The first two parts of this series on luxury in 2030 were about how Gen Z goes mainstream and disrupts the luxury market and about the rise of purpose-driven brands. This week’s edition is about the impact of curated lifestyles on luxury brands.
Our lives have never been as public as they are now — especially for Gen Zers. The pressure to produce content about their lives on platforms like WeChat, Instagram, or Snapchat is ever increasing. They were the first generation to grow up in a time where social media — and especially in China social shopping — is fully integrated into their lives. When I ask members of our Generation Z advisory board about their struggles, keeping up with their social network life is among their top concerns.
This leads to a completely different lifestyle, a curated life. The concerns about which image is conveyed on social media is now driving a lot of decisions, including, for example, where to go on vacation in order to obtain perfect posts and stories. Given this, there are now many services around the world that offer the rental of sneakers, handbags, and fashion items on an hourly base, just to be able to take the ideal personal image for their social channels.
The impact of the social media related self-image creation will increase dramatically over the next decade as Gen Zers and young Millennials will become the most influential luxury consumer group worldwide. As such, luxury brands worldwide will need to think differently, from deemphasizing their current focus on products and services, and instead, how their brand, as a whole, fits into the lives of their customers.
When consumers use brands to help shape their personal image, traditional values like “quality” and “craftsmanship” will simply be expected. By 2030 consumers will look for something different: they will look for brands that tell a story they want to be associated with. Hence, the elements of the brand story become decisive in consumer value creation. These include social, environmental, and cultural factors. Not surprisingly, in line with shifting expectations of young consumers, sustainability and social consciousness will be much more important than today.
As consumers look for personal imagine content, brands will be expected to deliver things people can talk about and share. The luxury store of the future will be instagrammable, will offer surprising elements that intrigue people and motivate them to share their experiences. Young consumers will expect drastically more inspiration from brands rather than the rather transactional interactions most luxury brands offer today. This will change everything.
Imagine a luxury hotel — a spectacular lobby, an outstanding spa, an inviting room, and a great restaurant will be all expected in the future, with these amenities already built into the room price. In the future, however, differentiation will come through highly personalized customer experiences that match their lifestyles. If someone does yoga, they will expect the hotel to arrange private classes for them in spaces that allow the creation of sharable moments. If someone likes art, they will expect an expert to accompany them to visit local galleries and museums. Personal shoppers will accompany customers to local shops and arrange private showings. Some of these services already exist, but in the future, they will be mission critical to achieve both differentiation and extreme value creation. Individualized concierge experiences will replace the pre-defined, rather generic service “menus” so common everywhere today.
When consumers want brands to represent who they are, it will become a matter of survival for them to understand these deep insights. To achieve this, some of the most advanced luxury brands already use A.I., artificial intelligence technologies, to create a snapshot of sentiment and preferences of consumers. In the future, this will not only be standard, but the ability to obtain real-time consumer insights in way that it leads to actionable consumer insights will separate successful from unsuccessful brands. The future of luxury brand management will be the fusion of A.I.-powered advanced data querying methods with personalized, highly inspirational content, services, and products to create highly relevant, unique, and authentic brands.
The uniqueness and authenticity of brands will become significantly more important in the future as consumers use them as to create their own curated self-image. If a brand does not have the coolness factor customers expect, it’s exchangeable with other brands. If a brand does not feel authentic, then it can no longer support their customer’s curation efforts. As a result, brands have to take a position, represent strong values, and define themselves through the eyes of consumers. If I look at typical brand positionings in our brand audits, I mostly find brand definitions that are inwardly focused. The consumer is often missing. This is a mistake already today. In the future, it will be deadly.
2030 will be exciting for brands who understand their role in the life of customers. The more value a brand creates, the more important the brand becomes for the people consuming it. The more important it becomes, the more critical its becomes in curating their lives. Hence, for luxury brands, there is no time to waste. 2030 is just around the corner. The time to act is now.
Daniel Langer is CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the professor of luxury strategy and extreme value creation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults some of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger