“It can seem like the luxury industry had baby boomer sensibilities, and then went into hibernation during the recession, and has since re-emerged with millennial sensibilities,” said Stephen Kraus, chief insights officer at research firm Ipsos MediaCT.
The “millennial sensibilities” adapted by the luxury industry are the effect of an emerging digital mindset. A recent Martini Report, which surveys affluent audiences online, shows that younger consumers in particular are increasingly comfortable making high-end purchases online.
Where it once would have been unthinkable not to see and touch a luxury product before making a purchase, digital media has supplanted in-person sales associates and recommendations from family or friends as the most trusted source for luxury product research.
This is all pointedly relevant for a brand like Sotheby’s, which is now presenting some of the world’s leading art online. (Today’s live auctions included limited edition or one-of-a-kind prints from some of America’s most renowned photographers, including Ansel Adams, Walker Evans and Diane Arbus.)
As consumer sentiments around luxury continue to trend toward quality over exclusivity, utility over status, expect to see many of the world’s premier brands, from Rolex to Porsche, respond in kind to the creeping advances of technology powerhouses like Google and Apple, who aim at a broader swath of consumers and emphasize functionality over opulence.