Convenience and Luxury go arm in arm
Luxury is traditionally perceived to be synonymous with slowness and exclusive access, while convenience has become synonymous with mass market appeal and quick transactions. But the two are no longer mutually exclusive, in an age where luxury has come to mean all things to all people.
Luxury goods can now be bought online with the swipe of our finger, and more brands are acknowledging their diverse audiences by focusing on the individual. Although highly personal, as a whole luxury now strives to provide consumers with experiences and meaningful connections, over product alone. It’s also increasingly come to mean convenience, whether it be physical comfort or an increasing reliance on technology to handle our lifestyle needs. Convenience is no longer the reserve of non-luxury shoppers, and our dependency on it brings about new ways of looking at how we shop, and what luxury retail could look like in the near future.
With convenience comes comfort, and that’s no better exemplified than in fashion. Trainers have stolen the gold trophy of high fashion—selling out worldwide last year, Balenciaga’s hyped Speed Trainer retails at £495, while Louis Vuitton’s Archlight Trainer retails at £780. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the comfortable feet wrappers were once the domain of sportswear, long before they were enthusiastically swept up by the biggest names in luxury fashion. Trainers have found their way into luxury, thanks to the convenience of comfort.
Retail has continually strived to be more convenient, so convenient in fact, that it’s moved into our homes. Whether it be shopping for a new item of clothing on our phones or booking a holiday using our virtual assistants, technology has become more intimate than ever before and our reliance for it to manage and even predict our lifestyle needs has grown.
Unlike Millennials, Generation-Z were born into an era of technology—so for them, convenience is a given. But for this generation’s older peers who remember a time without, luxury can take the form of shopping without having to queue or lug full bags home. But, never mind having to scroll through your phone or laptop at home, when you can now tell Alexa to do it for you—indeed more and more of us are. Even though many of us argue it’s more convenient, is online shopping really luxurious without a face to speak to or the ability to feel a garment in person?
Perhaps the one thing that’s more important to us than convenience as consumers, is the ability to make meaningful connections in person. Consumers’ craving for bricks and mortar retail, particularly in luxury, is here to stay— previously online only retailers are opening bricks-and-mortar spaces. But that doesn’t mean convenience is out of the picture.
A few years ago, we thought virtual changing rooms fitted in physical shops would revolutionise retail. Seemingly a great idea, as it would afford customers the convenience of trying on outfits with the swipe of a hand, and the ability for retailers to collect in-depth data about customer preferences and the saleability of their products. But in fact, the triumph of convenience in luxury retail, is that it frees up time for brands to focus on nurturing those meaningful connections that consumers crave, in store.
Far from plastering physical shops with screens and tablets, retailers should be utilising technology not as a showpiece, but rather an invisible assistant that frees up staff’s time to make human connections with shoppers. Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology is an example of how technology can be used in a seamless way, to enhance and not overtake, a physical shopping experience. It enables shoppers to pick up groceries without having to scan our queue, all they have to do is download an app, scan a QR code upon entry, shop, and breeze out. Though not necessarily luxury, “Just Walk Out” is an example of how the cumbersome and boring parts of the physical shopping experience can be forgone and instead focused on high quality service that enhances consumers’ lives. Other technologies similar to “Just Walk Out” could mark the start of an age in luxury retail, in which the meaning of service is redefined.
For many, convenience is a form of luxury enabled by technology. But, our virtual assistants and glass screens still have a large void to fill if they were going to completely take over retail. Luxury can be made better with convenience, not for the sake of technology, but rather for consumers to be able to experience meaningful connections with people in store.