Has COVID-19 changed the definition of luxury? The motivation for consumers to purchase luxury products and experiences is the desire to enhance their status and self-worth. It’s Thorstein Veblen’s conspicuous consumption. Wearing designer clothing, driving a Porsche, selecting custom cabinets all make a statement that shouts, “look at me, I’ve made it.” Bain identifies a “post-aspirational” consumer mindset, suggesting consumers have evolved beyond aspiration as a motive for luxury purchases. Instead of purchasing luxury products as a means to demonstrate self-worth and status, Bain believes the primary motivations for luxury purchases post COVID-19 will emphasize diversity and inclusion in addition to sustainability and environmental issues. “Activist” consumers will seek to align with brands that reflect consumers’ vision and desire for purpose.
Pam Danizger (Luxury Marketing) does not agree with Bain. She claims that aspiration will continue to be a driving force for luxury purposes, because people confer special meaning to objects. It’s not what a customer's kitchen can do. Instead, it is how creating a kitchen of one’s dreams makes a consumer feel. The anticipated experience is the driving force for luxury purchases.
Danziger does acknowledge however, that Bain is correct in that the mindset of luxury consumers will change in a post COVID-19 world. Luxury brands not only will have to appeal to consumers’ aspirations, they also will need to maintain their relevance without compromising the quality and individuality that set luxury products apart. Luxury brands need to recognize that consumers’ aspirations have changed and will continue to do so. COVID-19 has placed a new emphasis on the quality of life instead of social status. For kitchen and bath showrooms this translates to demonstrating how a new kitchen or bath will make your customers’ lives richer, easier and more fulfilled. Showrooms will need to emphasize how new spaces will enhance their customers’ senses of identity and what is truly important in their lives. The shift is from conspicuous consumption to conscientious consumption.