The Mash Expert Blog Series: Luxury meets Digital

The Mash Expert Blog Series: Luxury meets Digital

Is digital going to be the demise of luxury? Or will it fuel its future? For some brands it will be the former, for others the latter…
Digital and Luxury exist in very different worlds: one a tightly guarded room of exclusivity and timelessness, the other is a fluid space without barriers.

This means that, as these two worlds collide, tensions are raised. We’ve identified three of these tensions that matter most. Brands that solve these riddles will find a way to embrace digital, and in doing so, embrace the idea of new luxury.

Tension #1: Scarcity vs Plenty
Luxury brands have long been cherished for their exclusivity – because in being scarce, they were valuable. But if digital opens things up where exclusivity closes them down, what’s next for luxury brands?

Solution #1: Segment your audience with pinpoint accuracy, and tailor the experience the same way
Digital allows brands to open up many doors, not just one. Through one door, it’s possible to welcome in old-world, conservative luxury enthusiasts, while through another you can roll out the carpet for free-spirited Millennial thinkers.
Burberry have been successful here, embracing a wider audience by selling more accessible products on their website, whilst leaving their Couture range offline, enabling them to grow without upsetting UHNW clientele. Similarly, Net-A-Porter sustains its exclusivity and aspiration through a VIP programme, while still feeling exclusive to those ‘on the outside.’

Tension #2: Timelessness vs Innovation
Certain expressions of luxury are inherently slow paced (think of a craftsman tinkering over a watch meant to outlive its owner). Yet digital is both fast paced and innovative. How do brands sustain their heritage on a platform that survives on evolution?

Solution #2: See Digital as a Driver of Heritage
Rather than see digital as a hindrance to heritage, brands need to utilise it to showcase their history, quality and craft. Digital offers entirely unique opportunities to tell stories in ways that can engage screen-addicted consumers today. Jefferson’s Bourbon know how to do this, recreating their historical shipping voyage from Kentucky to New York allowing consumers to trace the journey with a spot tracker, and celebrate key milestones along the journey through social media.

Tension #3: Utility vs. Novelty
From bespoke brand worlds, to apps, to digital beacons – there is an endless tide of digital innovation available to brands. Brands should not be seduced by the new unless they can see a clear way that it amplifies their brand’s purpose & promise. Otherwise, it’s just a gimmick.

Solution #3: Purpose first, Brand second
Brands need to be selective and make sure they use digital platforms, which have real value to their consumers. This is about offering excitement and utility, rather than innovation for the sake of it, which is a sure way to undermine authenticity. Starwood Hotels are a great example of this, having invested in Beacon technology, allowing guests to check in remotely using their phone as a hotel key, cutting out long queues for their most valuable customers.
If luxury brands can wrestle these tensions by embracing the opportunities digital opens up for them, they will thrive in this vast, fast-paced, ever progressing world of digital.

alexandrad@mash.uk.com