How the rise of customer communities has changed luxury retail

Today’s luxury customer is interested in experience and involvement, including the creation of a community; their community. As we embark on this new decade, our Retail Hive Editor outlines the key approaches being deployed by our Luxury members to create and nurture these communities.

The use of user generated content

It is imperative for brands to involve their customers and to encourage them to talk about the brand – in and on their terms. There is no longer a tension between the perception of user generated content (UGC) being somehow at odds with ‘luxury’. Everyone is a blogger/photographer now and often produce better content than the brands themselves! “New luxury” is, therefore, more authentic and less controlled. PR these days is almost 50% social media – to generate a constant dialogue. But it also means strategy is written on the hoof! Therefore, there’s a disconnect between the level of brand messaging and customer expectations. There is a need to engage at the right level and incorporate their luxury customer values.

Spotlight on: Farfetch
Last year Farfetch implemented a new content experience on their site that allows people to shop selects and edits chosen by the global Farfetch community, sharing inspiration from around the world. This consideration of their community reaffirms the importance they see in it and thus helps their clients to feel part of the brand.

Weaving the story

Many of our member brands now use online as a storefront to convey the brand story and to produce a digital footprint, as opposed to just act as an online store. As the physical store changes, content is key to help make that seamless customer journey between online and instore, and in numerous cases, high-end brands have brought in creative content teams to push this. With the end goal to be improving all customer interactions worldwide – be that directly or through social media content – and building customer lifetime value, retailers must focus on how they capture and utilise data to aid this.

Spotlight on: Net-a-Porter
YOOX Net-a-porter has recently launched “The Modern Artisan Project” a partnership with The Prince’s Foundation, to create a sustainable luxury capsule collection as part of a new training initiative. This project has been a great way to display the brand’s values and make the consumer feel part of the activity through creative content on all of the brand’s social media platforms.

Experiential moments

With technology developing to meet the high standards of luxury, we are told by our members that online experiences previously considered “gimmicky” such as “virtual try” are now at a level of sophistication that they’re being reconsidered. This not only depletes the likelihood of returns but creates a new element to the shopping experience that can drive positive conversation in communities.

The new generation of customer is emerging and preferring to purchase online. So, a focus on omnichannel has led to boutiques utilising technology in-store. The physical store is moving away from primarily a selling space, to more of an immersive experience and opportunity for human communication to create consistency, influence sales online and customer content.

Spotlight on: Gentle Monster
Gentle Monster’s approach to spatial design is intrinsically linked to their brand and a key part of their physical strategy. Their philosophy uses kinetic art objects to tell the story of the brand and its products in physical spaces. The next part is a jigsaw – harnessing these experiential moments to drive digital sales.