The Modern Luxury Consumer

By Alison Gough

Luxury consumer desires are shifting. As experience overtakes possession, and time becomes more valuable, services that offer personal enrichment will hold appeal.

Here are three key desires of the modern luxury consumer and how to win them over:

1. Increased return on time

Attitudes towards holidays and getaways are changing as the impact of always-on, fast-paced work lives ricochets into other lifestyle concerns. As luxury consumers take a more considered approach to how they spend their time, shorter breaks that deliver super-charged replenishment are replacing the previous appeal of far-flung destinations and traditional beach holidays.

Catering to time-poor, experience-hungry professionals, some travel companies are tapping into the idea of offering ‘snack-sized’ stays. Emerging from London, travel company Much Better Adventures offers mini adventures, or ‘Epic Weekends’, such as kayaking in the Norwegian fjords that ‘supersize’ a weekend. Also tapping into this concept, luxury river cruise operator Uniworld is launching a compressed, eight-day, European river cruise. Passengers have the opportunity to visit some of Europe’s biggest festivals and choose from a catalogue of planned excursions, from street-art tours to wine-tasting trips.

Consideration of time is equally pertinent when it comes to the beauty and spa industries, with luxury micro therapies offering burnt-out high flyers a quick fix.

Tapping into this idea, The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong now offers Shirodhara – an ancient Ayurvedic technique where a constant stream of warm oil is poured onto the forehead. The 20-minute treatment is said to equate to six hours of deep sleep and could be fitted around even the busiest of schedules.

For those with more time on their hands, the Recharge facial, developed by London-based facialist Joanne Evans, is marketed as a two-and-a-half-hour wellbeing treatment to help business clients “maintain the balance between demanding work schedules and well-deserved pampering”. Its work-refresh spin shrewdly pinpoints the opportunities for brands to target professionals and frequent travellers.

Takeaway insight: Give the gift of time

Time remains one of the few things that money can buy and yet one of life’s biggest luxuries. As luxury consumers find it harder to switch off, services and treatments that force users to engage in more mindful practices, or that mould around busy agendas will resonate.

2. Convenience and discovery

As luxury consumers look to make every minute count, there is a growing expectation for on-demand services to match their busy in-transit lifestyles. The on-demand economy attracts +22.4m global consumers annually, and $57bn in spending (National Technology Readiness Survey, 2016), while UK technologists HotelEtail report that hotels providing an exclusive brand product presence via delivery or a hotel shop have seen average revenues grow by £1,500 ($1,865) per room per year.

As such, convenience-centric retail services, especially those that retain an elite flavour, are becoming a key trump card for hotels against ‘homestay’ rivals such as Airbnb.

In the UK, fashion e-rental business Girl Meets Dress’s partnership with W Hotel London allows guests to borrow a designer outfit via the 24-hour Whatever/Whenever concierge service app. A rail of dresses is brought to the room along with an iPad for viewing the retailer’s archive, with same-day delivery for orders made before 2pm.

Additionally, rooms at W Hollywood are supplied with a menu of clothing by US streetwear label ADBD, which can be ordered and delivered 24/7 via room service.

Tapping into the traveling luxury consumer, passengers on Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific can shop luxury e-tail sites Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter using in-flight wi-fi on their mobile devices. Items are delivered straight to their hotel rooms, available same-day in London and New York.

Takeaway insight: Tap the on-demand economy

The on-demand economy is booming. Speedy concierge-style mixes of retail and hospitality can create best-of-both-worlds service scenarios that satisfy luxury consumer desire for convenience and delight.

3. Full wellbeing

Today’s luxury consumer is seeking absolute wellbeing: choosing products, services and experiences that deliver holistic inner and outer results. This desire is motivating these individuals to infuse travel with self-growth opportunities, seeking emotional connection and meaningful memories.

In fact, travel companies report that the number of people taking faith-based vacations is up as much as 164% in the last five years, even at a time when the fastest-growing religious category in the US is no religious affiliation at all, according to Pew Research.

Seattle-based company TCS World Travel’s Distant Masters trip consists of a 21-day tour across Asia that focuses on longevity, health and spirituality. It stops at religious sites like Amritsar in India and Paro in Bhutan.

Luxury spas are also championing the addition of ancient and spiritual rituals. The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong recently introduced crystal healing with sound bowl therapy, signifying a move towards more subtle treatments. Targeting professionals, UK-based therapist Katie Light has developed The Light Technique – a blend of ancient and contemporary mind and body therapies including Reiki. Just 15 minutes of Reiki can be effective, and clients can stay fully clothed.

Meanwhile offering luxury travellers the opportunity to tell a meaningful story of who they are, London travel start-up Travel Unwrapped creates custom journeys for clients based on their DNA. A world map of genetically relevant (and often surprising) countries is created, and then subsequently designed into a trip itinerary. Travellers can opt to be accompanied by a genealogist.

Takeaway insight: Offer total wellbeing

Services and experiences that focus on mindfulness, personal journeys and heightened senses are holding real appeal with luxury consumers seeking total wellbeing. Consider ways to support these individuals more holistically as a way to build loyalty.

About the author

Alison Gough is Senior US Analyst at Stylus, the global innovation research and advisory company.

She oversees Stylus' US-specific research and has more than 12 years' experience as an editor and analyst specialising in consumer attitudes. A seasoned traveller, the breadth of her knowledge stretches across multiple consumer industries, regions and demographics. Alison previously worked as a forecaster at WGSN and at Peclers Paris.

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