engaging the next generation of luxury buyers

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This article by Saswati Saha Mityra, a Consumer Behaviourist, was published in issue 07 of Social Technology Quarterly. Summary: While the community of luxury buyers grows with the addition of young luxury buyers, a technological advancement and direct engagement by luxury brands is required as the new entrants are tech-savvy and arrive with their own perceptions of luxury.


  • Methods of customer engagement in the luxury industry are changing. Some major trends include the rise in buyers between ages 18 and 35, rise of new markets in the BRIC and Gulf countries, and the irreplaceable presence of technology. These trends have impacted the industry in the following ways: Younger customers of luxury brands have to be catered to with as much attention as the mature ones; cultural preferences need to be reflected in

    offers, activities, and strategies in order to build new loyalties. Research also shows that technology for this generation is the new luxury. The freedom to explore, that technology has enabled, is the new norm and nothing less than this comfort will do for the new consumer. This means that social media and technology innovation are no longer outside the purview of luxury.

    Future buyers of the luxury industry are young, tech-savvy, and globally familiar yet locally in-tune. A deeper understanding of their networking and communication practices is necessary to effectively engage them. Based on a qualitative research conducted by students of the Master program in Market Research and Consumer Behaviour from IE School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, with young luxury buyers from Russia and the Gulf countries, it was observed that within the ages of 22 to 35, there exist two distinct customer mindsets. Luxury buyers in the 18 to 25 age group are highly individualistic to the point of being narcissistic; mobility is woven in their DNA; as consumers, they are highly demanding about the worth of a product. Unabashed in showing off their wealth, these

    While the community of luxury buyers grows with

    the addition of young luxury buyers, a technological

    advancement and direct engagement by luxury brands is

    required as the new entrants are tech-savvy and arrive with

    their own perceptions of luxury.

    by Saswati Saha Mitra

    Engaging the Next Generation of Luxury Buyers


  • Kuliza Social Technology Quarterly Issue 07

    Photo Credit: Pedrosimoes7

  • consumers today do not seek luxury by price but by values of style and design. Their involvement in customization highlights the informed side of these consumers - they are not fashion victims but fashion explorers and trend co-creators. Given the heightened sense of self and continuous presence

    online of these luxury buyers, luxury brands, in the last two years, have increased their presence on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Burberry has 14 million followers. Watch and automotive brands range between 8 to 10 million fans online. Social media then seems to work for luxury brands. However, engaging luxury buyers is not as easy as it looks. Research indicates that although these young, luxury buyers may constantly be on social media, they do not use social media to connect with their favourite brands. Most do not even Like their favourite brands.

    Why is Social Media a Failure with these Young Buyers? Social is antithetical to luxury. Social is democratic and accessible while luxury is exclusive and inaccessible. These young buyers may be technologically modern, culturally open, and exploratory in design but when it comes to the reason to buy luxury brands, they believe in exclusivity. Social media pages of luxury brands are open, accessible to all, and have millions of fans. However, the term fan itself is objectionable

    to these luxury buyers. Fans are people who worship a celebrity

    from afar. Luxury buyers do not worship their favourite brands from afar. They buy them. As a result, as the high priests of a brand, to be called a fan is almost an insult. The real luxury buyer refuses to be in the crowd and as a result refuses to engage with favourite luxury brands on social media. While this was seen as predominant theme across most luxury industries, the automotive sector is experiencing considerable consumer appreciation on social media. Buyers of luxury automotives are highly satisfied with content generated

    by automotive brands on social media. Cinematic in their effects, intensely masculine, going in-depth about a car, automotive brands are able to engage in ways both mass and unique. More masculine luxury brands, focusing on automotives enjoy a more democratic attitude amongst fans of different socio-economic background,

    while more feminine luxury brands, especially those in luxury clothing, perfume and accessories, dislike the same democratizing effect.

    nouveau riche youngsters personify the I-Me-Myself generation.

    Technologically, they do not prefer ostentatious machines such as Vertu phones or Swarovski studded designs. They are more into simplicity and efficiency of Apple products or power machines that

    are Android based, email synched with heavy storage facilities on Dropbox, and can run heavy imaging and entertainment apps. They use their phones as single point multimedia devices rather than one for communication alone. These young, luxury buyers are online on Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp around the clock and communicate constantly through them even while shopping to be more discerned about the things they are going to buy. Amongst the 26 to 35 years olds, media and content saturation is comparatively lower. Although advanced users of technology devices, their platforms of choice are iPads and mobile devices. These individuals do not synchronize media consumption to one device they end up spending comparatively lesser time on both devices. Whatsapp continues to be popular but is used more as an SMS replacement rather than as a constant messenger. This group values the ability to switch off and engage in sustained interactions with family and externals. Facebook for this group is just a platform for people to find

    them on, but real conversations happen via Gmail or Skype. Many of these luxury consumers are also moving away from the populist Facebook to more niche networks such as Path where they can share content with limited friends and family. As buyers, they are extremely alert to product information, try out more items, and demand individualized and customized servicing. Both groups, although distinct, share some similarities. Both possess a keen sense of value and a strong desire for uniqueness. The research shows that for these consumers, value perception is becoming more rationalized while the need for uniqueness is heightened. An example that illustrates this need for uniqueness is young buyers preference of shopping at Zara. Zara is affordable

    fashion, but luxury brand buyers flock to Zara because it is a clever

    choice for the fashion forward. While it stocks fashionable goods at low costs, it allows young luxury buyers to mix and match a Zara

    piece with a Versace trouser, together creating an ensemble that is hybrid and unique to the creator. However, being fashionable is top priority and not the cost. Therefore it can be asserted that

    Social is antithetical

    to luxury. Social

    is democratic and

    accessible while

    luxury is exclusive

    and inaccessible.

  • Kuliza Social Technology Quarterly Issue 07

    Therefore, the future of engaging these young luxury buyers is the creation of hybrid realities, the development of closed networks and investing in unique, youthful events that will help establish strong brand- consumer ties. The hybrid reality concept introduces latest spatial and social technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality and touch screen technology to create special experience zones. Depending on the shoppers, a retail space can be turned into a younger, wired space whereas for more mature buyers, the luxury retail space can be maintained. These personalized experiences will allow different age groups of buyers of the same brand without making them lose the sense of being a privileged buyer. Buyers can then use these latest technologies to socialize their purchase experience. Instead of sending images on Whatsapp of clothes trial, they can invite in their trusted network of friends via video

    share into the boutique itself. The luxury experience of the brand then translates not only to one buyer but also to a group of potential buyers at minimal acquisition costs for the company. Luxury here is socialized but not democratized. It gains a technological edge which is folded into the guise of luxury to create an out-of-the-world experience that luxury buyers are constantly on the lookout for. The research also indicates that young, luxury buyers believe that the place they would like to interact with the brand and other fellow users is on the brand site. This should help brand websites, who are often visually sumptuous, to go beyond a visual appeal and improve their functionality and thus increase opportunities to engage. In the future, these sites will become the new brand-led social networks. Buying members will connect with others similar to them from around the world united by a shared love for luxury. Luxury brands should capitalize

    on their unique strengths - the wealth and social positions of their buyers - to create a semi socio-professional network of High Networth Individuals. Brands that will be able to successfully engage these consumers using the hinge of power relationships, will achieve strong ties not only between members but also with the brand as the initiator of this effort.

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    They Have to Do is Show Up. Forbes. 30 Oct 2012.

    Kapferer, Jean-Noel and Vincent Bastien. The

    Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to

    Build Luxury Brands. Kogan Page Limited. 2012.

    Luxury brands and majestic FAILS: Loewe, or

    There is no such thing as bad publicity (except

    your own obituary) Appnova. 02 May 2