While India is one of the fastest growing markets for luxury goods, reaching out to both customers and profitability has proven to be challenging for brands. We asked two luxe experts for tips to succeed in this market. Here's what they said:
Make a long-term commitment. Understanding the expectations, as well as the uniqueness of the luxury market, creating awareness of luxury brands and products and developing the necessary capabilities will take time, particularly in the complex Indian market.
Understand your customers. Know who they are and what expectations they have. For Lancôme, our leading luxury beauty brand, we regularly organise events to engage with our customer and understand the specific needs. This leads to identifying an appropriate luxury offering and customising the customer experience while, at the same time, it contributes in building a relationship with the luxury brand.
Create a unique customer experience. The location, design and execution of the stores, the products offering as well as the advice and services given by the brand advisors — all these need to be of the highest standard and at par with the global level in the luxury market. For example, Kiehl’s customer representatives in India undertake a lengthy and meticulous induction and training program to ensure that customers will get the same Kiehl’s experience, comparable to the one in New York or London. After all, it is the aim of the luxury brand to offer a truly remarkable experience and to entice its customers to continue engaging with it.
Understand the Indian psyche. India is a patchwork of communities and fraternities with different cultures, beliefs, needs, tastes and lifestyles. Understanding each of them is critical to reach out to consumers effectively. Having an Indian partner helps. Showing your understanding — for instance by developing India-focused offers or communication campaigns — is also key.
However, don’t go the Indian way entirely! The objective is to understand India, not to become Indian. In the long run, Indians will appreciate your product for the same reasons people overseas appreciate it (such as heritage, craftsmanship, etc.). So, don’t change your DNA but remain focused on your own identity and differentiation factors.
Go back to your roots. Genius, legacy and craftsmanship are the essence of true luxury. In a world saturated with new claims of luxury every day, consumers ultimately go back to the brands’ roots and values to make their choice. Hence, it is critical to communicate about your DNA, even more so since Indian consumers are smart spenders, looking for the best value for money. Value in luxury does not come from bargain or discounts but from the core authenticity and the unique innovation, history or craftsmanship true luxury brands are made of.
Make luxury a way of life. It is critical to engage with customers on a regular basis, not only to make the brand more accessible and communicate about its DNA but, more importantly, to guide customers on how to really appreciate and enjoy your product. Indeed, the most essential element of luxury is the personal experience it delivers (comfort, quality, confidence, peace of mind, etc.), which should not be undermined behind more ‘materialistic’ considerations such as brand, price or design.
Ultimately, this should transform luxury in India from being ‘trophy’ purchases (that is, to be purchased, fronted but not ‘consumed’, or exclusively only on very special occasions) to true lifestyle products.