As part of our recurring #ShiftHappens series, we spoke with top retail executives and industry thought leaders to help identify the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the retail industry and its consumers.
In this month’s release, you’ll hear insights from the following commentators on how luxury is shifting into a more digital, personal, and sustainable industry:
Ludovic Baussan, Co-Founder and Head of Strategy at 2nd Ave
Sandrine Crener, Program Director at Harvard Business School
Marie Driscoll, MNG Dir of Luxury & Fashion at Coresight Research
Wolfgang Hoffmann, President of Jaguar Land Rover Canada
François-Xavier Hotier, President of Ulysse Nardin Americas
Elinor Noble, Global Head of Retail Excellence at LOEWE
Shannon Ryan, EVP North America at Valtech
Ron Thurston, VP of Stores at Intermix / Author of Retail Pride
Line Tousignant, VP Strategy and Experience at Valtech
Fabiola Velarde, SR Dir Emporio Armani Americas at Giorgio Armani
The way consumers perceive a brand has been shaped by the mechanism of the digital world, particularly for Gen Z. Today, consumers expect in-store experiences that make the history of the brand tangible. They are also looking for spaces that speak to them—spaces where they feel home, spaces where they can engage and interact.
The customer expects that they can go to your website, they can go to your Instagram account, they can go to a physical store, they can interact with the brand however they choose.
From an experience standpoint, every brand needs to say, “I want to be accessible online, I want to be understood on social media, and I want to have great physical stores.” Because no matter what channel the customer chooses to shop in, it’s an important touchpoint of your brand marketing aesthetic and is the future of what you want to present to the world.
Luxury stores are the ideal environment to create opportunity moments. Visual aids, notification, inviting the customer to learn, discover or engage with the brand or with its community, its visions, its authenticity. I think that there is really something very interesting to explore, and to build, and to bring this constant connection that I can trigger and that can help me really to have a full brand experience.
Luxury stores are the ideal environment to create opportunity moments,” Line Tousignant, VP of Strategy and Experience at Valtech
I believe luxury purchases will always be personal. I think human beings crave interaction, attention, and physical connection with other people.
Embracing the Digital
The world of luxury has embraced this idea of the connected experience. Historically, connected experiences were about how the shipper could interact with the store or how they could connect to the Wi-Fi. Now we’ve turned that around and the store interacts with you. It knows where you are, it knows what you’ve looked at based on your preferences, and it can save these preferences to one consistent profile. I think this concept of connected experiences is really exciting and opens up a lot of new and different opportunities.
In today’s world, retailers can not be without e-commerce. I believe we are in the age of the mobile phone, which is why we opened up our e-commerce shop last year. We also are very digital-friendly in other areas.
For example, we use a blockchain to secure all data regarding customer information and warranties. We are also very active in social media and digital advertising. When COVID-19 hit the USA last year, we launched a #StayHome campaign to tell our customers to stay safe.
In today’s world, retailers can not be without e-commerce,” François-Xavier Hotier, President of Ulysse Nardin Americas
The importance of the in-store experience is the reason why many luxury brands have been slow to embrace online shopping. In some cases, they were even rejecting the idea, concerned that it would have a real negative impact on their brand. COVID changed that. One way or the other, they had to bring their focus on e-commerce and to act quickly.
COVID-19 has altered consumer behavior in many ways and the good news is the luxury industry is recovering a little bit faster than anyone anticipated. Just to cite the obvious, luxury brands had been lagging in terms of e-commerce but the growth over the last year has been really impressive.
One of the problems with retail for the last 20 years is that it wasn’t changing. The product looked the same as what you had last year and also with what your competition had. It’s one of the reasons why there’s too much apparel.
Retailers have to twist it. And by twisting it, they have to evolve it to be more current and part of the culture today. Unique partnerships bring new interest and liveliness to luxury brands.
COVID-19 has required a more human connection with our clients—and our conversations during the lockdown went beyond the product. It was a moment to be with our clients and show them that we understood what they were going through. So through that, I think the connections are stronger than in the past. This has given us the opportunity to work more intimately with our customers.
COVID-19 has required us to have a more human connection with our clients—and our conversations during the lockdown went beyond the product, Fabiola Velarde, SR Dir at Giorgio Armani
In terms of where the industry goes, I think it’s good that consumers are making sustainability a key point and mandatory. I love that there are brands committing to this fully. Sustainability is not just the fabric that you use. It’s the way that you do everything.
At Ulysse Nardin, we have a lab working to make everything we do as sustainable as possible. We are also involved in sustainability projects in the USA, such as our partnership with OCEARCH. We work together. We create content together. So, we see sustainability, not only as something at the heart of the creativity and production process but also as something operational. The luxury industry is creative and trendsetting, so let’s also put that to use for creating more conscious business behavior.
The pandemic has really accelerated the trend toward an increased focus on health and wellness. This translates to an increased interest in food and nutrition and fitness. We’ve seen an increase in interest in Peloton bikes and smart mirrors but also well-being and meditation apps. People are obliged to refocus on their homes, which has become the place where you live, where you work, exercise and entertain.