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5 lessons everyday retailers can learn from luxury fashion brands

Does the “rational” fashion consumer really exist?

Before fashion became my focus I was actually  a student of economics (go figure !) and the study of economics teaches us the following about our shopping habits….

  • The consumer is a rational person, who tries to use his or her money income to derive the greatest amount of satisfaction, or utility, from it. Consumers want to get “the most for their money” or, to maximize their total utility. Rational behavior also “requires” that a consumer not spend too much money irrationally by buying tons of items and stock piling them for the future, or starve themselves by buying no food at all. Consumers (we assume) all engage in rational behavior.

I suppose I wanted ask… does this theory ever apply to the fashion industry? – Hannah Brooks

It’s Fashion Week in Sydney and its fair to say that many local designers and retailers seem to be having tough time as they attempt to reinvent themselves in the digital age. Fashion is still big business, the Australian clothing, textile and footwear market is estimated to be worth $3 billion and the retail and wholesale industries worth an additional $7.5 billion. (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/a-stitch-in-time/story-e6frg8io-1226258017879). For our international readers who are interested in finding out more about Australian fashion have a look at the designers presenting at Australian Fashion Week by clicking on this link – http://australia.mbfashionweek.com/

At 2OPINIONATED we frequently comment on luxury brands and this got us thinking… what lessons could local retailers learn from the tactics of international luxury brands?

Even the most passionate shopper can conceded that there is something highly irrational about making a luxury purchase. Firstly, there is the First World guilt that comes from spending more on a single garment than it would cost to feed an entire village in the developing world. Secondly, the rational side of our brain knows that a scarf from Louis Vuitton probably wont keep us much warmer then one from Target.

So why do we keep on buying from these brands …and what can mid-tier and bottom-tier fashion brands learn from this irrational purchasing behaviour?

Lesson number 1 – Luxury brands always tell a story

This ad is from the Gucci Forever Now campaign, featuring Charlotte Casiraghi and shot by Peter Lindbergh.

What’s most fascinating about this image is the fact that “product” appears almost as an afterthought. What Gucci is selling here is a sense of tradition, the snaffle bit and the traditional Gucci green and red stripes. Charlotte Casiraghi is the granddaughter of Princess Grace of Monaco who had a long history with the Gucci brand herself (the Gucci “Flora” design was created for Princess Grace). This is a brand who knows what they are about and why wouldn’t we want to buy into the Gucci brands interpretation of tradition?

Too many designers and retailers still continue to operate from a product based mentality. Consumers don’t “buy” products any more we” buy into” stories…tell us your story more effectively…educate us… and we will probably buy more from you.

Lesson number 2) – Luxury brands are all about consistency

Lets face it you knew it was an ad for Roberto Cavalli right from the start of the clip, you didn’t need to wait till the end of the ad for confirmation. That’s because the Cavalli brand is so consistent in the way they tell their story. Successful luxury brands constantly manage their communications so they will always stand for something identifiable.

The majority of retail staff today fail dismally in articulating their specific brands “promise“. In fact, many retailers and don’t even perceive of themselves as brands so why should we expect them to be able to deliver us  consistent communications and service . Its pretty simple…if you don’t tell us clearly what you stand for… we will won’t want to buy from you.

 Lesson number 3) – Luxury brands know how they appear in the minds of their customers

This Fall 2011 Christian Louboutin campaign says it all – your average Louboutin customer sees their red sole shoes to be works of art. We live in an age where the consumer is king (or Queen as the case may be!). Luxury brands know this and they therefore live constantly  in the minds of their customers.

Most retailers never ask their customers why they buy from them and then they are left wondering why their customers suddenly stop buying from them and start purchasing elsewhere. All too often you hear retailers complaining about a lack of customer loyalty. If you’re complaining about your customer you can’t be connecting with them… so stop complaining about us and start getting to know us!

Lesson number 4) – Luxury brands never compete on price

This ad doesn’t make me ask “how much”… it just makes me say “I want”.Always remember.. no one ever wins a price war!

All too often we see retailers and salespeople make price decisions on behalf of their customers. They have a mental cut off point for the sale which is usually much lower than what customers are prepared to spend. If if don’t want to ask for the sale I’m probably not going to give it to you. Customers are rarely as price sensitive as brands imagine them to be. The best thing retailers can do is to take themselves out of the price war. You can’t beat good old-fashioned service and there’s no service like a face-to face interaction.  Good service, is often just about good training and if retailers get it right it allows them to take price out of the equation entirely.

Lesson number 5) – Luxury brands sell an experience

Here Cartier doesn’t just take us on a journey, they have decided to take us on an Odyssey and the Odyssey continues inside every Cartier store. We all know that receiving a red box from Cartier can be just as exciting as opening one.

The most successful retailers of the future will be the ones that provide us entertaining experiences from every possible channel. Take us on a journey, both in store and online… and we will enjoy being your travel companion.

Tell us…which brands are providing you with a luxury experience without the luxury price tag?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. You are so right.

    Maybe that’s the reason we don’t mind so many ads in our magazines. At least, I don’t,

    April 30, 2012

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