Chris Olshan: Why “Gen Y” Is Driving Global Luxury

An Interview With The Co-Founder Of The Young Luxury Marketers’ Council

Brands such as Chanel and L'Oreal have featured promotions using stars such as Li Yuchun (pictured above) in order to appeal to China's younger generation.

Brands such as Chanel and L’Oreal have featured promotions using stars such as Li Yuchun (pictured above) in order to appeal to China’s younger generation.

The Young Luxury Marketers’ Council was founded in 2011 as the “Gen Y” offshoot to The Luxury Marketing Council, the premier network with 43 chapters around the world including Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, and Beijing. The Council’s relevance could not be overstated as young consumers become a rising force in China. Jing Daily chats with Co-Founder Christopher Olshan on the occasion of The Young Luxury Marketers’ Council’s two-year anniversary about the uniqueness of “Generation Y,” also known as the Millennial Generation, why customer service is at an all-time low, and establishing brand loyalty in the information age. 

The Young Luxury Marketers’ Council is described as “Generation Y.” What makes Generation Y special?

The big advantage in all markets is we’re finding Generation Y is quickly becoming the holder of the most wealth in luxury. The average Chinese millionaire is 15 years younger, for example. All brands are starting to see Generation Y as the new powerhouse in luxury. They are inheriting wealth much younger, hitting their stride in careers, and having much larger disposable incomes. Generation Y is also a lot different. Because of technology and the internet, we’re savvier and more critical of marketing. Brands have to look at us as an entirely different market. What works for boomers isn’t necessarily going to work for us when it comes to targeting consumers.

The other big thing, especially for heritage brands, is the millennial customer is not a guarantee. If the millennial’s father and grandfather shopped at a brand, it doesn’t mean the millennial will. They have to be engaged not because of who their family has done business with in the past, but because of who they are.

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Christopher Olshan.

The lack of transparency promoting advertisements or information about a brand that isn’t true. Millennials are quick to find out if something is inaccurate and distrust a brand if they feel lied to or misled. The other reason is corporate social responsibility. Millennials want to buy from brands that truly have a philanthropic portion to the business, is environmentally friend, giving back to the community.

It also has to do with technology and the ability to find things out as quickly as we can. Back in the day, when you gave to charity, you did it quietly and it was a private thing; you didn’t flaunt it as a promotion. In today’s world, there are so many charities that don’t always do what they say. It’s about being genuine and doing something genuine.

Millennials have also been brought up to worry about pollution and the fact that we’re growing quicker than the world is allowing us to. We’re concerned for our future and our kids’ future and we want to buy brands that understand and share our values. It’s almost about camaraderie.

One of the biggest challenges of millennials is being heard and understood in today’s world, primarily because we are so different from every other generation.

What are some trends in luxury marketing?

In general I can say the market has changed drastically. The need for quality customer service and service representatives to be familiar not only with their products but also competition is essential. Customer service is at an all time low.

Because of the web and mobile technology, the way customers engage is different. It used to be that in the past, a salesperson could look at you, tell if you’re a luxury consumer, and tell you what to buy. In today’s world of tech start-ups, the look of the customer has changed. You can’t tell anymore. Because of technology, the amount of knowledge the customer has about a product and competition sometimes surpasses that of salespeople, and that is a very slippery slope to be on. Also because of social media, customers aren’t getting their information as often from websites; they are taking peer advice and recommendations.

What are some trends in marketing to the outbound Chinese consumer?

There are a large number of ways the luxury market is focusing on the outbound Asian consumer. Brands are arranging private shopping experiences, special incentives to out-of-country tourists, making sure to staff stores with Mandarin and Cantonese speakers so communication is easier.

What are some successful brands that come to mind in terms of marketing to the Chinese?

Godiva, Burberry, and Tumi have all done great things. Remy Cointreau is becoming very popular in the East.

What are some ways to improve customer service?

1.     Knowledge of the product and competitor products. They need to understand what other brands are playing in the same field.

2.     High-touch customer service: Knowing your customer. When a customer buys a product and you understand their lives. A new product comes in, telling them about a product, following up with a birthday or anniversary card, sending thank you card. If it’s a long-time customer, knowing about personal life.

3.     Value-added: Providing unique custom experiences. Unique experiences to the best customer, something you add they wouldn’t normally be able to do. Bergdorf Goodman offered their best customers the chance to attend the Oscars. That’s the kind of value add that if you spend $500,000 a year on apparel, being able to attend the Oscars would be something of interest but that you may not think to do. Reaching out to them, you show that you appreciate them as the best customers.

For more information, visit The Young Luxury Marketers’ Council LinkedIn page.

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