SOURCE: Luxury Institute, LLC

Luxury Institute, LLC

November 30, 2016 08:30 ET

Affluent Global Consumers Identify Essential Characteristics Of Luxury And The People Who Sell It In Luxury Institute 'State Of The Luxury Industry' Survey

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - November 30, 2016) - In the world of high-end retail commerce, firms in dozens of industries from automobiles to travel, fashion, jewelry, watches and many more, proclaim themselves to be purveyors of luxury, but what attributes do customers consider essential for a brand to earn the "luxury" label? For two-thirds of affluent consumers surveyed by New York-based Luxury Institute for its recently released State of the Luxury Industry annual report, "superior quality" is what defines a luxury brand. Quality is also the most widely-cited consideration in each of the seven countries where the global survey was conducted: The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China.

Aside from superior quality, superior customer service the second most frequently cited defining characteristic of a luxury brand, called out by 54% of respondents worldwide. Notable variations exist among countries, however, with a far greater percentage of affluent consumers in the U.K. (66%) and U.S. (63%) identifying customer service as a key element of luxury, compared to much lower percentages in China (34%) and Japan (47%).

U.S. and U.K. consumers are also much more keen on luxury brands featuring "superior design," a prerequisite for luxury that ranks third overall, and cited by 54% of respondents globally, but by 58% of those surveyed in the U.S. and 54% of those in the U.K. Americans also stand out for their widespread demand that luxury goods exemplify "superior craftsmanship," the fourth most popular consideration among consumers globally, cited by 59% of U.S. respondents but by an average of only 33% of consumers from the other six countries.

Regarding trends in the perception of luxury brands, affluent consumers in China and Italy are relatively more likely to say that luxury brands are improving, while U.S. consumers are notably less inclined than those from other countries to identify improvements, and are in fact more likely to note declines. Globally, more than half (55%) of affluent consumers agree that luxury brand prices are too high relative to the value they deliver.

While personalized offers (21%), loyalty programs (16%), and value add-ons (12%) are not often defining characteristics of luxury brands, consumers who do define luxury brands on these characteristics indicate improvement on these attributes.

There is universal agreement across countries that politeness and courtesy are the top attributes required of a top front-line associate of luxury goods or services, cited by 54% of those surveyed. Other frequently mentioned essential attributes of a luxury front-line associate are product expertise (53%), trustworthiness (49%), experience (45%), and a professional demeanor (45%).

When asked about the types of companies where the best luxury front-line associates can be found, jewelry and watches (41%) and leisure travel and hospitality (36%) are the most frequently mentioned. Consumers in China (52%), France (51%), and Italy (50%) are most likely to cite front-line associates from jewelry and watch businesses as exemplary.

The industries with the lowest percentages of consumers citing the superiority of their sales professionals are real estate (14%), designer shoes (15%), technology & personal electronics (15%), and personal finance (17%).

"From our numerous one-on-one discussions with luxury CEOs, we've often heard that a majority of success stems from superior products, but the rest depends on relationship-building expertise and execution of front-line teams," says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. "Half of affluent consumers we just surveyed say that luxury sales associates deliver a personalized and relationship-oriented experience, which is encouraging, but it also suggests plenty of room for improvement when it comes to delivering a superior customer experience."

Among other topics, survey respondents provided detailed answers to questions about their luxury spending plans, relationships with luxury brands, and categories where they plan to cut back or increase their spending in the year ahead. Respondents in the United States came from households with minimum gross annual income of $150,000 per year, which represents the top 11% of households ranked by income, according to the 2013 Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances. Worldwide, respondents met or exceeded the following income levels in local currency, approximating the top 10% of earners in their respective countries: United Kingdom (£60,000); France, Germany, Italy (EUR50,000); China (1 million CNY); and Japan (¥150 million).

The complete 2016 State of the Luxury Industry is available for purchase. For complete rankings and ratings with additional insights from this and other WealthSurvey reports, visit www.LuxuryInstitute.com, or contact Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza (mpedraza@luxuryinstitute.com).

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