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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Luxury Marketing: It Surrounds Us!

Touch of Luxury originally uploaded by spaghetti.princess.
So many luxury marketing opportunities around us. How delicious!

With the consumer in control, it behooves us to take luxury seriously. A consumer who has so many options before her requires an unforgettable experience every time she interacts with us.

In return? Her loyalty.

Not an easy feat as Chris Ramey explained in What Luxury Marketing Can Teach Us - An Interview ...

That unforgettable customer experience goes hand-in-hand with Nordstrom-like customer service. Impeccable attention to detail and follow-up second to none. All touches that women notice immediately and that men appreciate greatly - although they may not verbalize it so succinctly as we learned in Bernice Kanner & Marketing To The Sexes. [AmEx discovered in doing research that women were better able than men to articulate their needs, leading to richer discussion. Women think more expansively, uncovering benefits and positionings that the company hadn't considered. In so doing, AmEx learned that by designing for women, they appealed to men, too.]

Last May, I attended a session sponsored by the The Luxury Marketing Council, New York Chapter on customer service. The speakers, Evan R. Hirsh and Robert S. Reppa, from Booz Allen Hamilton shared recently conducted research on The Luxury Touch, published in strategy+business magazine, in which they "reveal four principles of customer service that help luxury brands like Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom, and Lexus stand apart."

According to their article: "Superb service is the indispensable ingredient of successful high-end brands" which deliver such outstanding levels of service day-in/out because of their organizations' commitment to customers. Customers occupy the center of all decisions. They are the reason for being.

MarketingProfs in their 1/14/2008 issue of Get To The Point on Customer Service the Lexus Way refers to Mavericks At Work with additional details and links on what makes Lexus so unusual in its luxury touch. I hope you note what to me is the biggest reason for superb service: increased loyalty. That's right.

Andrea Learned in Men and Women Are Like-Minded Luxury Shoppers reminds us that "we live in a world of abundance, and EVERYONE now expects/demands much more relevance and higher standards of service from brands. And, brands have to listen, because they are now scrambling to keep, let alone grow, their markets." An opportunity certainly comes from appealing to men shoppers using techniques and approaches originally refined while marketing to women.

She refers to the Wall Street Journal's 12/15/2007 article titled Male Bonding - Women's luxury labels go after men;diamonds at Harry Winston, Lilly Pulitzer ties by Ray A. Smith. Says the article: "The labels say one of their ultimate goals is to get men to shop more like women -- making more impulse purchases and being open to items they didn't intend to buy when they walked into the store. Many men nowadays know what they're looking for when they step into a store and are unlikely to pick up anything extra."

Not only are these brands introducing new product lines, but they are "revamping their store designs to appeal to men. Louis Vuitton is creating "masculine spaces" in its new stores that can be seen from the entrance, complete with armchairs, laptops (for customer use) and giant television screens that broadcast financial news..."

And, further, "Men want to enter a store and immediately understand where they belong," says Mr. Beccari. "He doesn't like to look for things. He wants to make a choice rapidly, not take half an hour."

What I consider fascinating with all of this is that if you design your store to appeal to a woman - our core constituent especially in categories home-related - you will take her [male] constituents into account, plan for their well-being with chairs and TVs, and generally create a space where both can relax and go about the business of shopping as effectively or efficiently as each prefers. The result? You've also created a comfortable male space.

Another suggestion I greatly appreciate is how "Herm├Ęs is changing the way it groups men's products in its stores, putting all of the items together rather than separating some by category. So men's watches on display, for instance, would no longer be mixed with women's watches." Creating relevant adjancencies makes sense. It's how I want to shop.

And stores that make an effort to understand how I shop, and how I want to be treated are the ones that will earn my loyalty.

So, tell me. Do you see how you can improve your business with the Luxury Touch?

Carpet can be a luxury. So why not sell it as such? Why not create an experience that surpasses that of Nordstrom or Lexus?

What's there to lose?

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Mario Vellandi said...

The mental attitude must be present, otherwise everything turns to faux.
The experiential design of the business process is more important than its objective clear-cut design.
Otherwise I'm afraid the process will be seen as just a nice perk, to eventually be taken for granted, then expected.

CB Whittemore said...

Mario, the Luxury Touch article discusses the people aspect of delivering excellent customer service extensively. Mental attitude, and having the right people with the right attitude absolutely affects success, credibility and authenticity. Thanks for making that point.

Anonymous said...

CB, great post on luxury, customer service, and the experience. The challenge is for brands and products that are not currently considered "luxury" to make great customer experiences a priority. It does take excellent customer service from the right people. It also takes setting customer expectations properly, understanding customer needs clearly, and delighting customers regularly.

Thanks for provoking the thinking process on this one!

Luxury Collective said...

Retailers have options. They can move upscale, downscale or become irrelevant. Moving into the luxury market is the best option for flooring retailers. But it isn’t easy. They’ll have to edit parts of their business and then change the rest.

The biggest risk is not changing at all.

The only thing in the flooring industry that should not change is your blog. It should be required reading for every retailer. Christine, thank you for everything you do.

CB Whittemore said...

Luxury Collective, you hit the nail on the head: the biggest risk is not changing at all!

There are many opportunities for those retailers wanting to make the most of these options. Thank you for your very kind words!

CB Whittemore said...

Becky, I found that the Trading Up/Treasure Hunt books completely changed my perspective on what was/wasn't luxury. In fact, they refer to it as 'new luxury' because the focus on experience [and service] is so strong. And that's where any category or retailer can participate depending on a commitment to capturing an outstanding experience for the end user.

Thanks for adding to the conversation!

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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