Quality, what is it? It is the extent to which an individual’s needs are satisfied with a product’s features. For many consumers quality is a key aspect of consideration when purchasing a product. But each consumer might have different interpretations of quality including functionality, efficiency, aesthetics, reliability, sustainability, durability and ethical sourcing.
On the other hand, some consumers may choose the prestige of a product over its quality. Prestige comes when a product is price insensitive and has a brand reputation. Branding is a marketing strategy where a company (the brand) uses its name, symbol or design to identify and differentiate them from other competitors. Prestigious brands use their specific characteristics throughout their product range.
For Burberry the tartan design has become its identity in all its products, for Hermès their main identity is the colour bright orange and the letter ‘H’, whilst Louis Vuitton uses their ‘LV’ motif and brown chequered squares on all their products. This allows brands to differentiate themselves in a niche but competitive market amongst other luxurious brands.
Highstreet vs. luxury retailers – my market study findings.
I conducted a market research study to find out the relation of branding and consumer
behaviour. The objective was to establish to what extent is quality or prestige important for
consumers. Within the study I asked participants several questions relating to brands and asked them when it came to branding, what did they prefer and why. Many participants agreed high street retailers such as Topshop and H&M were better suited to their needs of affordable yet stylish clothing. However, there was a certain percentage of participants who preferred luxury brands such as Hermès and Burberry.
What defines a retailer as either luxury or high street?
Part of this answer lies in the way a brand markets its products. Burberry markets its products by telling a story. For Christmas, they promoted their gift wrapping services encapsulating traditional British culture to promote the festivities using small toy guards and snow in their shop windows. Recently, they released a new perfume: Mr. Burberry. The advertisement for the perfume narrated a love story between a man and a woman. Luxury brands tend to put on grand fashion shows for their consumers. Famously Louis Vuitton put on an annual cruise show in South America. Fashion followers in my research expressed a deep attraction to brands who go the extra mile to make extravagant efforts.
Dior has an Instagram account which gives backstage insight into to how to achieve the perfect model makeup, promoting their makeup products through tutorials. Other makeup brands have capitalised on this strategy and now companies including M.A.C. have put together similar video demonstrations. Dior has also produced short videos which illustrate how each handbag is constructed and assembled. From my own experience, watching these videos has made me want to purchase one! But before I go off in my fashionista mode let’s go back to branding.
Luxury brands have always used models. However, high street retailers have now adopted this strategy. Using well-known models such as Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, Topshop and H&M have collaborated with the pair to promote their products. If models whose actions are followed and scrutinised by consumers every day have been incorporated into a brand, consumers are more likely to shop for that brand and purchase the same items their idols are using.
How do retailers successfully hit consumer needs? What is most important to consumers?
For many consumers who prefer high street retailers such as H&M and Primark have different needs – price sensitivity. Many said they shop at high street retailers to afford expensive looks for less. Both H&M and Primark use cheap production processes to give customers affordable pricing on products. But, why are the two so successful in meeting consumer needs? They are both leaders in bringing new styles to consumers every season. From my own academic research I have learned that both high street retailers use the same manufacturing, factories and labour as luxury retailers.
It could just be down to the pure and simple thought of owning a product from a big luxury brand. Consumers in my study have expressed that it is due to societal attitudes that make them shop at only certain types retailers. For instance, one consumer said luxury brands like Burberry, are for the upper-class or perhaps those who have high earning careers and that high street retailers, like H&M, are for students or those who have lifestyle restrictions.
For many brands, consumer loyalty depends on the service they receive from the retailer itself. Brands like Louis Vuitton ensure consumers get the best out of their products. For instance, a typical handbag from Louis Vuitton costs around £900. The leather and stitching should not wear and tear as the materials used are sustainable (an element a consumer looks for). However, if stitching comes out of place, the consumer can return it back to any Louis Vuitton shop for repair. On the other hand, with a handbag from a high street retailer like Mango, material is more prone is wear and tear and they do not offer customers repair services like luxury brands might. Thus, for many, sustainability but also after-sales services is of great importance.
Typical consumer behaviour.
H&M annually collaborates with a luxury brand. Last year it was with Balmain, this year it is with Marc Jacobs. Many consumers who may see these brands as unaffordable can now shop the brand through H&M at discounted prices. This marketing strategy, pioneered by H&M then followed by Topshop and Tommy Hilfiger, has made a difference in consumer behaviour. For myself, I now shop more at Topshop and H&M. Not only because it is affordable, but with collections promoted by celebrities I follow, I can purchase the outfit I want for less! So, for consumers such as myself, it is important to have a halfway point where luxury meets high street.