With rising brand awareness, education levels and extensive travel, the Indian consumer has a good understanding of global fashion trends
I start my piece with the understanding that the Indian luxury consumer is slightly different from the global luxury buyer. Most luxury brands come with a legacy and unmatched heritage. However, it is vital for them to understand the consumer mindset and adapt accordingly to survive in the long run. Local strategies need to be maneuvered in a specific direction to capture the local customer. Having said that, the Indian luxury consumer is a global one in terms of awareness levels who has a global outlook towards life and looks forward to new experiences.
With rising brand awareness, education levels and extensive travel, the Indian consumer has a good understanding of global fashion trends. But at the same time, this is a very price- and quality-conscious consumer who looks for a value proposition when buying luxury items.
In fact, the Indian consumer can be broadly classified into three categories — first, the SEC A1 / NCCA A1, who are well-educated professionals working at large corporates. Second, the ultra high net worth individuals, who are second-generation industrialists and promoters; they have Indian ethos but own luxury goods. Lastly, the aspirational consumers, who belong to a much younger demographic and are fashion and lifestyle conscious. These are the upwardly mobile youth who aspire to own luxury goods and thrive on the experience that comes with it. As a matter of fact, the aspirational youth is currently one of the fastest growing demographics in India, and the sudden shift from old money to new money has marked a paradigm shift in the way Indians spend. Social media is a huge influencer for this younger aspirational luxury consumer. Peer groups play an important role in influencing lifestyle choices of this section and so do influencers from Bollywood and sports, mainly cricket.
To engage with this rapidly growing consumer base, whether the old moneyed lot or the newer tasters of luxury, brands need to pay heed to a few aspects that cannot be compromised. The most important being high service standards and quality of product. The Indian mindset by and large expects a certain degree of pampering and attention, especially if they are spending large amounts of money on a product. After-sales service is imperative, and quality of product is not a negotiable value even if luxury products are bought at discounts.
Attention to customers’ needs is instrumental in determining if a customer is a one-time walk-in or a future loyalist. Hence, the most important asset of a brand is its sales ambassadors. The only points of contact between a brand and the customer are the sales staff and fashion consultants at the shop floor. They need to be well versed with every aspect of the brand they represent, whether it is brand heritage or product knowledge and, they need to look and dress the part. Loyalty and rewards programmes also work well as a tool to create customer stickiness. This is far better than offering simple discounts that over a period of time dilute brand values.
Gifting is the other large culture trait that brands can explore to grow their businesses, especially around key festivals such as Diwali, Raksha Bandhan or even Karva Chauth. With corporate gifting on the rise, the Indian consumer has become even more familiar with the extent of the product range that is available with various luxury brands. Luxury brands need to go far deeper than creating a business; they need to ‘create an experience’. Customisation is becoming a rising trend that must be addressed by brands to ensure their clients walk out happy and become ambassadors themselves. It could be a simple monogrammed bag in some cases or a made-to-measure suit, which defines the next level of consumer experience.
Home shopping is another peculiar cultural aspect of luxury sales in India. Since times immemorial, the rich have shopped from the comforts of their homes. The trend exists even now, and luxury brands service the needs of their high- ticket clients through this route. It also works well in tier-II and tier-III cities where brand stores are not present.
Last but not the least, e-commerce is finally becoming an important sales route in India. More and more people are shopping online for the convenience it offers. Luxury brands also need to accept this evolution in consumers’ shopping habits and jump on the bandwagon in a way the global image of brands is not compromised. People expect the same experience in India, as they would get shopping on any global luxury e-commerce portal. Going ahead, both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores will work together in bringing home the brand experience.