Four trends that look like transforming the luxury shopping arena in 2019.
- Millennials first culture
It’s no longer all about the old school. Newer brands on the rise are tending to be focused on having an inclusive image, being social-media first and have an innate capacity to innovate – all without the “baggage” that slows down the legacy players. These brands are sometimes celebrity-driven (see Yeezy, Fenty, et al) but all share a focus on younger consumers, such as Vetements, where the mode du jour is definitively social.
What’s more, thanks to a consolidating subscription model across various industries, plus millennials’ comfort with it, it may be that your customers are not buying your clothes “for keeps”, but thanks to Armarium and Rent-the-Runway, they may just be renting.
- Breaking the barriers
You’ll see a lot of brands this year going beyond their standard offerings with some “complementary” items which are being used to augment and widen (but not break) the brand architecture. Neiman Marcus and Net-a-Porter selling beauty/wellness articles, Armani selling chocolates, the BMW/Louis Vuitton partnership are all examples. What drives this trend is linked to the “flexitarianism” of luxury shoppers: nowadays it seems many well-off shoppers are happy to buy luxury one day and then “slum it” the next, with a trip to Adidas. The clear message is “I’ll create my own style, thank you very much, I don’t need you to do it”.
- Make it mine
In a clear evolution of the above “demand my own wear” philosophy, product customization is growing. Alongside that grows a plethora of digital tools and platforms which enable brands to make product personalization possible. The next step? Taken to its logical conclusion, the personalization “experience” looks set to evolve and to start leveraging other new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. From 360° videos to headsets (see Audi, Dior Eyes) this new technology is allowing time-poor, high-end consumers to gain impeccable experiences from in store, so they can “live” all the wonder of the brand products prior to purchase.
- Don’t leave anybody out
While the history of luxury has been all about limited supply and only being available to the very few, the new world of high-end will tell a very different story. New consumers want meaning and they want a brand with purpose. This has been known for a while, but as recent backlashes have shown (thanks, Pepsi Cola) “woke-washing”, or trying to co-opt positive social messages for bland commercial gain will not work.
Chief among concerns of many younger consumers (but older ones increasingly too) is the sustainability issue. Gucci, Kors and many others have all dedicated time recently to demonstrating more sustainable and more ethical choices in their product creation; don’t expect this to change any time soon. One challenge that this presents, but may be very interesting (and valuable) is that even in the specific act of talking about product provenance, luxury brands will be, by definition, becoming more transparent. Such a trend may well prove valuable even in its own right, fitting perfectly with consumer’s desire for a more open and honest conversation with those whose products they would purchase.