Luxury Institute News

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.”


November 5, 2014

Yoox Emphasizes Venice For Holiday Gift Guide

By: Kelsey Drain
Fashion Times
November 5, 2014



(Photo : Instagram/Yoox)

Italian e-tailer will launch its holiday project today, centered on the theme of one of the country’s most romantic cities.

A Dinner Party in Venice is “an eclectic gift guide menu to suit everyone’s tastes,” and will consist of a series of videos showing personalities gathered in Venice to attend a fictitious Christmas dinner. The collection will also offer a special range of Venice-inspired products.

The videos, released weekly, will feature Arrigo Cipriani, actress Alessandra Mastronardi, artist Ivan Olita, fashion curator Lynn Yaeger, photographer Charlotte Colbert, jewelry designers Osanna and Madina Visconti di Modrone, artist Barnaba Fornasetti and stylist Tina Leung.

The new collection is shoppable on and on its new app, which allows users to access what products shoppers around them are buying and make purchases quickly by just scanning a credit card.

A customized selection of aprons decorated by various fashion and design labels are featured in the selection of Venice-themed products. Designed by Emilio Pucci, Fornasetti, Missoni, Toilet Paper and Vivienne Westwood, the proceeds will be donated to nonprofit organization Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.

The holiday shopping section also features two Venini Murano glass vases, a selection of Venice’s traditional Friulana slippers and striped T-shirts resembling those worn by gondola boatmen.

Additionally, MSGM, the Italian contemporary fashion label, designed a special-edition capsule collection for the site.

Back in August, there was speculation of Yoox being acquired by Amazon. The luxury retailer and the e-commerce conglomerate have made no advancements on the speculation.

“This might be the right time for companies to look to acquire a company like Yoox,” Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a New York-based research and consulting firm, said in August.

“The mass brands understand that luxury is far more profitable and more resilient. For a company to trade up to the luxury or the premium providers in categories, that would be wise right now.”


September 25, 2014

Social network aims for country club status

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.

June 16, 2014

US Internet advertising revenues jump 19pc in Q1: report

By: Joe MacCarthy
Luxury Daily
June 13, 2014

Brands continue to up their digital advertising budgets, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Internet ad revenues reached $11.6 billion in the first quarter of 2014, compared to $9.6 billion from the year-ago period. While the sharp rise is not all that surprising, the increasingly effective nature of digital ads indicates that revenues will keep climbing at double digit intervals.

“Digital advertising is so much more targeted,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, New York. “You can now target people so much more finely than you could a few years ago.

“Relatively speaking, the cost is very competitive,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of online media that you can tap into.

“It’s just a revolution, a transformation, in advertising.”

Mr. Pedraza is not affiliated with the IAB, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

The Interactive Advertising Burea was unable to comment. The IAB is comprised of more than 600 media and technology companies that account for selling 86 percent of online advertising in the United States.

Spending spree
Consumers are increasingly dependent on their smartphones, which gives marketers countless opportunities to reach them throughout their daily routines.

Also, since brands continually engage with consumers through social media and other platforms, they can expect a high level of campaign recognition when targeting ads.

Many luxury brands are finding interesting ways to increase click-throughs and post-ad engagement.

For instance, Jaguar of North America leveraged its ongoing British Villains campaign with mobile advertisements on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other publications.

Click the link to read the entire article which includes a quote from Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute:

June 11, 2014

6 luxury marketing trends to watch

By: Marco Muellner
Luxury Daily
June 11, 2014

For luxury marketers, 2014 is predicted to be the year that tips the scales, with more than half of affluent shoppers discovering, actively browsing and shopping for luxury items via digital channels. This evolution is spurred by shoppers who are online to save time, yet remain likely to finish the purchase in-store.

According to an April 2013 Luxury Institute study on the multichannel purchasing habits of United States Internet users with incomes of at least $150,000, 48 percent of respondents sourced information about luxury fashion online via a computer. Yet only about a quarter actually completed the purchase online.

Also, eMarketer found that a whopping 74 percent of purchases researched on mobile devices are completed in-store.

Which brings me to the first trend to watch:

We tend to think of mobile consumers as similar to desktop consumers, but on different devices. This is just not true.

Most mobile time, is, well, mobile. Digital marketers have always struggled to predictably drive offline traffic to retail, but data suggests this is changing.

With more than 70 percent of daily Facebook and Twitter users on a mobile device, digital marketers must think mobile-first.

For luxury marketers this is particularly challenging as device constraints and consumer expectations limit the richness of the experience.

But with skill and creativity, many luxury marketers are embracing the constraints without compromising brand promise.

Understanding the purchase intent journey
We have been trying to figure out what makes people buy as long as we have been selling, but it is a fragmented challenge and capturing the data at every step has been impossible.

We have made a lot of progress thanks to companies such as Datalogix and others and, as a result, luxury marketers are on the verge of the next evolution, having almost completely wired the journey.

The key, like most things in our modern world, is the smartphone.

In this next phase of digital marketing, understanding how and why consumers buy will be essential to attracting the next generation of affluent shoppers.

Click the link to read the entire article:

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.”

October 16, 2013

Have to Ask What the App Costs? It’s Not for You

By Claire Cain Miller
New York Times
October 15, 2013

The superrich have always had magazines, hotels and retailers catering to the special needs of their stratosphere. So it’s no surprise that the digital world has caught up.

Though luxury brands and services were initially reluctant to go online, a new corner of the Web and mobile app marketplaces has emerged, dedicated to making life easier for wealthy consumers. “They’re playing off the affluent desire to be treated differently, expect a very high level of service and have something edited and vetted and pay for that,” said Andrew M. Sacks, president of the Affluence Collaborative, a research firm studying affluent consumer behavior, and AgencySacks, a branding agency.

Luxury advertisers then follow closely behind. “If you’re successful in bringing several thousand affluent customers to a site, you’re then prime to offer brands and advertising to that audience,” Sacks added.

Click the link to read the entire article:

July 11, 2013

Nordstrom Tops Digital Department Store Study

By Rachel Strugatz
July 10, 2013

NEW YORK — Nordstrom is leading the way for department stores in the digital space.

The Seattle-based retailer took the top spot in a study by New York University…

Click the link to read the entire article which features a quote from Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute (subscription required):