The luxury market looks set to face its fair share of challenges in 2019.
The recent growth this high-end sector has been experiencing — thanks in part to China’s booming consumer market — is predicted to start slowing down in 2019. The stock market is expected to see some turbulence due to a number of factors. Ongoing trade tensions between the US and China aren’t going to help matters. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of Brexit.
However, it’s not necessarily all bad. According to the Luxury Institute, affluent consumers are expected to spend even more on luxury purchases this year, particularly in China, Western Europe and – perhaps most surprisingly of all – the UK.
So what does this mean for luxury brands? We spoke to Toby Edwards, Managing Director of private jet charter service Victor, to find out.
“Ultimately, luxury brands cannot afford to sit back in today’s fast-paced world,” Edwards reveals. “Today’s luxury sector customers are particularly demanding, so the experience is key: if they have a great experience they will tell people about it and keep coming back to you. This builds your future success.”
More and more, time is money
In the face of more demanding consumers, time itself becomes a luxury, so a priority for Victor is the efficiency and seamlessness of their service.
“For example, you can turn up to the private terminal just 10 minutes before take-off,” the Managing Director explains. “The time-saving benefits of jet charter allow fliers to better juggle their hectic commitments. That, for them, is true luxury.”
The influencer economy is on the rise
Affluent millennials are certainly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Not only are the rich getting richer, with the wealth of global HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals) expected to reach $100 trillion by 2025, they’re also getting younger.
In fact, it has been predicted that millennials and Generation Z will make up more than 40% of the overall luxury goods market by then too.
“Luxury is becoming more accessible, in tandem with the rise of the affluent millennial consumer,” explains Edwards. “We know that today’s customer values experiences over things, just as access has triumphed over ownership.”
Indeed, according to the Luxury Institute, digital-focused millennials are beginning to see brand heritage and history as a far less important attribute than quality, design, exclusivity and customer service.
In order to stay relevant, then, reveals Edwards, luxury brands will need to start balancing tradition with innovation. And, with the technology available to start-ups today, more and more doors and opening for new companies.
“As such, we offer a unique mix of ‘high-tech’ innovation and ‘high-touch’ customer service,” he tells us. “Customers can quickly and clearly book with us via website, app or phone call to one of our 24-7 flight management experts.”
But this technology needs more emotional intelligence
It’s not just about using data and technology to make things smarter or more high-tech. Rather, it’s about harnessing this power and reach to improve and humanise the consumer experience. In short, the tech needs to have a human side.
“For Victor,” says Edwards, “business and leisure travellers have different requirements. That means they need a different approach.
“Data can help drive specific audience targeting, allowing luxury brands to better engage with customers and, ultimately, deliver the experience those customers want.”
And that’s not the only benefit of rapidly-evolving tech in business. Companies can now open effective two-way dialogues between themselves and their customers. That means that blanket communication and mass email, which often alienated consumers, is a thing of the past. Used smartly, technology can feel human, and heighten the customer experience.
Does social media get a thumbs-down?
No doubt affected by the headlines surrounding Facebook last year, the watchwords for the wealthy in 2019 looks set to be privacy and security. But does that mean that social media will soon fall from grace, and see luxury brands removing themselves from these once-popular platforms?
“Social media is a vital tool for talking to our customer base these days,” counters Edwards, “and a great way to hear new ideas from them, with which we can further upgrade our offering.”
Last year, for example, Victor launched Alto, the world’s first global frequent-flier points programme for private jet charter. They also launched a carbon-offsetting programme with BP Target Neutral, so that when customers fly with an ever-expanding line-up of operators, Victor can purchase carbon credits that help fund environmental projects around the world at no extra cost to them.
They even introduced fine-dining at altitude, in partnership with Moët Hennessy and On Air Dining, which we gleefully tucked into last year, thereby ruining all other plane food for us forever. For Victor, ‘luxury’ is all about making everyday experiences more unique for the individual.
“These additions have enhanced our exclusivity,” notes Edwards, “as well as the quality of our travel experience,” says Edwards.
And, while Edwards admits that there is some uncertainty for the private aviation and luxury industries around Brexit, he’s confident nonetheless.
“The Victor team is as committed as ever to upgrading the private jet experience,” he signs off. “And we’re looking forward to further growth and progress in 2019.”