Coffee Cupping at Descamex Decaffeination Plant in Córdoba, Mexico

Creating Luxury Digital Experiences

How Do Luxury Brands Communicate Value Digitally?

Brands have always existed in the minds of consumers. A simple cup of coffee can have a wide variety of perceptions and prices mostly based on the consumption experience. From the humble office pot, to a home-brewed Keurig, to a premium coffee beverage at Starbucks, there is a huge difference and price sensitivity despite the fact that most consumers likely know very little about the actual quality of the cup. Similar to wine, coffee is graded in a process called cupping by growers and buyers. Experienced cuppers can accurately grade coffees from all over the world with such precision that another cupper a continent away will have exactly the same grade when they sample the batch. What is interesting from a marketing standpoint is that the office coffee and the premium cup at a coffee likely have a similar cupping score yet the lowly office cup gets little respect while we wait in line and pay handsomely for the experience at Starbucks.

A a luxury retailer, Starbucks is doing a great job of extending its experience onto digital rails. From paying with the Apple Watch to ordering ahead though its app, Starbucks is focused on removing as much friction from the process as possible to help its customers spend more time and focus on enjoying its product. Making the transaction invisible is a great role for digital and often in the process eliminates needless inefficiencies in terms of costs and interactions. Even smaller niche chains like Dunn Brothers are leveraging digital platforms like Level Up to enable consumer transactional ease of use but also creating authentic stories about its annual coffee origin trips for Dunn Brothers management and franchisees as part of living its brand UX.

Many different companies are helping to enable the luxury path to purchase experience. On a recent trip to New York, Shannon and I used the Reserve app to secure a table at ABC Kitchen. While we were unable to get our last minute request filled, Reserve suggested a similar time at Momofuku Ko. It turned out to be a wonderful experience that was effortless for us. Simplicity is often an ultimate luxury.

Technology is going to present great challenges and opportunities for luxury brands. Early adopters will have a definite advantage as they are able to leverage the data created by integrating digital tools into their customer experience. Neiman Marcus has already achieved over 25% of its total revenue from online sources. The luxury retailer is also leading digital integration in its stores with innovations like a digital mirror that serves as a virtual shopping companion plus, it creates the ultimate selfie.

Translating brand experiences through digital will be table stakes for all brands, for luxury brands however, digital will become an integral part of the overall brand essence.