LONDON — Possessing a strong sense of identity — rather than flashing a brand name, logo or pattern — has become a priority among luxury consumers, according to a new, and unconventional, report that opted not to ask consumers the usual quantitative questions about their spending habits.
Instead, The Wednesday Report, which will be released today by the eponymous creative agency, looks more at luxury consumers’ hearts and souls, and how emotions and a sense of self are impacting consumption today.
The report, which was compiled in May, points to a shift in shopping patterns, with consumers prioritizing “Who I am” over “What I have,” and choosing brands to showcase their values.
Tammy Smulders, president at Wednesday London who put together the report, asked 2,250 international luxury consumers questions such as, “What is the best compliment you can receive?” The most popular answer was “unique,” the second was “tastemaker” and the third, “caring.”
In an interview Smulders, a former president at Vice Media and global managing director at LuxHub, said she and the agency Wednesday wanted to look at the new macro-influences on consumption, get under the skin of a variety of luxury consumers, and figure out how people’s priorities were evolving. Their sample was an even split of men and women ranging in age from 20 to 65.
The report is not for sale, and will be sent to chief executive officers and chief marketing officers in the fashion and luxury world. The Wednesday team plans to use the data and insights to inform future ad campaigns and brand projects. Wednesday’s clients include Louis Vuitton, Sephora, Neiman Marcus, H&M and Bang & Olufsen.
“As a creative agency, it’s our job to create things that connect with people, things that are interesting to people and that pull at them. We wanted to get to the bottom of what those factors are, and to help the brands understand who their customer is,” she said.
Wednesday’s global ceo Alex Schneider said the company initially wanted to do the research “because we recognized there was an opportunity to produce a proprietary study that could help answer — or validate — some distinct trends we were seeing in luxury and fashion.”
Schneider said Wednesday values data and insights as a core part of its global service, and the report will form an important part of the agency’s “strategic arsenal.”
The Wednesday Report lays bare just how big personal identity — and identifying with a community — is becoming.
Smulders has dedicated a whole section to retail stores as brand “embassies,” and calls the act of waiting in line outside a store — for limited-edition or one-off products — an experience in itself. She said the decision to join the line and wait — often for hours on end — is all about identity, finding your “people” and reconfirming your stance about an idea or a brand.
While experience — and community — continue to be important, Wednesday also found that customers have turned back the clock in some ways, and are spending on “things” rather than “memories.” Asked what they valued more, 58 percent of respondents across the world and all age demographics said “things,” while 42 percent said “memories.”
Those things they’re buying vary by age group: In one part of the report, Wednesday looked at a series of big luxury brands and saw that as customer groups get older, they get “excited” by different product categories: For the 20- to 25-year-olds, it’s sneakers; for the 26 to 35 crowd, it’s handbags, while for 36- to 55-year-olds, it’s jewelry.
According to the report, about one-third of consumers surveyed shopped in single-brand stores, with the other two-thirds split between multibrand and department stores. Some 66 percent of those who shop in single-brand stores said they go for the experience, because they know the people who work there or because it makes them feel closer to the brand.
Smulders also addresses brands’ playbooks, and how they have changed in the past few years: Not long ago, brands felt the need to tout their heritage and craftsmanship skills and support some kind of cultural thing — the art fair, the artist’s installation, the opera, or the auction house.
Today, brands are trying to telegraph “meaningfulness” or stand for something, such as Gucci with Chime for Change. Smulders pointed out during the interview that history and craftsmanship are not necessarily top-of-mind when a consumer makes a luxury purchase.
The Wednesday Report also addresses the secondhand market and sustainability issues, with 45 percent of 20- to 25-year-olds saying they “actively” look for, and value, brand ethics and sustainable policies, while 35 percent of 26- to 35-year-olds said the same.
Those same age ranges are big supporters of secondhand fashion and luxury. Some 36 percent of 20- to 25-year-olds said the secondhand market offers an opportunity to purchase “unique, self-defining items,” while 30 percent of the 26- to 35-year-olds said the same.
Wednesday looked at consumers from the U.S., the U.K., China, France and Italy, and it’s clear from the charts that China is at the forefront of all of the major trends.
The Chinese who took part in the study plan to spend more on luxury than any other country over the next 12 months, and they are the biggest group that craves the latest items and experiences. They also have the lowest appetite for discounted luxury, which should come as good news to any brand looking to build a full-price business in the region.