Rediscovering heritage to engage the Luxury Customer

The design of culturally relevant services in new markets is of deep interest to me. Specially from the perspective of global brands trying to enter and thrive in complex and emerging markets like India. The challenge increases for luxury retail brands, as not only are they entering a new market, but the segment in itself is new and undefined in markets like India. The customer segmentation is diverse and unknown and industry norms are uncertain and unstructured.But on the other hand, uncharted territories offer brands the creative space to be innovative and adapt their service and product offering, to meet the needs of the local customer. The journey to customization requires a deep and empathetic study of cultural, social and emotional buying behaviors; and while the lack of available customer data makes it more difficult for brands to gain market insights, design tools like enthnography and user interviews can play a great role to help understand user needs. Moreso, the most aspirational brands represent European sensibilities of luxury and heritage, that cater to a mental model that in many ways greatly contrasts that of the average price sensitive Indian consumer. But is the mental model really that different?
Abhay Gupta’s article on India’s Tryst with luxury, provides a larger perspective on the evolution of luxury consumption in India. Gupta reveals a long-standing association between luxury and Indian society by narrating the history of luxury consumption from the 19th century till now, woven with the nuances of economic and cultural patterns. Perhaps the concept of luxury indulgence is not too radical for the Indian customer?  Most Brands build aspirational stories around their classic heritage, but Gupta’s essay brings to light, that the winning Brands find a way to seamlessly fuse India’s luxury heritage with their Brand DNA, to reinvent their tales and build relevant customer experiences.
As designers when we do research on industry trends and create user personas for deeper understanding of the customer, we often focus on the present and future needs. Perhaps we can go deeper by exploring their stories and evolution of behaviours and needs, to build true empathy that can enable us to design engaging services.