I was down in New York earlier this week to discuss the luxury market at events sponsored by Google and Critical Mass, leading up to the Luxury Interactive 2007 conference.  The premise was a lot of fun for me personally, having worked with PUMA’s design partners to bring collaborations to life online (e.g. Christy Turlington, Philippe Starck, Neil Barrett).

Some might argue that luxury and interactive go together like a Porsche with automatic transmission.  Not so!  Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data shows that in comparison to the general U.S. population, luxury shoppers are more technology-optimistic, are veteran cross-channel shoppers, and spend almost double the amount of time using the internet.

So where does Google play here?  (as if it isn’t clear…)  According to Nielsen//NetRatings, Google had 56% of search market share in May 2007.  Luxury shoppers are well informed and tend to adopt technology early; luxury marketers need to get in the game, because prospects are looking for information online.  Best to put your official information out there – because others are already drafting off of your brand.  Just search for Breguet or Necker Island and look at the paid search ads.  Oh and this goes way beyond search – think radio, print, TV, YouTube, even Checkout.  Think consumers won’t buy luxury online?  Well, I think it’s nuts that people would purchase cars online, but eBay motors doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.  Why not jewelry or couture as well?

Critical Mass is an agency based out of Calgary, but most of the people I’ve interacted with have been out of the Chicago office – where David Armano recently joined.  In New York, I presented with Neil Clemmons, SVP of Strategy.  Critical Mass has some impressive luxury client work, most recently for Mercedes-Benz and Rolex. They are seeing the the shift to digital from a front line perspective and have four keys to success as we transition:  It’s all about desire.  From exposure to involvement.  From buyer to advocate.  From retailer to brand partner.  Bottom line?  Time is the new luxury.  To be honest, I’m not surprised their work is so good – they recently finished as a leader in our Q2 2007 Web Design Agency Wave.  See Neil’s entire presentation below.