NEW YORK, United States Founded in London as a concierge service in 2000, The Quintessential Group has since grown into a global lifestyle management organization, with 550 specialist employees and 50 international offices. Today its commercial clients are Marriott International, Cartier and Lamborghini; private membership includes 220,000 members and has seen a surge of millennials, luxury’s main target audience today.
Through its concierge service, Quintessially became a leading voice in the development of the experience economy in the luxury lifestyle industry. By handling millions of member requests, the company has gained first-hand a unique insight into how the behavior of the wealthy and influential people around the world is changing.
Accelerated by the effects of Covid-19, which has diminished our personal interactions and connections with others, Quintessential believes the pandemic has triggered a re-evaluation of our priorities – “we have come to appreciate human connection more than ever.”
This month, in their inaugural white paper Quintessential, they share the five cultural shifts that they believe will have the most important implications for businesses over the next decade, and identify ‘The New Era of Connection’, where the value of goods, services and experiences grow with their ability to create a sense of belonging to other people and ourselves.
Now BoF sits down with Annastasia Seebohm, the Chief Executive of Quintessentials to hear how luxury spending has evolved and how brands need to innovate their consumer engagement strategies to gain competitive advantage in a new and very different era ahead. ours.
What informs Quintessentials insights about the luxury consumer?
We have been closely associated with the global luxury consumer for over 20 years and have built an engaged, informed and valuable network of customers and A-brands. By talking to our customers, members and partners around the world on a daily basis, we are uniquely positioned to understand what the affluent consumer wants and how that has changed over the past 20 years.
We have handled millions of requests from these customers, from searching for rare items and creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences to delivering tailored customer programs or more practical day-to-day needs. That allows us to predict future consumer trends – their behavior, their purchasing influences, lifestyle choices, their needs, wants and motivations.
How is Quintessential running through the unprecedented circumstances of 2020?
We understand that human connection, and a focus on meaningful interaction, is at the heart of people’s needs. In recent months, our members have interacted with us more than ever and we have built even stronger relationships with them. We have supported our members in the transition to distance work and learning, creating home office spaces and helping access tutors and specialist teachers on a wide variety of subjects.
While physical events have clearly been scaled back, we have moved many of our experiences to the virtual and home environment with great success, continuing to create personal, engaging moments for our members. From individual cooking classes with top chefs, private yoga and pilate sessions with leading fitness experts, to in-person master classes with artists, photographers and craftsmen, members have enjoyed unique experiences in the comfort of their own homes.
As cities around the world begin to emerge from lockdown, we are also going back to support our members in doing what they love, creating tailor-made travel experiences that provide a sense of adventure and excitement within boundaries of new health and safety requirements. We have also helped customers navigate the new landscape, adapt their customer engagement strategies to this new era, and help them better understand the greater support for technology and connection that is so important.
How should brands’ engagement strategies evolve?
Typically created the category of lifestyle management and our first 10 years we spent a lot of time owning that space. Over the next decade, consumers began to value ‘do’ rather than ‘have’, so we created the very best experiences for ambitious global luxury consumers and for our customers. As our relationships with commercial customers grew closer, we partnered with groups such as LVMH, Richemont and Kering, we began to better understand how to achieve the impact and connection they wanted to achieve with consumers – and we were increasingly able to support their strategies with our lessons.
The importance of human interaction, authentic experiences and an engaging and emotional connection with brands should not be underestimated.
Brands need to make their very important customers, or VICs, feel connected, engaged and part of a community. Luxury companies have been slow in the past to adopt the very best digital ecosystems, but Covid-19 has forced brands to accelerate their digital transformation plans. While these digital channels are vital, it is imperative that brands maintain an element of human connection.
In the future we will see the virtual merging with the physical. Brands already have such an intimate relationship with their top 10 percent of customers – they know their birthdays, their husbands and wives, their passions and interests. By serving customers both digitally and online, the next group of customers – for example, the top 10 to 25 percent – can receive similar treatment as the top 10 percent.
How should brands innovate HNWI engagement strategies?
Covid-19 also meant that brands must be transparent about how they prioritize the safety of their customers. To ease the mind, companies need to communicate exactly how they adapt their spaces to Covid-19. Before going anywhere, customers want to know how to get there, who will be there, and what security precautions are in place. They seek reassurance. We see a demand for more private locations as consumers currently value intimacy more and more. Brands should consider holding smaller events that focus on their VICs’ passion points, and face-to-face meetings with customers, which also speaks to the importance of human relationships.
Traditionally, online and offline experiences coexisted, but were not necessarily fully integrated. We expect to see events in which some VICs are physically present, while others enjoy a digital interpretation of that experience, via streaming platforms from the privacy of their own home or other exclusive location. The digital distribution of the event to a wider customer audience will give others access to a brand moment, making new potential VICs feel connected and enter the funnel. For example, a micro-moment can have a macro impact.
How is luxury consumer spending changing?
We are witnessing an increase in activism and philanthropy driven by millennials and Gen-Z – more people want to buy items with a positive social and environmental impact. This “conscious consumption” will increase as these younger segments represent a larger percentage of the luxury market. The importance of human interaction, authentic experiences and an engaging and emotional connection with brands should not be underestimated, and luxury consumers will be much more motivated by purchases that make them feel inspired and enriched.
The pandemic has also increased the importance of health and wellness. At Quintessential, we’ve seen the number of requests for health and wellness members grow over the past five years. It becomes a dominant concern that affects many decisions: what to eat, how to move around, who to hang out with. All brands must now take into account that health is considered a precious resource.
There has also been a notable shift from impulsive experiences and a greater desire among the wealthy to spend time connecting with and learning from new experts and like-minded individuals – by investing in ‘self-growth’. Our members are looking for an opportunity to network and learn something new – to feel more fulfilled within themselves as a result. We believe that the affluent consumer sees the investment in and education of themselves as an important priority in life. Knowledge is the new social capital.
What further change do you expect as global mobility increases?
No doubt there is a pent-up demand for personal experiences. Brands need to think about how they can bring people together, or help people connect with themselves. This must be done with or without technology. After such a long period of isolation, the luxury consumer expects more value in everything they invest in and spend time on. There will be a need for content and meaning. For example, we predict that there will be a deeper appreciation and desire for nature as part of the Covid re-emergence psyche.
After such a long period of isolation, the luxury consumer expects more value in everything they invest in and spend time on.
As life slowly becomes a ‘new normal’, brands should seek to fuel these growth mindsets and deliver transformative experiences. This could mean offering personalized meditation classes, access to wellness experts or opportunities to learn new skills such as languages. Brands will have to take this into account when rewarding and hosting their VICs, or developing their lifestyle offerings.
What has not changed?
Our membership base still consists of business leaders: entrepreneurs, CEOs and decision makers. Time has always been their most precious possession, and the pandemic has probably made it even more important for them to make the most of their time today.
While Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of disruption, disruption itself has always been present in the twenty-first century. Companies must continue to listen to their customers, identify their evolving needs, and rotate their offerings and experiences to serve them.
Our goal at Quintessential has always been to create connections. It is imperative that we continue to connect brands with influential and prosperous individuals – to continue forging the connections that enrich the lives of our members. This has never been more important in an increasingly isolated and divided world. How we bring them together may have changed, but that coming together is just as important.
This sponsored feature is part of a media partnership between BoF and Typical.