Luxury brand goods: What millennials really want

The queue to get a raffle ticket for early access to the Louis Vuitton limited-edition collaboration with streetwear label Supreme outside the Louis Vuitton store at Ion Orchard last year. The recent study pointed to millennials being influenced by a
The queue to get a raffle ticket for early access to the Louis Vuitton limited-edition collaboration with streetwear label Supreme outside the Louis Vuitton store at Ion Orchard last year. The recent study pointed to millennials being influenced by a combination of four factors - functionality, durability, design and unique identity - when they buy luxury products.ST FILE PHOTO
Mr Christopher Kilaniotis, president of Louis Vuitton South Asia, said the LVMH-SMU Luxury Research Conference brings the luxury world together with academia and research. The event, which was started in 2016, is part of a five-year partnership betwe
Mr Christopher Kilaniotis, president of Louis Vuitton South Asia, said the LVMH-SMU Luxury Research Conference brings the luxury world together with academia and research. The event, which was started in 2016, is part of a five-year partnership between Singapore Management University and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.PHOTO: LVMH

It is often assumed that millennials who fork out top dollar for luxury brand items are fixated on the fact that they are buying something exclusive, but a new survey finds that this theory does not hold water.

Indeed, it found that this age group - 18 to 35 - are concerned that the product actually has some practical worth, as well as being stylish.

Mr Pritish Bhattacharya, a research officer at the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute, said his interviews showed that millennials are influenced by a combination of four factors - functionality, durability, design and unique identity - when they buy such luxury products.

"People value a luxury product for what the product is, and not the factors that surround it... the importance of exclusivity is on the decline," he added.

Mr Bhattacharya cited comments from study participants that showed how they looked at a product's features, such as the ultraviolet protection in sunglasses or the amount of time an item would last.

Others examined whether the product represented them in a way that is an extension of their own personalities.

None of the participants cited exclusivity as one of their considerations.

The study comprised 89 individuals here of 17 different nationalities with an average age of 27. They also had to have bought at least two luxury goods in the past year.

Mr Bhattacharya said the findings suggest luxury brands expand their product range and offer incremental features at different price points.

But this does not mean a brand would dilute its luxury prestige, he added.

Mr Bhattacharya compared it to how luxury brands have already started to branch out to smaller-ticket items such as phone cases and yoga mats to reach a wider audience. "If that is not brand dilution, then appealing to millennials by moving away from exclusivity should also not be seen in a negative light," he said.

"At one point of time, democratisation of any good is bound to happen because of three fundamental reasons."

He pointed to how incomes are rising across the world, as well as lower income disparity.

So social classes - divided by income - have been replaced by social groups, and consumers are arguably more influenced by other backgrounds such as religion and culture.

This study was one of many discussed at the LVMH-SMU Luxury Research Conference, which was jointly organised by French luxury goods giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Singapore Management University.

The event, which was started in 2016 to discuss issues affecting the prestige brand market, is also part of a five-year partnership between the university and the luxury group.

Mr Christopher Kilaniotis, president of Louis Vuitton South Asia, said: "This conference brings the luxury world together with academia and research, and hopefully from here, we can create strategies, visions and actions. They will be fact-based, not just a hunch feeling."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2018, with the headline 'Luxury brand goods: What millennials really want'. Print Edition | Subscribe