Lisbon - Physical retail and online, or physical versus online. According to Annia Spiliopoulos, Global CEO of the British luxury jewellery brand Links of London and Annastasia Seebohm, Group CEO of the British concierge service Quintessentially (a luxury lifestyle management service for its affiliated members), the luxury market is about the right combination of physical and online presence, and when asked during the Web Summit panel talk 'What can retail expect? The era of experience'.
Spiliopoulos: “Bricks & Mortar and online, or bricks & mortar versus online. As a luxury market its a combination of both, isn't it. It also depends if your talking to a more established or new luxury brand. For me Selfridges is doing a wonderful job of combining that, and also they bring new brands to market into their retail experience, they got the next gen.”
In response to the public's question as to whether department stores in their current form are able to offer an experience, both ladies replied 'yes'. According to Seebohm, the millennial luxury consumer wants 'more and more pop up experiences'. "This allows smaller brands to reach the physical audience," says the Quintessentially CEO. "physical space to be able to express your brand, what it means, create that human connection with customers," adds Spiliopoulos. In addition, as a department store, you can generate footfall if you offer all the options." Selfridges is again cited as an example.
As a digital only luxury brand, could you also create an experience only online? As a young brand that is enthusiastic about its product, Spiliopoulos thinks so. "There are many digital channels for promoting a brand and cooperation is of course also possible. Yet in the end, as the luxury brand grows, you will need to have a physical space or presence to build a long-term relationship with the customer," she says. "You have to interact." Spiliopoulos supports this with the example of e-tailer Matchesfashion, who also opened a physical location. "Despite the fact that 95 percent of the sales are online, Matches still needed a physical presence.
How new is experience anyway? Spiliopoulos states that 'very recent'. "Previously, luxury brands in particular had such a strong position that they could (directly) sell their message and positioning. This has changed dramatically over the past fifteen years. Consumers, and not only the younger generation, increasingly want to make a meaningful purchase. This goes beyond owning a product or service. As a brand, you have to focus on the 'experience side' throughout the organisation."
Seebohm says it signals the shift from purchasing to participation.
A little later, Seebohm also tells us on stage that she sees that in the luxury market, communities are being deployed. She mentions shopping centres as an example. " Many shopping Malls have a lot of VIP spaces, have break out spaces, they do content and programming etc. That is just an extension of what is happening in the experiential economy. People want to belong to things, to communities."
Looking to the future: 'After experience comes connection and personalization'. And what's the next big change? "I believe we are closing out the phase of the experiential economy,. I think the next phase is all about connectedness and connectivity. I think of course people want to experience things, but they also want to connect with other people, offline and online, and I think they also want to connect with themselves. So I think brands need to learn to have that new conversation that is much more about connectivity than it is simply about purchasing or experience-ness," says Seebohm.
Spiliopoulos calls personalization. "Consumers increasingly want to be able to get what they want, when they want it and how they want it. Brands that offer this through technology and human interaction will be the winners."
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL, translated and edited.
Photo courtesy of Selfridges