is very difficult, especially in Transition. Adverse exchange of information so that consumers just keep repeating, it makes them feel worthless and not taken seriously. In contrast, information platform to create a communication path between each employee and each customer, with the historical data of these interactions, as referred to work when employees will no longer need to take over from scratch to talk with customers.

Treat each consumer as a unique individual. When customer-facing employees about customer information or interaction history, customer will be able to as a unique individual treatment was 11. Staff know the customer’s name, you can refer to past experiences have occurred, rather than to allow customers to repeat the same question. They do not need to be rebuilt from scratch every customer interaction. In order to prove to the customer’s perception, brands need to establish one to one relationship and long-term loyalty.

Human interactions with employees and achieve real butt. In their personal lives, consumers have learned how to use social media and the use of carefully chosen profile picture to express their identity. Facebook and LinkedIn allows people to meet in the absence of knowledge of each other. Information platform for employees and the brand provides a canvas to express their identity. Behind the tourism brand, the real understanding of the customer is to establish a true relationship with customers more powerful ways.

In short, the information platform enables brands to offer a unique experience of large-scale, resonate with today’s consumers.

Source: http://eng.hi138.com/computer-papers/internet-research-papers/201601/466565_analysis-mobile-internet-trend-from-the-following-aspects-of-tourism-enterprises-to-build-brands.asp#.Vq9yqCS4l-U

October 21, 2014

Luxury Institute Introduces Luxcelerate, an Empirically Proven Method to Drive High Performance in Building Client Relationships

Marketwired
October 21, 2014 80763_LuxcelerateLogo

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – Oct 21, 2014) – Today, the New York-based Luxury Institute announced the launch of Luxcelerate, an enhanced version of its innovative successful 7-Step Customer Culture process. Luxcelerate is designed to accelerate sales performance via a proprietary methodology that focuses on empowering the customer-facing online and offline associates, helping brands to improve both client relationships and sales exponentially.

Presently, top brands are struggling to both expand and retain their client base. Top brands have a conversion rate of 10-15%, a data collection rate of 30-40% (approximately 25% of this data is unusable) and a first time buyer retention rate of 10%.

Luxcelerate encourages the individual sales associate to learn and execute the best practices in client relationship building. The process is designed to improve sales performance via an exclusive methodology that focuses on relationship building, while improving a brand’s conversion, data collection and retention rates.

Luxcelerate’s proprietary methodology is based on shared relationship values and standards that are designed by a brand’s front-line teams, and is therefore customized to fit the unique DNA and culture of each brand. Custom education programs use empirically proven learning principles to drive retention of critical knowledge. Measurement and reinforcement methodologies are then deployed individually to guarantee consistent daily execution. The outcome is humanistic, effective client relationship building that leads to sharp increases in sales.

Luxury Institute’s CEO Milton Pedraza developed Luxcelerate’s 7-step methodology. Mr. Pedraza established this innovative methodology after being inspired by best practices from education, medicine and aviation. Using this process, a number of top-tier luxury brands have doubled, or tripled, the accurate collection of critical client data, and have significantly increased client conversion and retention rates. Luxury Institute has worked with the top brands of major luxury groups, well-known brands owned by private equity firms, and small boutique brands, to drive sales at rates of 15-30% per annum.

“The Luxury Institute was invaluable in helping Malia Mills define and implement our clienteling process. The first quarter that we implemented our program we increased sales by a significant amount.” — Carol Mills, Co-Founder, Malia Mills

“Since embarking on this project, we have seen double digit increases in data collection, conversion and a significant acceleration in retail momentum.” — Claudia Poccia, President and CEO of Gurwitch, Owner of the Laura Mercier brand

References are available upon request. For more information please email luxinfo@luxuryinstitute.com or fill out a contact form at www.luxuryinstitute.com

Source: http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/luxury-institute-introduces-luxcelerate-empirically-proven-method-drive-high-performance-1959706.htm

January 23, 2014

Three Luxury Myths Killing Your Brand Equity

(NEW YORK) January 23, 2014 –As one the world’s foremost research and consulting companies for top tier luxury brands, Luxury Institute has been privileged to work with the most dynamic brands in the U.S., Europe and Asia.  We often find ourselves engaged in rich dialogue, and healthy debate, with senior executives and top leadership at the world’s greatest luxury firms.

We help iconic brands adapt themselves to compete in the new world where technology, people and product superiority combine to drive success.  Below are three of the biggest myths that we often encounter and our recommendations for how brands can overcome the tendency of destroying their own equity, despite the best of intentions.

Myth #1: You Must Choose One Area of Focus Among Product Leadership, Operational Excellence and Customer Intimacy

Back in 1995, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema published “The Discipline of Market Leaders” in which the authors addressed the idea of strategic focus, and discouraged attempts to excel on multiple fronts.  The concepts and principles were adapted by top-tier consultants and spread throughout the management ranks of corporations that engaged them, propagating the myth that you have to choose only one area of differentiation.

Today, superior products, efficient operations and brand intimacy are an inseparable trio for building and maintaining a luxury brand. The reality now is that you have to be great at all three, or you are highly disadvantaged.

A clear example of achieving excellence on all three fronts is Bottega Veneta.  The iconic luxury fashion brand has seen a phenomenal sales growth trajectory over the past ten years. It was on the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1990s, and in 2001 was acquired by the company that is now Kering.  Back then, annual sales were around $50 million and the income statement was mired in losses. Today Bottega Veneta’s sales are topping $1 billion.

Bottega Veneta’s management team is best-in-class. They are blessed with a brilliant, authentic designer matched by a management team that is beyond superb. The brand delivers on all three disciplines seamlessly. At Bottega Veneta, brilliant execution delivers a reported profit margin of 32%. Phenomenal sales and profit growth flows from product leadership, operational excellence and customer intimacy that is the envy of any brand. A profoundly personal, humanistic culture translates into the Bottega Veneta brand running on all three disciplines, instead of getting a lift from only one.

Myth #2: A Luxury Brand Must Be Organized As a Hierarchy In Order to Be Effective

At the center of a luxury brand is usually a brilliant innovator and founder whose creative genius is unquestionable. There is also typically a business partner who makes all of the decisions jointly with the founder.

The origin of luxury in Europe has created an industry organizational model that has some of the strictest hierarchies known in the business world. When we visit with senior management teams in Europe, and even at many U.S. firms, the organization is defined as a military style, top-down hierarchy.

Proponents of this model say that luxury brands, unlike brands in any other industry, have lasted hundreds of years–or at least for several decades–so why fix what is not broken?

There are two major reasons why the myth of the luxury brand as a strictly regimented organization must be shattered. The first is demographic in nature. As millennials in the 21-34 age group enter the work force, our research shows that that these younger people are far more idealistic about having meaningful purpose in their work.  They tend to change jobs more frequently and often leave if they are in a structured environment where opportunities to develop and contribute are limited. Author and researcher Daniel Pink says that three things are required in an organization today to retain employees: a meaningful purpose; some degree of autonomy over how they perform their function, and continuous skills growth.

The second reason why rigid hierarchies are ineffective is the new meaning of strategy. The metaphor for a successful brand is not the machine model, but the organic model. There must be a balance of adapting processes to achieve healthy, sustainable growth while adhering to corporate DNA.

Myth #3: Sales Professionals are Anonymous and Robotic Transactors

Luxury sales teams at most brands already have enormous turnover and this is not likely to decrease in organizations that fail to empower associates. Brands must embrace the ‘freedom with boundaries’ approach or watch their associates walk out the door.

While luxury executives say they are sold on the ideas of customer experience and engagement, they are far less enthusiastic about employee experience and engagement.  Most brands will tout the new principles but will resort to giving orders instead of trusting front-line professionals, especially in tough times.

The paradox is that in order to unleash the power of customer relationship building, driven by a customer culture, brands cannot simply task front-line employees with delivering results, excluding them from the “customer” definition. Employees are really internal customers and they should be measured just as carefully. In addition to empowering employees, brands must use innovative education and daily customer and sales associate metrics to improve skills and reinforce the culture daily.

Luxury sales professionals in the future will be treated as artisanal entrepreneurs who are given their own email addresses and digital devices for professional use. They will be given the freedom to innovate in small and large ways daily in order to personalize and customize for the customer

It may be true that many sales associates in a variety of industries will be replaced by technology solutions. However, in luxury, these jobs will be upgraded to deliver the extraordinary customer experiences and build the long-term relationships that brands once took for granted when they first opened their doors.  Innovation will flow from the bottom-up as much as from the top-down.

Conclusion:

Luxury Institute has worked with more than a dozen luxury brands or conglomerates on Customer Culture projects in the past few years.  The improvements are real and deliver powerful results in customer data collection, conversion and retention. Brands have seen retention of employees increase too. Bridging the gap between management, the front line, and the customer may be hard for some executives to swallow or imagine, but that is the future of luxury.

The luxury industry is very much a darling of Wall Street today, and with good reason. As the global population of affluent consumers grows, luxury is in for a good ride indeed. Yet, these myths are preventing many luxury brands from achieving significantly better sales and profit growth and could potentially drive many established companies out of business.

About the Luxury Institute (www.luxuryinstitute.com)
The Luxury Institute is the objective and independent global voice of the high net-worth consumer. The Institute conducts extensive and actionable research with wealthy consumers globally about their behaviors and attitudes on customer experience best practices. In addition, we work closely with top-tier luxury brands to successfully transform their organizational cultures into more profitable customer-centric enterprises. Our Customer Culture consulting process leverages our fact-based research and enables luxury brands to dramatically Outbehave as well as Outperform their competition. The Luxury Institute also operates LuxuryBoard.com, a membership-based online research portal, and the Luxury CRM Association, a membership organization dedicated to building customer-centric luxury enterprises.

 

September 26, 2013

Strategy emerges from customer culture: Luxury Institute CEO

By Joe McCarthy
Luxury Daily
September 25, 2013

NEW YORK – The CEO of The Luxury Institute at the Luxury Interactive 2013 conference said that luxury brands should focus on building a culture of relationship building and sales will follow.

The executive said that many conventional paradigms of behavior should be flipped to create an environment steeped in meaningful purpose. In his “7 Paradoxes of Luxury Marketing” talk he verified the profitability of such strategy suggestions with hard evidence.

“If you want to create a great customer culture, you have to think in terms of paradox,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, New York.

“Some people say culture trumps strategy, but I don’t believe that’s true,” he said. “Strategy emerges from culture.”

Internal paradigms
Mr. Pedraza discussed several remedies for poor strategies that have become entrenched in business culture.

The first paradox dealt with shifting a brand’s focus from commodities to meaningful purpose. This objective reaches beyond revising product development to facilitating a better society.

Mr. Pedraza at the Luxury Interactive 2013 conference

Next, companies should switch the tone of their command style from hierarchical and militant to empowering and creative.

Mr. Pedraza said that employees are more responsive and more likely to create innovative ideas when given liberty to act without constraints. An example of this would be giving in-store employees technology to pursue friendly relationships with customers post-purchase.

Third, Mr. Pedraza said that decision-making should incorporate employees from all levels of operation as well as consumers. When decisions are cloistered among high-level executives, simple or uncanny solutions can be overlooked.

Looking out
Educating employees should not resemble a classroom. Rather, Mr. Pedraza insisted that employees will quickly adopt brand values when trained in a gradual, interactive and personal manner.

A skill-based hiring process should be tempered with value-based merits. A candidate selected after an assessment of values will likely assimilate into brand culture with more ease.

Mr. Pedraza urged brands to incentivize the right behavior. Employees will likely be more proactive if they know their behavior is recognized.

Finally, a meaningful brand culture should be reinforced daily to ensure its fortitude. Lexus and The Ritz-Carlton were two luxury brands that Mr. Pedraza acknowledged as pioneers of meaningful brand culture.

For instance, Toyota Corp.’s Lexus is promoting the 2014 IS vehicle with a collaboratively created, stop-motion Instagram film that draws on the perspectives of 212 fans to show the vehicle in a range of angles and tones.

Under the orchestration of a directorial team during Instagram’s #WorldwideInstameet, car enthusiasts and Instagram users from a variety of background blended their personalities in a film that colorfully animates the IS. By leveraging Instagram in this unifying fashion, Lexus will likely grab the attention of a younger demographic and potentially trigger more collaborative, stop-motion films (see story).

Ultimately, if employees are infused with a sense of purpose, they will likely be more effective sales agents.

“Employees that believe companies have strong sense of purpose versus companies without purpose perform much better,” Mr. Pedraza said.

http://www.luxurydaily.com/strategy-emerges-from-customer-culture-exec/

September 23, 2013

Small Business Learns To Build Customer Loyalty Like Luxury Brands

Luxury Institute founder applies lessons learned in high-end retail to small and medium sized businesses.

(NEW YORK) September 23, 2013 – There are more than 27 million small businesses in the United States, according to the Small Business Administration, but 50% of them will fail within five years. While lack of capital is a major factor, also significant is the lack of a customer-centric culture.

“Many entrepreneurs launch businesses with a great product or service idea, and then proceed to focus on daily transactions rather than building long-term customer relationships,” says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Customer Culture Institute. “Focusing on transactions over relationships does not breed customer loyalty.”

Successful smaller companies, says Pedraza, are organized at an early stage to deliver extraordinary experiences to every customer on a daily basis. The problem for most small businesses is a lack of expertise and a proven process.

To provide these companies with access to state-of-the-art methodologies and metrics to measure and boost customer satisfaction and loyalty, the Customer Culture Institute is launching a do-it-yourself, online software platform to help small businesses to create their own customer culture. Pedraza, who is also CEO of the highly-respected New York-based Luxury Institute, says the Customer Culture Navigator software enables business owners to communicate with and provide needed support and training for their employees in real-time.

Small business teams will use their creativity to custom design a cultural foundation with clear definitions of relationship values and standards. The software helps to train, measure and reinforce the culture daily, a process that has a track record of dramatically improved customer loyalty at large luxury and premium brands that Pedraza has previously coached.

“We help move companies away from a soulless transaction mentality to profitable long-term customer relationship building,” says Pedraza. “In essence, we teach them that outbehaving the competition leads to outperformance.”

One innovative approach Pedraza and his team have taken, is to use crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise funds from investors in the project. The campaign can be viewed at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/customer-culture-navigator/x/4837243.

“Online crowdfunding is an elegant win-win-win opportunity,” says Pedraza. “We have an opportunity to provide valuable resources to our funding contributors, while building a project that can transform small business culture and dramatically increase the success rate of small business.”

August 14, 2013

21.6 Billion Reasons The Luxury Industry Needs Oprah And Her Friends

By Russ Alan Prince
Forbes
August 13, 2013

The Boston Consulting Group estimates that US$130 billion is spent per year on luxury fashion and accessories including US$38,000 handbags. Of course, the vast majority of goods sold are priced considerably less, and we learned even billionaires such as Oprah Winfrey hedge at such sky-high prices. She said that had she been given the chance to buy the bag, she probably would have passed.

About 90% of private jet travelers buy some type of luxury fashion and accessories annually – leather goods such as purses, wallets, briefcases and shoes – and the average spent is about US$120,000 per household. The super-rich like Ms. Winfrey likely account for around US$21.6 billion in annual purchases of gowns, skirts, suits, totes and, of course, handbags. Milton Pedraza, the CEO of The Luxury Institute, believes as many as one billion consumers worldwide purchase some type of luxury good or service, be it staying in a five star hotel or buying a luxury brand fragrance or key chain.

If you want another way to think about the luxury product purchasing power of the ultra-high-net-worth sliver of the world’s population, get out a map: Go to the South Pacific and find the 15 strong Cook Islands chain. Single out Rarotonga, a 26 square mile microdot of land that is home to the capital. Now go to North America, a continent accounting for 16% of the world’s landmass, and you will have a good idea about the relationship between the global super rich population and how much they spend. While the jewelry market is more concentrated than fashion, London based diamond house Graff’s 2012 IPO filing, for example, revealed that just 20 customers made up 44% of their US$756 million in annual sales.

Click the link below to read the entire article
http://www.forbes.com/sites/russalanprince/2013/08/13/21-6-billion-reasons-the-luxury-industry-needs-oprah-and-her-friends/

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