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Luxury Industry and Social Media: Beyond Illusory Contradiction

The Context

The world of media communication has dramatically changed over the last few years, involving both individuals and businesses. Traditional media, which main feature is to be offline, have seen their role of informative communication channels challenged by the rise of the Internet and all the subsequent tools from it thanks to the technological advancements in this particular field.

Media on the Internet have a set of properties giving them distinct advantages over the traditional ones. Firstly, they are more efficient and cheaper at reaching a wide audience (including both businesses and consumers) compared to the traditional media. Secondly, they have a better reach across the globe. Thirdly, the feedback is much quicker thanks to the constant information flow between senders and receivers. Finally, online media grant an unprecedented level of customisation possibilities to businesses, allowing them to involve customers on a personal level. Now both consumers and businesses can take advantage of these possibilities: the former can gather and compare more easily information about the services they need, while the latter can collect more data from consumers themselves and can know them and their habits much better than before.

The Contradiction

If online media and particularly social media have tremendous benefits, why does luxury industry have been so reluctant to use them to their fuller extent? This behaviour can be better explained if we look at certain properties and characteristics of the two items we are currently examining, namely, social media and luxury brands. The first is an open environment, meaning that most of the relevant information for customers is free, readily available and prices can be checked and compared by anybody at anytime. Moreover, opinion leaders and other people of influence, as much as any other person, can freely discuss about the brands themselves, share their opinions to a potentially very large audience, even when they are criticising. 

This contrasts with the second item taken into consideration, luxury brands. The reason is that luxury must remain something exclusive in order to maintain its appeal in the eyes of the luxury-seeking customers. Luxury is out of reach for many people. Furthermore, luxury brands have to showcase themselves as something desirable that defines beauty and good taste. Therefore luxury is going against the general rule stating that companies should design their products according to the customers’ needs. Luxury firms choose their customers, not the opposite. 

As a result, luxury brands might be vulnerable to direct comparisons and critiques that can erode their uniqueness, distinctiveness and inaccessibility traits that attract luxury consumers who agree to pay a higher price to satisfy their needs of a higher social status. In addition, it can be argued that beside all the advantages over traditional media, the online environment is not well suited to convey the atmosphere and the experience of luxury stores. Luxury goods are generally multisensorial products that need to be experienced through as many senses as possible to generate engagement.

The Solution

Despite what has been said so far, in reality some luxury firms have been recently starting to use social media on a much bigger scale than ever. Some companies obtained good results in their communication with their current and potential customers but many others failed. A deeper analysis was required to understand such mixed results.

What has been found is that despite the drawbacks of social media that prevent them to give an all around experience to customers, luxury firms can still effectively promote their brands without negatively impact their brand reputation. This can be done by providing a superior service, by giving the same attention and care to each customer as if they were inside a prestigious physical store. To achieve this, not only a proper type of language and tone are important but also the page layout and design must be coherent with the aesthetics of the firm. Last, but certainly not the least, the shared content must be of the absolute highest quality: from the resolution of the pictures (without compromising the loading times) to the way products and events are shot and presented to the public.

To conclude, more and more luxury firms will find the online environment to be attractive as time goes on. Newer generations of people born with Internet will inevitably replace the older ones who are not used to see luxury brands in online environments, this will consequently enlarge the potential customers base willing to browse through online environments.

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