At one time, the store environment was the centre of a luxury retail experience. Shoppers would relish the opportunity to browse a collection, touch the fabrics, taste the goods and feel the quality and test drive the vehicle.
But like all things, luxury retail has changed a lot over the last ten years. Nowadays, beautiful and accessible online solutions offer the customer far more choice than ever before – rendering the one-size-fits-all store approach increasingly irrelevant.
So why is it that we continue to see luxury brands still investing in flagship stores in the most illustrious neighbourhoods; even if they don’t generate the sales they need to break even?
The simple reason: they are not stores, they are destinations.
Increasingly, these enticing emporiums offer a more accessible, meaningful, and lavish setting which bring the brand values to life; they are reflections of the image, the culture and the characteristics of the brand.
Boutiques have become the physical expression of all that the brand stands for - a way of bringing its storytelling to life. They let customers feel part of the brand and enjoy a taste of accessible luxury; they are not just on screen, but reality, of which customers can be a part of - no matter how fleeting.
However, despite the sumptuous surrounds and the enticing goods, and the attentive brand ambassadors, they can’t possibly compete with today’s sophisticated online algorithms used to interpret and pre-empt customer preferences.
In the luxury car industry, the same is true. Manufacturers and brands have come up with beautiful and accessible online solutions which are not only elegant but are can be of far more use to the customer.
Instead of going to see the car physically – where the experience could disappoint – sophisticated online tools allow customers to immerse themselves in the process of selecting the vehicle, they desire, to their exact specification – within set parameters - from the comfort of their own home.
In my opinion, classical luxury car showrooms simply do not provide enough excitement or motivation to attract today’s customer. So, it is only natural that the industry has experienced a reduction in footfall.
But that aside, I don’t believe we should retreat online. I think the retail environment is still very relevant in the high-end automotive space.
Like any luxury brand, it’s not just a place to make sales, for ARES it is a place where customers can experience our brand, meet our people and realise the passion and drive we have for creating bespoke luxury vehicles, it is this that is key to our success.
Nowadays, people place more emphasis than ever on their individuality and self-expression; our entire lives are becoming more personalised from our homes and its décor to the shirts on our backs.
This is where I believe a successful future for luxury automotive retail lies; in the delivery of personalisation and individualisation on an exceptional level.
It is the next logical step that you will want a car that reflects your personality.
At ARES, our philosophy of co-creation means that our clients can actually design their car; choose materials and colours; define the silhouette of the vehicle and even decide how many doors and windows it has—guaranteeing them a 1 of 1 vehicle; a service which is unique to ARES.
Likewise, I believe the advent of new and innovative technologies also holds the key to transforming the retail environment – making showrooms more exciting and crucially more immersive and highly personalised.
In time, ARES showrooms will have cutting-edge VR solutions which will present clients with an immersive experience where clients can see their very own cars built to their bespoke specification. Clients will be able to change any element at a press of a button; even take a test drive. These technologies, which we are already beginning to see, will become the new norm.
Ultimately, it is no longer about just the product. It is about the relationship with the customer, the service, client communications and not to forget concierge services, exclusive VIP Access to events and luxury lifestyle experiences which are expected at such a high-level purchase.
Exclusivity, quality, and high-end craftsmanship used to be the key differentiators for luxury brands, but today it is so much more. The car is really only the beginning.
In the picture: the ARES Panther ProgettoUno during the opening night of the ARES Design Show Gallery in Dubai, May 2019
Dany Bahar – November 2020