EJ Feulner is managing director of Elite Home Technologies, the luxury division of HiFi House in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @ejfiii.Suddenly luxury is everywhere. Like the Neo clones in The Matrix, you can’t escape it. And surprisingly, we are not the only industry waking up to the opportunities that this market offers. Search Amazon.com books for the word “luxury,” and you’ll not find a single book in the top 12 results written before 2008. If the world’s book publishers are just waking up to this “new market,” then our little corner of the CE industry can be forgiven for finally recognizing the opportunities that this market offers.
Luxury is as old as human history itself. Look at the opulent lives of the nobility in ancient Egypt and Greece and the patricians in the Roman Empire. More recently, look at the British elites made famous on Downton Abbey. How big was the luxury market for the technician that installed the single telephone at Downton during season two? It was as big for him as it is for us. Just like today, wealthy individuals were spending on new luxury technologies like cars, telephones, washing machines, and cooking devices. Technology was rapidly transforming the daily lives of many people, but one had to be able to afford the lifestyle it offered.
Fast forward to today and you have technology driving the new industrial revolution. Names like Morgan and Rockefeller have yielded to Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, and Brin and Page. Sure, oil companies are still among our largest corporations, yet it is the tech companies that continue to grow, evolve, and drive our economy, creating millions of luxury consumers for us to pursue.
As last year’s presidential candidates told us–over and over again–there are more millionaires and billionaires in the United States than ever before. But is this anecdotal metric the only way to define the luxury market? It’s a starting point, but there is so much more.
The luxury client expects a luxury buying experience.There is a whole industry dedicated to studying wealth and luxury, and we can learn from this research. The most telling stat that I have uncovered is this one from the American Affluence Research Center: “Only about one percent of U.S. consumers are familiar with the price points and brands of products and services generally considered to be true luxury.” And, the top one percent of all U.S. consumers making up the luxury market earns 14 percent of the total income in the country, accounting for 20 percent of all consumer spending.
Now how do we capture this one-percent luxury buyer and make them our clients? Some of these luxury consumers want the high-end products our industry offers from companies like Meridian Audio, Sumiko, Wilson Audio, and others. And yet brands, products, and names are only one part of it.
Jaguar/Land Rover defines its luxury market as “a brand to aspire to.” Spend some time in one of these dealerships, look past the shiny sheet metal and you will find upscale furnishings, comfortable waiting areas, beverage and snack centers, and a relaxed buying experience.
Luxury consumers building and remodeling their homes typically have architects, designers, agents, and other trusted consultants on their teams. By speaking their language, using their tools–like AutoCAD, producing professional documentation, treating their client’s as you do your own, and ultimately making it easier for them to integrate electronics into their designs, you can place yourself on the same team working on the same projects.
At the end of the day, the luxury client wants the same thing every client does: an easy-to-operate system that works with 99.9-percent reliability and that is quickly and cleanly installed in their homes by professionals during standard working hours. And most importantly, they want to know that when that 0.01-percent happens and they have to call you to fix it, you will answer the phone and quickly solve the problem.
The luxury client expects a luxury buying experience. By finding inspiration from other luxury industries, offering luxury products and services, and partnering with luxury consultants, we can position our companies to capture this market.