Social Commerce: A Luxury that Luxury Brands Can’t Afford?

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Once the candy of young adults, social media is now becoming the meat and potatoes of valuable brands and value-oriented consumers.  But it’s no longer enough to stick a logo, some boilerplate marketing copy and a handful of ads on your Twitter, Fourquare or Facebook page and call it a campaign.  As social media becomes analogous with social reality, users want to – you know – socialize with their favorite brands the way they do with their friends: through open dialogue and unique, fun and mutually beneficial exchanges. 
 
Welcome to the age of social commerce. Social media—specifically, a strategic social media presence—not only supports but also shapes consumer and brand behavior and increases brand and personal value.  Why?  Let’s break this down. You allow an entire network to review your Tweets about recent purchases, Tumblr posts about cool finds, or Facebook likes and dislikes.  That network cares about what you have to say, which validates your opinions and amplifies your confidence, your I-have-something -to-add chops.  It’s social currency and makes you a more desirable friend online and offline. Brands are starting to get it, and are giving consumers a reason to feel special and wanted via social media outlets.  [more]
 
Visitors to Gap receive a 25% discount just for checking in on Foursquare. And Urban Outfitters will “like you back” if you like their page on Facebook by offering you exclusive promotions and discounts.  If the brand and you like each other, then the brand and you know each other, enough perhaps for you to offer your opinion about the brand and for the brand to listen. You become an influencer both amongst your friends and within the commercial landscape. Cool.  
 
All of this egalitarian socializing poses a unique quandary, though, for luxury brands. After all, Hermes and Gucci weren’t designed to deign to “chat” with the likes of most of us, let alone act on our plebeian feedback.  When a brand like Coach tries to get down to the level of the regular consumer, and engage with that consumer, isn’t some of the exclusivity that defined the brand lost? 

Do some brands risk losing their essence, their identities, by playing nice with all the other brands in the social media sandbox? Or will social commerce start to change the DNA of luxury brands and erode their elitism? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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