Disrupt or die? No chance: Experts say e-commerce will not collapse luxury industry

Panelists sat down to discuss the effects of digitalization on the premium goods industry at Arab Luxury World in Dubai.
Updated 23 May 2017
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Disrupt or die? No chance: Experts say e-commerce will not collapse luxury industry

DUBAI: Would you buy a luxury product worth thousands online? It is a question that panelists at the Arab Luxury World forum in Dubai sat down to discuss on Monday as the fourth iteration of the annual event kicked off.
The forum is set to run from Monday and Tuesday and features an agenda of speeches and panel discussions by more than 70 speakers under the theme “Digital Disruption and Emotional Engagement.”
In the world of luxury goods, the panelists agreed that digital shopping will not soon replace brick-and-mortar retail as many consumers still wish to get a real feel of the high-end product they are buying, however, all panelists emphasized the need for luxury brands to communicate effectively with consumers online.
In a session moderated by Anand Vengurlekar, chief communications officer at INSEAD Business School, experts from the luxury industry discussed the effect that digitization was having on the market.
However, panelist Samer Bohsali, a partner at the Strategy& consulting firm, was quick to assure the audience that digital avenues would not disrupt the luxury industry in same way Uber had for the transport industry, for example.
“The old model of digital was disrupt or die. With what Netflix has done to Blockbuster, what Uber has done to the taxi industry, you would think that the next victim is the fashion business,” he told the audience, before adding: “Digital will not disrupt luxury the same way.”
Why? Because, according to Bohsali, “the luxury industry has relied, for centuries, on the aura of exclusivity and sensory experiences that are very difficult to replicate on a mobile device.”
However, Bohsali did note that the digital sphere has made customers more aware about the products they wish to buy.
“Digital has transformed the habits of your users and your consumers, you’ve got a new generation online that can compare the price of a bag in Beijing and Paris and know they are not getting a fair deal in Beijing,” he said.
Category Director for Fashion at noon.com, a Middle East-focused online shopping portal, Jose Antonio Grajales, agreed that the digital world was transforming the luxury industry, rather than disrupting it.
“For me, the disruption is not a complete metamorphosis of the industry, it is more of an evolution of the way we consume,” he said.
According to Grajales, much of the world’s luxury sales happen in just 10 cities, something he says digital platforms can help to change.
“As sellers of luxury products, we have failed at getting that product to customers in other places… Because of e-commerce and digitalization, we are able to get those products into the hands of consumers more easily.
“Luxury is unique because you like to touch it, you like to feel it and you like to experience it but you aren’t always in a place which makes those nice things easily accessible,” he said, explaining the power of e-commerce in widening the reach of luxury brands.
“Technology should enable us to serve a customer better, wherever you are you should be able to access that luxury experience and that luxury product.”
But what advice did the panelists have for luxury brands seeking to leverage the digital world?
“Be prepared to fail,” Bohsali said.
“The fashion industry hasn’t cracked it. The classic model that has worked is a store — the in-store experience works — but the future could be a combination of using a mobile device and coming to a store.
“It’s an experiment, the industry is still experimenting.”
The panel also included Graziela Martins, vice president of the merchant business at American Express Middle East and North Africa and Emre Karaer, general manager at Volvo Cars MENA.


Saudis cut, Russians hiked output ahead of pact: IEA

Updated 17 min 48 sec ago
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Saudis cut, Russians hiked output ahead of pact: IEA

  • OPEC members along with allies including Russia agreed in early December to trim production by 1.2 mbd from Jan. 1

PARIS: Saudi Arabia demonstrated its resolve to lift oil prices by slashing output ahead of the entry into force of new pact limiting production while Russia boosted output to a record level, the International Energy Agency said Friday.
World oil markets have been on a rollercoaster ride in recent months, with OPEC and its partners including Russia, often called OPEC+, agreeing to cut back production again from January in order to reverse a slump in oil prices on abundant production and worries about slower global growth.
In its latest monthly report, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said the Saudis took the lead by cutting output in December as prices tumbled by more than a third in just two months.
“Recently, leading producers have restated their commitment to cut output and data show that words were transformed into actions,” said the IEA.
“While Saudi Arabia is determined to protect its price aspirations by delivering substantial production cuts, there is less clarity with regard to its Russian partner,” it added.
But the cut was mostly due to the Saudis, with data indicating several OPEC members increased production last month.
The IEA said data show that Russia increased crude oil production in December “to a new record near 11.5 mbd (million barrels per day) and it is unclear when it will cut and by how much.”
OPEC members along with allies including Russia agreed in early December to trim production by 1.2 mbd from Jan. 1, in a bid to eliminate a production glut and shore up prices.
Just months earlier, they had relaxed production caps as prices shot higher on market worries about the impact of US sanctions on Iran, but Washington eventually granted waivers allowing several countries to continue to import Iranian oil.
Meanwhile, US production rose considerably more than expected last year, adding further to supplies, while concerns about demand emerged as the US-China trade spat deepened in the second half of last year.
The IEA said the US increased output by 2.1 mbd last year, the “highest ever” annual growth ever recorded.
The boom of shale oil production in the US this decade has redrawn the map of global energy politics as the nation no longer depends as heavily on imports and has even resumed exports.
The IEA said “the US, already the biggest liquids supplier, will reinforce its leadership as the world’s number one crude producer” in 2019.
“By the middle of the year, US crude output will probably be more than the capacity of either Saudi Arabia or Russia.”
The IEA left its estimate for global oil growth in 2019 unchanged at an increase of 1.4 mbd, saying “the impact of higher oil prices in 2018 is fading, which will help offset lower economic growth.”
It said there were signs that the rebalancing of the oil market will be gradual.