Luxury market has been growing steadily in India. According to a recent study ‘India Luxury Review 2011’ jointly conducted by CII and AT Kearney, the growth has been a healthy 20 per cent over last year for a market that worth approximate Rs 28,000 crore today. While global luxury brands like Louis Vitton, Versace, Fendi, Gucci, Dior have already grounded their feet, there are many more lining up to enter the markets in the next few years. The interesting fact revealed in the study is that the cities fuelling the growth of this market are not only the metropolitan cities but also cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Chandigarh and more. Luxury brands in the jewellery, cars, electronics, dining, apparel, accessories and wines have grown beyond the category growth.
But with all these brands synonymous with big names, similar product offerings, what is the factor that differentiates one from the other? While paying a premium price for the brands, what exactly differentiates the experience of consumer with these brands?
Service – believe the leaders of the luxury market.
For Dilip Puri, MD, India & Regional Vice President, South Asia, Starwood Hotels, that has chain of hotels like Le Meridien, Sheraton, Westin, The Luxury Collection and more, it is all about personalizing the experience. He elaborates, “Premium consumers are paying price that high so that they have a unique experience. We have leveraged technology in order to make sure that we personalize the experience of our guests to the finest detail. They can choose the rooms, ambience, music, colours and everything before even entering the hotel. You have to be a trend setter in order to find trend seekers.”
According to Kannan Gopalakrishnan, Director – Retail, Nokia India Pvt. Ltd, with the rise of the economy, the purchasing power of the middle class has also grown. Subsequently, when lines discriminating the consumers are fading away, it is the service at the end point that generates sales. He explains, “Consumers today want to upgrade their life. The lines are constantly blurring. It is all about the personalized and individualized attention that can work wonders for your brand, as though the consumer may be ready to buy the product, it is all about the conversation before the purchase.”
Use of Digital is also a trend luxury brands are following, especially in the financial services segment. To cite an example- American Express partnered with LinkedIn to create customized marketing solutions. It leveraged the large pool of premium customers on the professional networking platform offering them former’s premium services. Speaking on the idea behind the initiative, Shailesh Baidwan, CEO, American Express Banking Corp said, “Digital has really become the key medium now as it helps in finding new consumers, interacting with the on-going consumers, mails and social networks. It is also immensely helpful because our target consumers are so busy; they are always on move and hardly have time. Moreover, there are enough barriers before reaching the person. But if a consumer is more internet savvy, it is easy to reach them digitally and interact with them as per their convenience.”
Apart from service, an important facet of this Industry is also people. Shailesh highlights how brands operating in the service industry and the luxury space need to have highly motivated, talented and skilled human resource.
Putting things into perspective and explaining the reason behind choosing ‘Trends in Customer Service’ as the theme for the CEO Breakfast Forum, Nidhi Seth, CEO, The Luxury Marketing Council, India explained, “Customer service is very important in every industry, whether it is telecom, automobile or regular service industries like hotels, airlines and financial. How a consumer would differentiate your product other than the features is on the basis of your services. The consumer in India now is well travelled and well read so the importance of customer service has increased all the more. In order to keep an edge, brands have to focus on post-delivery services as well. Great service can pull back your customer for loyalty and with the ripple effect adding more customers. Better services and the ripple effect created through that are the best form of marketing. A good service drives perception about your brand.”