Luxury Executives Identify Top Priorities For 2018, Focus On Orchestrating Harmony Between Online And In-Store Presence

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - February 01, 2018) - Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza addressed the sixth annual Luxury FirstLook 2018: Exclusivity Redefined conference, a forum for luxury business issues organized by Luxury Daily, and attended by executives from dozens of firms that operate in luxury goods and services categories. Joined by Luxury Daily Editor in Chief Mickey Alam Khan, Pedraza provided year-ahead outlooks for several luxury categories, along with insights into consumer shopping preferences.

The information exchange went both ways, as Pedraza asked attendees to identify the one thing they must do in terms of personnel and operations in 2018. The resulting list of top priorities reflects the focus of most luxury brand executives on integrating a consistent company culture and customer experience across all selling channels.

1. Remove operational obstacles to sharing relevant data in a timely manner. There is an urgent need not only to collect high-quality data, but to analyze it and turn it into actionable information throughout the organization. Companies are pulling in vast amounts of data from internal and external sources. The information is a tremendous resource to leverage, but it tends to exist within silos at big companies. Retail stores are rarely able to access important real-time data they need to make critical decisions on promotions, inventory, staffing, and budgeting. Making information available to people when they need it is a huge priority.

2. Create closer alignment between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sales. Luxury brands need to orchestrate a symbiotic harmony between online and in-store channels to create a true omnichannel customer experience. Online sales represent a growing portion of total revenue across industries, but a vast majority of sales in most categories still happen in stores. From online sales, to chat bots, to self-service kiosks in stores, customers are demanding the intelligent application of technology to make their lives more convenient, without compromising the benefits of the human touch.

3. Make it my business to be a problem-solver throughout the company. Executives need to act like internal consultants and constantly question the way things are done, with a keen eye for process improvement in all areas of the business. Sales associates also need to behave more like internal consultants in order to solve big problems. Success comes when the executive ranks support the sales people, and the sales people are then better able to serve clients.

4. As chief executive, I will visit each of our retail stores and get directly involved with employees and customers. Many CEOs lack empathy for employees and have a very poor understanding of what's really happening within their distribution channels. Without knowing about the on-the-ground situation at the store level, executives cannot make good decisions about where to allocate resources. They need to engage in stores, and, where possible, sending hand-written notes to key customers to thank them for their business.

5. Establish a culture driven by the company's purpose. Par for the course in luxury is to deliver superior quality and superior service. What's also required to thrive is superior culture, something that creates an honest and emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. Every brand needs to have a "why" and a "how", something that speaks to a driving principle and the humanity of how it delivers value for employees and customers.

6. Provide salespeople with augmented access to technology that gives them new ways of responding to client needs. Technology maintenance and upgrades are among the biggest costs of doing business these days, so it pays to take a fresh look at how that money is being spent. Most salespeople will tell you that they are not really supported in their jobs by technology. IT budgets are too often eaten up by rollouts and upgrades that fail to improve business function, while sacrificing relatively simple solutions like providing associates with tablets for transactions and accessing customer data. Find out what they need to make them perform better, and give it to them.

7. Make sure that your brand's DNA is instilled in every employee of the company. Consistency is key. Evaluate the customer journey and how they experience your brands. Make sure that the path is very clear from first sight through the purchase and on to the next engagement. High-performance client relationship building starts with uncompromisingly selecting the right people for human values more than their existing job skills, then providing online and offline learning opportunities, and empowering them to be creative and innovative with each individual client.

"The good news is that leaders of luxury firms are asking the right kinds of questions about creating a consistent culture across their organizations while using technology to help front-line personnel serve customers better," says Pedraza. "The big challenge ahead is whether companies will make the necessary investments in technology and people along with needed changes in organizational structure to create an optimal high-performance environment."

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