While the luxury market experienced a “transformation” last year, according to ForwardPMX’s annual analysis, this year marks an “acceleration” in that change “as emerging challengers, up-and-coming generations of tastemakers, and disruptive business models are altering the luxury market,” researchers said in their report — which was released today.
The 23-page report, which examined online luxury brands, is packed with insights on the how and why of U.S. consumer luxury shopping. The report includes demographic details, brand site traffic and market share, and vignettes of some key online luxury brands.
Regarding this year’s brand traffic results, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren took the top two spots in online market share, and were followed by Louis Vuitton, Coach, Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Hermès, Dior and Saint Laurent Paris.
“The top 10 brands account for 76 percent of all traffic to the luxury category,” authors of the report said. “Online market share for Louis Vuitton and Gucci is up 7 percent and 10 percent, respectively, while Coach was flat year-over-year. Fenty, the first fashion house launched by LVMH since the 1980s and headed by Rihanna, is too new to measure market share for the last 12 months. But it already had top 20-scale market share (1.1 percent ) based on May 2019 data alone.”
Looking at demographics, ForwardPMX found that Millennials “now make up the largest percentage of visitors to luxury sites, at 20.3 percent.” With traffic sources, nearly 52 percent is via search engines. “Search engines account for more than half of all referred visits to luxury brand sites,” the authors of the report noted. “Nearly all of this is Google, and a large share of this traffic comes from paid ads.”
Glenn Lalich, vice president of research at ForwardPMX, cautioned against taking a cursory glance at various data points to draw a conclusion. “Some of the more transformative changes taking place for luxury are less about a single data point and more about connecting the dots,” Lalich told WWD.
“The number of young luxury shoppers is growing, and there is clear data around that,” Lalich said. “Product search data also points to youthful changes in styles and product lines (e.g., sportswear, streetwear). And growth in site visits to specific brands (some notable newer brands in particular), brand searches, non-brand shopping sites, and social media engagement scores all point to a changing generational worldview, with themes focused on sustainability, diversity, collaboration and relevance.”
When asked what is luxury’s greatest challenge, or its greatest opportunity, brand heritage and identity came to mind. “One of luxury’s current challenges is feeling a growing need — perceived or real — to be all things to all people,” he said. “Or, at least to be more things to more luxury shoppers. And while there’s risk there, I think it’s also a golden opportunity for brands to rethink, reevaluate and realign — to spin off special collaborations and collections, to experiment, to test — while maintaining a strong underlying sense of brand identity throughout.”
Accounting for demographic cohorts, Lalich said there are differences in how they connect to luxury brands. “We hear that younger audiences are less interested in a brand’s heritage, but they certainly have an interest in a brand’s success and prestige,” he said. “Similarly, older buyers may not be driving a push toward sustainability or collaboration, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in new product lines or partnerships.”
In the report, researchers said success is “no longer exclusively reliant on heritage in this burgeoning world of luxe, with digital significantly leveling the field and paving the way for consumers to discover and interpret the brands that best suit their tastes and lifestyles.”
Traditionally, the authors noted, legacy brands may have found themselves “on the defensive, many are now stepping out with more risk-taking, bolder experimentation, and, perhaps, a greater inclination to self-disrupt and seek opportunities that help to redefine brand identity.”
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