Luxury Experience On Mobile – Part I


When the frenzy really exploded back in 1998-99, it was more about the handset than cool iPhone widgets or GPS on your mobile. RIM had just convinced CSFB in London to do an exclusive pilot for their investment bankers to carry Blackberries, the must-have phone that half of Wall Street enjoyed already just for the email. I used to call them the Millenium Falcon or the waffle machines. My friends in Canary Wharf did not see the joke. They were ecstatic about their thumb-rolling toy whereas I, a spoiled for design NOKIA kid, all I could see was a bulky piece of kit with no multimedia.

In 2000 Italy had saturated its mobile market with more phones than population and Spain was closely by. Of course it all had to do with people owning up to two or three pre-paid contracts, each one coming with a handset, and many had dropped their fix-line telephony at home as mobile tariffs were cheaper. The tariff madness and the get-customers-at-all-costs was at the top of the list of every local mobile operator. In places like Mexico City some even walked about with mobile phones that would ring and they would talk into but there would be no one at the other end because these handsets were just fakes, and would ring only so you would look fancy and important talking into what looked like the latest NOKIA. Yes, the handset was an item of fashion. Italian business men started the trend of arriving to a restaurant and elegantly and non-chalantly placing their beautiful latest model handset on the tablecloth, next to the bread dish. Before it was the car keys, and now a wafer-thin Motorola. La bella figura, as we call them, had found the latest “make-me-look-good” item.

Vertu, a spin-off from NOKIA, based in the UK and run by Spaniards (now that is a unique combination) was born out of this handset desire. What it also built into the phone was the “Concierge Key” as in those days the UK market had re-invented the English butler with services such as Quintessentially and others. Ten years later I have done my best to obtain customer feedback on this Vertu concierge service and there is nothing available, from either the company or luxury brands reviews. If I was to pay and carry the weight of a handset like that – all those ruby bearings and noble materials cannot be seen but you definitely notice the difference in bulk-size and extra-grams in your handbag, the concierge service would be at the top of my list.

Many reasons why some brands sell online – most of the French houses do, whilst others don’t – Swiss watchmakers, for example, is because the luxury market still looks at the web as a commerce place but not as a customer services place.

Customer Services is one of the best links that can keep a permanent connection to a satisfied client and become a channel for further services and brand loyalty. Why brands are not advised to look into this is perplexing to me. Many mobile companies are building GPS services that will alert me when I am near a brand that may (or may not) suit my fancy. But why do I have to wait to be pushed that information if I already enjoy a high level of trust with my favourite brands and I could solicit such information myself, if only they were to make it available for me? What extra-effort does it take for LVMH, LK Bennett, Anya Hindmarsh, Montblanc and other brands that I buy from and respect to have information of their world-wide stores and retailers so that when I happen to have extra 2 hours in Sydney, I can check on my mobile where the nearest one could be? Why brands stop thinking about the lifestyle of their customers the minute they step out of their beautifully interior designed shops on New Bond Street?

There is a great opportunity for mobile services companies to offer this possibilities to high and medium luxury brands.

I get sent beautiful cards with reminders of private sales at Hermes, but why don’t they send me a nice html email or an sms with a semacode or barcode that I can save to my calendar and carry with me, closer to the environment where I also make note of other appointments?

The dysfunction is to think that luxury customers are detached from technology. This is no longer a fact and many brands are wasting precious opportunities to establish closer connections with their regular clientele.

Please check the beautifully, enchanting and sexy China Guides that LVMH has commissioned. Who would not want to have these actresses whispering onto one’s ear about ancient streets in modern China? But when you search for this on Google or even go to LVMH official website, there is zero information on this. How do they expect their customers to find out? I only know because I live within the digital media sector, but whatabout my friends going to China for the Olympics?

Why connecting luxury environments – offline to online to mobile – is still done so poorly? Because the role of the CMO / Marketing Director needs to incorporate high knowledge of digital media branding, understand how to bring digital media agencies into the company to build the brand in those environments and, frankly, the mobile industry has to do a better job in promoting its know-how.

Pick up the phone today and arrange a meeting with 10 ad agencies and show them what you’ve got. They are not going to come knocking but it is up to you to show them what real talent – in startups, in MVNOs, even in some operators, is bringing to consumers.

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