Chanel quilted handbags, Manolo Blahnik shoes, Burberry trench coats and Rolex watches - what do they have in common? They are all iconic items from renowned luxury brands, and not everyone owns them. This exclusivity helps luxury brands maintain their status, known by all, but paradoxically consumed by a few.
Because of this, luxury and social media might not seem like the most natural bedfellows. Social platforms, characterised by their mass appeal, accessibility, and availability, contradict the very concept of luxury. "Social media is not class, it is mass", as the founder of a luxury marketing consultancy put it.
Yet, social media is being elevated as a key shopping platform for luxury brands as consumer habits evolve. In fact, 54% of luxury consumers turned to social media to shop during the pandemic for the first time. In other words, luxury brands, more than any other category, have a great deal to gain and a great deal to fear from the internet. But it is possible to have the best of both worlds and luxury brands can maintain their exclusivity in the social environment.
Apply the personal touch
According to 69% of luxury shoppers, the personal touch matters. If the tactile in-store purchasing experience is removed, technology plays an essential role in building customer relationships. As well as providing innovative ways to connect customers to purchases.
Richer and more personalised engagement is here to stay. Too often, luxury brands will seek the perfect audience, limiting potential scale, teamed with one generic message for all to ensure they still feel exclusive. Not enough thought is put into granular consumer segmentation which can be scaled and matched with tailored creative, to better customer retention, and drive higher value customer acquisition.
Customer data needs to be used to gain insight into what customers browse, buy and add to their shopping carts, the offers that resonate with them and they respond to. Information is at your fingertips, and you can use it to provide a rich and meaningful experience by tailoring ads accordingly. By using signals such as past purchasing behaviour, interests, context, and location, luxury brands can make customers feel that their communications are explicitly tailored to them - they are unique and bespoke, like the brand itself.
A luxury shopper expects to receive personal attention, not be addressed as a member of a broader audience. This mindset can help luxury brands approach product, content, and service in a more meaningful way. Wavemaker's Social Intelligence study revealed that it also matters where brands appear. Messages delivered in premium environments such as editorial sponsorships on Twitter or premium in-stream inventory in META saw a threefold lift in action intent.
Louis Vuitton, for example, took to Twitter to invite people to watch their Men’s fall-winter 2021 Fashion show in Seoul. The brand re-engaged those who had liked the original launch tweet with a personalised message, as a reminder for them to live stream the show. In total, 1.6m Tweeters received personalised invitations, resulting in an impressive 26.8m people tuning in to watch - all feeling like they were on the much-coveted front row.
The experiential shift
Retail product discovery and engagement is commonplace on social media, with almost a quarter of UK shoppers using social platforms to find new products. However, the next frontier for social commerce is at the narrow end of the marketing funnel — seamlessly checking out in-app and paying for products within the social media ecosystem. This is where a reduced number of clicks to convert an impression into a purchase offers a promising route to sales for luxury brands.
As a result, social media platforms are taking steps to embed the entire shopping journey - from discovery to checkout - into their core user experiences. They are incorporating features including Livestream sales, integrated product catalogues and AR try-on.
Instagram launched its Shop feature in 2020 and partnered with brands like Chloé, Michael Kors, and Marc Jacobs to make products shoppable either within the app or by referring customers to the brand's website. It has extended its offering and increased its focus on shopping features such as Drops. In Drops, customers can discover and buy the latest and upcoming product drops from brands in the app. As products are often available in limited quantities or for a limited time, luxury brands benefit by creating buzz and an aura of scarcity whilst streamlining the shopping experience.
From product discovery to purchase, keeping users in one place has obvious benefits in terms of personalisation. With brands able to build learnings for the future with consented, logged in user data to model lookalikes they can continue to tap into new and prospective audiences.
The next “dimension” of luxury
The lines between the online and offline world is rapidly blurring. For example, a recent survey found that Luxury shoppers are around twice as likely to want innovative technology, such as VR, to experience products. And as Meta becomes more advanced and more accepted, consumers will increasingly move seamlessly between this idea of one’s digital self and the physical life.
Consumers are actively investing in their digital lifestyle, not only through traditional gaming but also through new spaces such as NFTs. This presents a unique opportunity for companies to engage and inspire communities. For example, Burberry is experimenting with in-game NFTs to offer skins to virtual avatars such as their limited edition, limited quantity character named Sharky B in the multiplayer game Blankos Block Party. With this pace of growth, the market for virtual luxury goods could be as large as $50 billion by 2030.
Incorporating the real and virtual worlds opens up various opportunities for exclusive experiences. Take Fashion Week, for example, it’s arguably one of the most important events in the calendar for luxury buyers. With innovation, anyone can experience luxury fashion and events anywhere, thanks to livestreaming. Brands looking to create that unique, exclusive opportunity for their luxury buyers can create ‘a moment’ at their events that only attendees have access to. For example, a limited edition capsule collection available only in the Metaverse, where only participants with a bespoke QR code have access.
Social platforms are expanding what it means for a luxury product to be rare, exclusive, and expensive — and the opportunities for creating consumer and business value are only likely to increase. When luxury brands can create online experiences for their customers that are more personalised and seamless, it makes them feel more valued and seen. They believe their experience is personal and bespoke to - and created exclusively for - them. And if I’m honest, a customer should expect nothing less. Because luxury is always personal, even in the digital world.