The biggest myths in the luxury industry

This story was first published on Glossy, Digiday Media’s new publication devoted to how technology is changing the fashion and luxury industries.

Part of the luxury fashion industry’s biggest problems is its reluctance to change. As high-spending consumers turn to Amazon Prime for free shipping and the market for pre-owned Birkin bags surges on an Instagram account, many retailers are still only selling certain items on e-commerce or beginning to consider a mobile app.

To get an idea of the mindset that’s keeping the luxury industry steadfastly behind others when it comes to the digital revolution, we asked industry folks to share what they think is the biggest myth that the luxury industry is holding onto.

Misha Nonoo, designer
The biggest myth that the luxury fashion industry is still holding on to is complete control over their content and exclusivity. Thanks to social media and technology, it seems as if everyone today is producing content. It would be interesting to see more luxury brands embrace user generated content.

Camilla Walters, project director, Sergio Rossi
For me, the biggest myth that the luxury fashion industry is holding on to is the notion that you can buy luxury at a cost. Luxury is not about high prices. Luxury is about the experience and the exclusivity. You may have all the money in the world, but you still can’t get your hand on that Birkin or Kelly because Hermés has understood that luxury is about making the experience unique. Luxury is about experiences and if you can’t provide unique experiences relating to the brand, then it doesn’t matter how expensive you are.

Gabrielle de Papp, svp of brand and business development, Farfetch
The biggest myth in luxury is total control. With the rise of luxury e-commerce, fashion has no borders, and the rules are not so clear, so to try to control brand image, pricing, distribution and more globally is becoming increasingly difficult. The control is now in the hands of the consumer — they are dictating the rules, whenever, wherever, and on whatever device. The challenge is: how do you adapt to this brave new world of luxury retail, embrace new technologies and thinking, expose your brand to the web but still retain your luxury status – exclusivity, scarcity of product?

Susan Naci, venture capital partner, 32 Laight Street
Dear luxury fashion industry, this is a note from one of your biggest fans: please stop taking yourself so seriously. No, not in terms of design and style — keep that genius and gorgeous — but in your dialogue with society at large.

Luxury fashion must face today’s scary culture of transparency — everyone knows everything. We know where the clothes are manufactured, the factory working conditions, how prices are set. Reality is just too easy to uncover. So, rather than the painstaking upkeep of the fortress of secrecy in order to maintain the seductive mystery of the luxury lifestyle, the brands that strategically and intentionally maintain aspiration while inviting customers into their world will win.

Trust in the boldness to crack the door open, invite the customer inside, have a look around, and let her make it hers.

Tara Jepson, brand consultant for Chanel, Michael Kors, Mac Cosmetics
Luxury fashion brands have historically been very skeptical and cautious about digital, mobile and social. The myth that these channels will dilute their brand and make it more accessible is preventing them from engaging and connecting with their consumers. While some brands are beginning to recognize that these channels are critical, many are still failing to create meaningful touch points. As the luxury market continues to get more competitive, brands must truly understand their consumer’s wants and needs and evolve even more rapidly. The brands that can shift, from the top down, on how they approach, articulate and connect digitally will have a more engaging relationship with their consumers while staying true to their core values and protecting their brand heritage.

Alex Lirstman, founding partner and chief strategist, Ready Set Rocket
The biggest industry myth that luxury brands are still holding onto is that their e-commerce can’t serve a luxury experience that safeguards the brand’s exclusive reputation while optimizing for conversions. On the one hand, you have brands like Amazon Fashion that focus on conversion optimization and on the other, you have luxury brands like Tiffany that do a great job showcasing the brand and product, but fail to optimize the conversion funnel.

Additionally, luxury brands need to understand how to continue to showcase their elevated brand on mobile, while balancing product discovery and conversion. Overall, luxury e-commerce comes down to striking the balance that communicates the luxury of the brand’s product through digital while properly tapping into the requirements of e-commerce best practices.

Neda Whitney, luxury and fashion group account director, R/GA
The biggest myth I find the luxury industry still holding onto is the impression of the core consumer. Today’s consumer of luxury is incredibly varied — they are more global and younger than ever before. With the increasing globalization of our economy and the advent of “reality culture” and platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, potential consumers are being exposed to brands and consuming brand content in ways that weren’t in consideration a decade ago. This is a drastic shift in what used to be a easily identifiable consumer: someone with a certain net worth who was a traditional brick and mortar shopper. This shift in consumer base is a challenging one for brands to adapt to, in a sector where change is not usually welcome.

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