These are the key trends that defined the luxury industry in 2013, as
major luxury brands herald a return to excellence, optimise brand
experiences (both online and offline) and cater to an increasingly large –
and diverse – group of consumers.
Fashion: Communication to Conversion
While the industry has historically captured and analysed data – be it retail
metrics or online analytics – the pioneers and forward-thinking brands are
just starting to use big data in a predictive way.
Where it was historically common to react to data points retroactively, new
technology platforms and partners can also predict future customer
behaviour with astounding accuracy.
This allows brands to detect customer drop-off earlier, take action to prevent
it and begin to deliver customers with an experience that is actually relevant
to them on an individual level, even though this happens automatically.
For example, a brand may have two customers who spend the same total
amount per year, but one customer spends this in a single transaction where
the other makes multiple, smaller purchases. These two customers are not
the same and by treating them differently, brands an actually help increase
growth and the bottom line.
In terms of overall trends, in 2011 our agenda was weighted in digital
branding and exploring the risks and opportunities that existed for fashion
and luxury brands on social media and ecommerce. Should a luxury brand
have a Facebook page? How should they collaborate with bloggers? How
should brands translate their offline store experience to an immersive web
store… that sort of thing.
Fast forward to this 2014 and brands will be much more focused on big
data, increasing conversion and tracking global consumers, which all says
that the industry is becoming much more driven by return on investment and
on using hard metrics to inform branding and marketing decisions.
The companies that have mastered how their brands should be conveyed
online are now primed to reap the financial rewards of implementing data
strategies, whereas the brands that still have not figured out how to express
their identities digitally will fall further behind.
China: Emerging Individualism
With the Chinese government’s anti-corruption campaign in high gear and a
global hifta way from logos, 2013 was all about ‘stealth wealth’. Instead, we
can now expect an emphasis on self-expression and individualism among
Chinese luxury consumers, with several developments paving the way for a
focus on shaping one’s personal taste. ‘Stealth wealth’ may have
emphasized blending in, but this coming year, Chinese luxury consumers will
be searching for ways to differentiate themselves from their peers. However,
think niche; not bling.
The government austerity drive continues and many wealthy consumers are
striving to avoid the label of baofahu, or nouveau riche.
While this year’s slowdown led to Bain & Company’s estimate of 2.5% luxury
sales growth for the China market, many smaller labels are nonetheless
seeing sales rise by double-digit rates. Businesses have decided that now is
the time to act upon this trend: niche label-heavy retailers 10 Corso Como,
Lane Crawford, and Galeries Lafayette all recently opened mainland
Smaller multi-brand boutiques are on the rise in both the brick-and-mortar
and e-commerce spheres.
Digital outlets for self-expression such as fashion blogs and new social
media platforms will shape tastes in the year to come, and retailers are
offering more special-edition and bespoke items, as well as VIP services, to
Brands should also take note of this trend’s global implications. More
Chinese tourists are traveling independently as their international luxury
spending grows, meaning that attracting these individualistic clients to
stores abroad is just as important as doing so at home.
Digital: Differentiated Devices
At a global level, the major trend we are seeing is more and more people
being connected and taking advantage of enhanced mobile phones and
faster bandwidth. This has resulted in a significant increase of time spent by
consumers online but also in more and more platforms that luxury brands
will have to consider.
Taking just the example of China, Apple announced a major agreement to
sell the iPhone, potentially putting the device in the hands of more than 700
million subscribers. Local competitors such as Xiaomi, remain slightly ahead
of Apple thanks to massive adoption but this could quickly change.
Finally, fast growing niche social networks such as Douban are becoming
key as a storytelling medium for luxury brands. Those very brands cannot go
against the grain and will have to build their visibility on key platforms by
creating highly differentiated marketing strategies, which will have to remain
consistent at an international level.
If you add on top the fact that e-Commerce is also showing strong promise,
with enhanced infrastructure and major luxury conglomerates in the starting
blocks, you have an overview of how complex the digital landscape has
become. More than ever, relying on strong intelligence analytics will be key
to separate the hype from reality and build long lasting relationship with
Superyachts: New Destinations
A major goal for the industry is still to ensure that capacity does not
significantly outweigh demand and five years after the GFC began 2013
marked an increase in activity levels, in both the new build sector and the
second hand brokerage market.
Boat show activity was strong, with all the major shows, including the
Monaco Yacht Show, reporting increased activity across the board. All this
proved a welcome sign for the shipyards and supply chain that support
2013 also marked the delivery of the world’s largest yacht, 180m Azzam, one
of a glut of 100m+ projects in build. Average yacht sizes continue to grow,
with the average yacht in build in 2013 reaching 50m thanks to interest in the
70m+ size bracket remaining high.
All indications for 2014 so far show that it will be shaped by the increased
levels of activity seen in the latter half of 2013 and we look forward to the
wide range of unique projects that will enter the order books of shipyards in
As for how owners use their yachts, one trend seen in 2013 that we would
expect to continue in 2014 is that there has been a growing popularity of
yachts venturing further off the Med and Caribbean milk run to more remote
destinations and we predict growing levels of infrastructure in these areas to
help meet demand.
Another trend not just for 2014, but in general, is that superyacht owners
demand the highest quality and standards and this continues to drive
innovation and technology throughout every aspect of the industry.
Increasing levels of efficiency and making superyachts ‘greener’ is still a
major focus for many industry experts.
More than anything focus remains on promoting the benefits of the lifestyle
that superyacht ownership brings, in order to attract new clientele to the
Jewellery: Rethinking Precious
Our fascination with top-quality coloured gemstones will only increase as
the best of the minesʼ yields dwindle away. So we can look forward to
more emeralds, rubies and sapphires of the highest quality in
spectacular settings. Colombian emeralds are enjoying an all-time high,
and this is set to continue. Pearls, like emeralds, are hugely in vogue
and designs are becoming more daring.
As a consequence we will see more of the lesser-known stones in unusual
shades beyond the more obvious neon-bright colours. I predict we will see
more of the shy hues of Spinels, Morganite and Kunzite, a trend on the rise
as seen in Louis Vuitton’s smoky purple spinel ring from the Voyage dans le
Temps collection and the smoky quartz and lavender jade as seen at Kiki
And with the Pantone Institute declaring Radiant Orchid the official colour of
2014, we will be welcoming all things purple. The possibilities are wide, from
the deep purple of amethyst, powdery lavender chalcedony, violet sapphires,
tourmalines, Spinels and jasper to the little-known bright-mauve Sugilite.
As for styles, expect to see more mashing up of colours, textures and
shapes while moving away from the more ornate and fantastical designs to
more abstract themes. I predict less in the way of jewels with elaborate lions,
spiders and flowers and more clean designs, like Boucheron’s Perles
The trend for micro-pavé-ing every flower petal and bee’s knee is also likely
to wane as we focus on the natural beauty of stones. At the same time, a
return to the glamour of the 1960s and early 70s is on the cards, with long
chains, wide bracelets and hoop earrings making an appearance towards
the end of the year.
Timepieces: Focus on the finest
All the watchmaking brands older than a century called upon the métiers
d’art in the past, as they were initially inseparable from the realm of fine
watchmaking, and today we are seeing a trend to revive and showcase this
expertise. Enamel artwork, miniature paintings, lacquering, engraving,
skeletonizing, guillochage and marquetry are all métiers and skills that are
finding favour once again with watchmakers and a clientele in search of
These unique and highly desirable areas of expertise constitute a part of the
added value of haute horlogerie watches. In the future, they will represent
the difference between exceptional watchmaking and more ordinary
timepieces. This should be confirmed by the unveiling of numerous skeleton
or enamelled watches in 2014. After a record year in 2013, the watchmaking
industry will continue to perform well in 2014, particularly the high-end range
which incorporates most of the Swiss sector. The “métiers d’art” trend will
translate into a more global approach – one that sees customers looking for
solid values on the one hand, and rare or unique models on the other. The
aim today for all high-end brands is to stand out from their competitors with
their products, and to constantly highlight their differences or particularities.
To do this, they are increasingly introducing more métiers in-house, to gain
more independence and to master rare skills. The métiers d’art are one of
the fields of expertise that benefit from being performed in-house.
Travel: the Next Frontier
In the travel and tourism industry 2014 will see a continued heightened
interest in cultivating Ultra High Net Worth/High Net Worth consumers, the
so called ‘one percent’.
For many years, many travel marketers spent much of their time trying to get
on ‘the bucket list’ for aspirational consumers.
What they found is that these travellers if and when they came had limited
spending power, and once they came, checked off the box unlikely to return.
By contrast the tastes of UHNW travellers turns out to be as diverse as their
pockets are deep.
While private jet setters avail themselves of multi-thousand dollar a night
suites and commonly drop four digits on dinner, they spend over $5 billion
per year on adventure travel, be it trekking on glaciers in Norway, salmon
fishing in Scotland or swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico.
Investment Tourism will be the buzzword for 2014. Tourism Australia
launched a formalized program to help match UHNW visitors with
investment opportunities and several other countries are poised to do the
Iceland for example is planning to take advantage of its unique mid-Atlantic
location that makes it a refuelling stop for private jets. A program to entice
private jet travellers into spending a couple days and then coming back to
invest is being launched in 2014. www.fdmre.com