Proving the ‘shifting baselines’ theory for healthcare: How Patients consistently have an ever-evolving sense of what’s normal that prevents them from recognizing how bad things are or of have actually gotten.
By Michael Tetreault, Editor-In-Chief
ATLANTA, GA USA – I’ve said a lot of things to Doctors in the past. One phrase I’m often caught saying in recent interviews with Physician’s is echoing these 12 words given to me by my mentor Jeff H., who I applied his phrasing for application in healthcare which essentially says … “A Patient who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected.”
If you’re old enough to remember like me, Norman Rockwell, then you remember his coffee mug portrayals of Doctors treating Patients at their bedside or in their home.
The notion is not lost on me that younger generations do not recall this Andy Griffith era or early portrait of a rich heritage, unique charisma and storied past which Physicians once had within our small communities, our hearts and our home. Perhaps, this portrait will be in their future, or at least I hope so.
That portrait of decades ago whereby a Physician met his/her Patients precisely where they were and in their greatest time of need seems old fashioned and outdated. No camera in our culture today will or can capture this once normal luxury in the same relational circumstance because it’s locked tight behind a mountain of administrative paperwork, health insurance bureaucracy, utilization management, credentialing, co-pays, pre-authorizations, charts, file cabinets, EHRs and misguided gatekeepers many medical offices call their staff.
Today, we’ve surrendered to the fact that visits with our Doctor will last no more than 7 to 20 minutes.
We’ve also succumb to the cold, harsh reality of a lightening fast impersonal referral to specialist from our PCP, family physician office or Pediatrician only to be weeks or if we’re lucky, days later met by the overworked staff now greeting us with a clipboard, a fee and an attitude.
The movie Goodwill Hunting comes to mind when we hear those words “It’s not your fault.”
And, it’s true.
“It’s not your fault.”
A lot of small decisions long before you and I arrived to our present situation led us to this healthcare marketplace today.
Patients now place impossible expectations that seemingly can never be met onto the shoulders of Physicians, Nurses, staff and your medical team. Their line of questioning, broad scope of unmet needs and countless pages printed from the Internet cause just about every Physician you and I know to get more gray hair.
I’m not a stranger either to the fact that Physicians today have impossible jobs.
Each morning, evening, night and afternoon you’re working harder than the last.
The pace is crushing your spirit.
The data proves all of this out. However, medical associations, state specialty meetings and even CMEs do little for the mental health of you and your colleagues other than make you feel like your not alone.
And, sometimes that’s enough. Or, at least for a while until it’s not.
Then the walls fall down around you.
Where are the appropriate handles you can hold onto?
Where are the solutions everyone keeps boasting about?
- Enter Concierge Medicine.
- Enter Emergency Room telehealth apps with a Doctor where you are!
- Enter some Direct Primary Care clinics.
- Enter Academic Concierge Medicine Programs.
- Enter some subscription-based FNP, Nurse and PA membership programs.
Personalized medicine, telehealth-enabled secure message apps, and even the once thought long gone memory of where a Physician met us at our bedside is now turned into a modern convenience, dare we say affordable luxury … whereby a Patient meeting with their Physician at the kitchen island or through a smart phone device is now no longer considered a necessity.
It’s about time the healthcare marketplace caught up with the rest of the world, right?
How many years have we had FaceTime and Skype? Now, we have Zoom and lot of other HIPAA secure apps to be able to talk with our Doctor!
As you’ll see in the sections below, patient expectations of luxury, convenience and the ways in which they desire to now interact with their Physician have changed and will continue to do so. It’s up to you to … well, no. It’s your responsibility to adapt. In fact, relentlessly adapt.
I’m hopeful in the moments ahead, together we are going to help you as a Physician be in a position to recognize “irresistible” and “unique” when you encounter it and test and see whether or not some of these ideas will work in your practice. Why? Because there is a modern day version of the Norman Rockwell portrait that exists today and that old-fashioned luxury of this healthcare convenience is mainstream enough to be a future staple of our society.
When we look at what great Doctors are doing through the lens of bringing the Patient-Physician relationship closer together, there are delivery models already within healthcare that are truly marrying the Hippocratic Oath with the Golden Rule … and that all of our definitions of luxury have changed because so have we.
According to WB Research and their study on the topic of Understanding the Changing Consumer Mindset of What Constitutes Luxury, they write … Globalization, combined with the disruptive impact of the internet and digital technology, is creating a much broader, multidimensional perspective on what quality, luxury, and exclusivity can be. One key takeaway from the survey revealed that high-end consumers use luxury purchases to differentiate themselves from peers. While this isn’t particularly surprising and hasn’t changed much from previous generations, it was also found that today’s luxury consumers believe that not all luxury purchases are necessarily the most expensive, signifying that the bragging rights they seek don’t necessarily center around their ability to make exorbitant purchases alone. For instance, a significant minority of respondents – about one-third across all markets – disagreed that the most worthwhile travel experiences typically cost the most, suggesting that a re-evaluation of priorities is taking place.
So as we unpack this statement and these insights there are two critical points.
- It was found that today’s luxury consumers believe that not all luxury purchases are necessarily the most expensive.
- About one-third across all markets – disagreed that the most worthwhile travel experiences typically cost the most, suggesting that a re-evaluation of priorities is taking place.
Healthcare, the medical practice, the emergency room. These are all places where the experience in healthcare matters. It is what people talk about. It is what they remark to others about. Why do health systems and/or individual physician practices put such little emphasis on these settings? We live in a culture where little, if any, planning is placed on the experience in these environments.
Surprise and Delight In a Healthcare Environment
If word of mouth and new patient referrals is the lifeblood by which these practices and individuals grow, why is such little training put into the team that leads these environments.
Former MDVIP CEO, Dan Hecht, recently at the industry’s annual Concierge Medicine Forum in Atlanta hosted by Concierge Medicine Today in a physician leadership session emphasized that the most common way a Patient gauges the quality of their Doctor is by how they are greeted by the staff when they walk in the door.
You and I both know this to be true. The demeanor and behaviour of your staff can cripple a doctors office. If it is not remedied in the early days, it is usually a sign of that Physician’s culture of the office and a direct reflection on his/her leadership, care quality and bedside manner.
We might not think that’s fair but the patient data backs this up as well.
Concierge Medicine Today asked over 2,000 prospective patients of concierge medicine practices “If your Doctor’s office (not a concierge practice, but a traditional, plan reimbursed medical clinic) closed tomorrow, how much or how little would you care?”
The results, more than 8/10 respondents to this survey said that they wouldn’t care … and most also said “Because I didn’t have a relationship with the Doctor of office in the first place.”
Wow. Mic drop moment, right?
Well, there’s hope. If and when emphasis is given to how these environments are designed, the flow and primarily, who staffs them … and millions (or thousands) of dollars are spent on the planning and design, how much attention are you also putting into who manages and staffs this environment. This is often an afterthought. According to Modern Healthcare in 2019, between less than $602-1,296 per employee year is spent on customer service training for those administrative staffing positions in healthcare organization tasked with managing these million dollar environments.
Put more emphasis on customer service training. Invest in your team!
The strategy of Surprise & Delight doesn’t refer to special promotions or exclusive deals for those outside of a healthcare setting. Customers [eg Patients] are simply treated to something of value, completely out of the blue, with no strings attached.
We usually don’t go to the emergency room alone. Our loved ones are the ones worrying, waiting and asked to sit in a generic waiting room with little to no communication from anyone relieving their concerns. No bottle of water is ever even complementary for these individuals. Not even so much as a free pen. See where I’m going with this?
We’re so used to a shifting baseline in healthcare that we can’t see it anymore. We think this is normal.
“To surprise and delight customers is to exceed their expectations; improving their overall brand experience with spontaneous offers of kindness,” said Horst Schulz, Former CEO of the Ritz Carlton. “I work in the luxury business. There’s nothing right or wrong. It’s really, in a way, all the same. It’s a concentration on this specific market. In my specific market 30 years ago, luxury meant chandeliers and marble and being a little nice. Today luxury means ‘do it my way.’ That means adjusting relentlessly to the individual. It’s much more a concentration on the individual. This is true to more or less an extent in all market segments. It’s true in a Red Roof Inn, too. [Customers] want it more their way — it’s true in every business today. It was very clear 20 years ago that normal luxury was changing into affordable and ultra-luxury. Take cars. If you would have asked 20 years ago, “What’s a luxury car?” — everybody would have said Mercedes. Today, many people will say Bentley. The same thing is true in my business. I saw this and said, ‘I want to do a little work in that particular market segment, in ultra-luxury.’ I wanted to start it. What do we do differently? Well, we do everything for you — as long as it’s legal, moral and ethical. And we knew that there is a market who wants that. That market doesn’t care for airline points or stuff like that. That market says, ‘I want you to do everything for me the way I want it.’ And that’s what we’re doing.”
Personalizing the Healthcare Experience is not new – but it will be.
How many of us would raise our hand if we’ve ever met a busy Physician? We all have, right? In fact, if you haven’t, I’d like to interview that Physician. Seriously, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only in healthcare is waiting 61-minutes, when no one else is being treated/seen, get a pass. Would a restaurant survive on this type of attentiveness to it’s patrons? Yet, healthcare gets a pass.
This emerged decades ago. If you think about it, not having a Physician who “met us where we we’re at in life” is a relatively new experience. It’s not lost on me that this concept is completely foreign and new to younger generations, our kids, etc. Today in healthcare I’m ecstatic that some have personalized the healthcare experience, forging new paths and sending back maps for other Physicians, Nurses, PAs and Hospitals to follow. They’re making significant improvements in the delivery of healthcare to their communities and what was once viewed as a luxury, is now just “expected.”
You see our needs as a culture, a society and people is always changing. Healthcare is slow to adopt new ideas. Businesses aren’t. They’re driven by innovation. If they’re not, they won’t succeed.
Some in healthcare bully and belittle Physicians that try to enhance their situation by improving patient satisfaction. We’ve heard over the years from Physicians who’ve been asked by hospital administrators to see more patients, reduce visit time and the drum beat goes on.
It is a myth for Physicians who believe that Patient demand for a personalized, different and seamless patient-customer experience leaves little room for a less-than-perfect fit in today’s retail market. If you believe this myth, then you believe that people and our communities never change. You believe that expectations never move.
We all want the same thing, a perfect product, delivered on-time, without defects. Is that possible in healthcare? My answer and experience in talking to Physicians and Patients over the years would tell me ‘No.’ Why? Because we’re all human. We all make mistakes.
But when people think of luxury today, many still have this perception that by definition anything that enhances the patient experience beyond just getting the care you need and getting the Patient out the door is a luxury. It relegates all of Physicians, Nurses, PAs, Hospitals, emergency rooms to the fact that if you are a little nice or put money into patient satisfaction details, it’s a luxury. It is labeled as opulent. Yet this disruptive act of seemingly gratuitousness and excess is what we as Patients want and expect. Why? Because our needs are always changing. Why? Because we get it everywhere else in our lives, except healthcare.
For example. Custom clothing is not new–it’s a luxury people have enjoyed for many years.
Is going to the tailor to have our pants hemmed a luxury? Some might say yes. Most would say, ‘well no, that’s just what we need to do to make the pants fit.’
Every innovation, every new invention may start at its inception with a high price point simply because the market and the need was initially small. As time goes by, the product or service becomes re-engineered and streamlined for more people making it more in-demand. Every innovation has an expiration date. Without innovation, invention or re-engineering it will fail. Physicians, health systems, hospitals, emergency rooms must go through this fiery furnace if they are to minimize costs for their customers and find the love from their customers they so aptly desire.
We all must go through a refining process.
Time is a Luxury To Patients (and Physicians)
What we considered a luxury in the era of Andy Griffith where a Physician would meet us where we are is now coming back around in the forms I’ve mentioned above. Do you believe that this era of a Physician at your bedside decades ago was a “luxury” back then? It’s up for debate, certainly.
If you know me, I’m an avid canoeist, angler, and well, “I like to fish.”
As an outdoorsman originally from the Midwest, some of you might be familiar with or have heard of a theory called Shifting Baseline Syndrome. Simply put, Shifting Baseline Syndrome is our human adaptability to think about what’s normal so that at ecologically or even culturally, as ‘a gradual change in our life comes and remains for a while, our once accepted norms for the condition of the natural environment change due to a lack of experience, memory and/or knowledge of its past condition’.
Applied to our healthcare conversation today it means that as things get worse and worse [eg in healthcare, what’s covered, what’s not, cost, convenience, customer service, etc.], we have this ever-evolving sense of what’s normal that prevents us from recognizing how bad things are of have actually got.
Democratization has entered healthcare today. Democratization is defined as the action of making something accessible to everyone.
Decades ago a Physician visiting our homes would meet us at our bedside. That was a service that was accessible and available to everyone.
Concierge Medicine, regardless of how you feel about it, is a true return to that era, yet the shifting baseline of what’s considered normal in our healthcare marketplace labels is as a wealthy-only modern luxury.
The when we apply the idea behind the shifting baseline, we forget how medicine, our personal Physician, have an incredibly rich heritage and authenticity that is supposed to this by its very nature.
One Concierge Medicine Physician from Connecticut told me recently “In order to prevent doing harm in medical practices, we need to decrease the number of patients that each doctor cares for daily to give him/her the time to adequately address the patients needs, be able to critically think about each clinical situation, and coordinate care with other practitioners if needed. It’s not “fair” to patients to rush them in-and-out of the office, merely treating symptoms without getting to the root cause of their complaints. Building a trusting relationship with patients is at the core of what concierge doctors do on a daily basis. I’m hopeful that every young physician sees a future in which they can practice high-level medical care, achieve a work-life balance, and form a bond with their patients that will last a lifetime.”
If you are a somewhat of a student of our culture, you clearly see that the brands around us are evolving to meet our needs, wants and demands.
Yet in healthcare this pivot, adapt, serve and edit philosophy is printed on hospital walls and never quite implemented.
“Every time I eliminate a mistake permanently, I save money and improve my product at the same time. That is efficiency. Any fool can do cost-cutting. You can book an auditor right now and say, “Don’t have the music playing in the afternoon anymore,” and you save money. But you’ve taken something away, you’ve take their surprise and delight away … from the customer. Cost-cutting means you take something away from the customer, and sadly, that’s how businesses think today. I work in the luxury business. There’s nothing right or wrong. It’s really, in a way, all the same. It’s a concentration on this specific market. In my specific market 30 years ago, luxury meant chandeliers and marble and being a little nice. Today luxury means “do it my way.” That means adjusting relentlessly to the individual.” – Horst Schulz, Former CEO, Ritz Carlton
According to The Kadence Luxury Index 2018 surveyed 5,775 consumers in 13 markets about their opinions around eight different components of luxury. Quality emerges as the number one driver of luxury, followed by history, status, distinctiveness, timelessness, the feel-good factor, the experiential nature of the brand and exclusivity.
What’s next for personalization and the patient experience?
- I believe that the answer to this question lies in honing the use of our existing Physicians who are challenging the status-quo. I believe it also lies in understand and honing the use of sophisticated patient demographic analytics to get ahead of patient preferences. I believe understanding patient and physician needs, wants and trends and fine-tuning a patient-centric experience and experimenting with new technologies, subscription-based healthcare delivery models and customer service training for both Physicians and their staff, starting in medical school and continuing into CME educational events is the answer.
- The real bespoke adventure will start in a few years when retail healthcare innovators will marry data, AI and create custom healthcare experiences as part of an overall unique healthcare experience in our communities. Medical practices, hospitals, urgent cares and particularly individual primary care and family medical offices will need to continue to look for ways to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible while putting the patient at the center of its strategy.
Let’s look at some examples outside of healthcare who understand personalizing the customer experience and how they have relentlessly adjusted to meet customer needs by redefining luxury into a modern convenience.
- According to Alex Field, director of marketing at Reignwood, the Asian investment group behind the luxury members-only Wentworth Club golf resort in Surrey and exclusive Ten Trinity Square club in central London, “what consumers are searching for from the luxury experience is often determined by how they feel their time will be best spent.
- Field believes modern luxury consumers crave an authentic luxury experience, an opinion informed by his time as global marketing director of premium shirt maker Thomas Pink and head of business development at Moët Hennessy.
- “There has to be complete authenticity, it has to be the real thing. There also has to be an element of rarity and exclusivity. Finally, if [consumers’] time is so valuable, then that experience has to be perfect,” says Field. “If you ask people, ‘how would you like to spend your time in the most luxurious way?’, are they going to go for a product, or are they going to go for an experience? My feeling is it’s an experience because it’s enriching their lives.” He argues that in the luxury sector marketers need to dig deep into the authentic proof points of the brand, which often means starting with its origins. It is also crucial to define the brand’s personality and consider how it is positioned among its competitive set in order to demonstrate how you add value. “If you’re not authentic [consumers] will see straight through you in seconds, especially when you’re charging the prices that sometimes we charge… If you are charging more then you have to be better,” says Field. “There has to be value for money, probably even more so in the luxury market, because our members will know the benchmarks of most of these things. However, there is something that you can never put a price on and that’s the emotion you will get from the experience.”
- The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain emerged as the eighth most luxurious brand in the Kadence Luxury Index 2018 among Western customers, just behind Lamborghini but ahead of Rolex.
- Lisa Holladay, global brand leader at The Ritz-Carlton, sees luxury as being rooted in a combination of quality, comfort and elegance, alongside an element of scarcity, authenticity and, increasingly, distinctiveness. She explains that whereas in the past luxury often felt prescribed, today it is defined by the customer and is therefore less formal, more personal and increasingly takes into account different tastes and cultural references.
- “As the world has become more globalised people are also searching for products that are authentic or unique. There is also an increased desire for transparency from brands, so consumers can seek out brands that align with their personal values,” says Holladay.The Ritz-Carlton is focused on giving a destination-driven experience, which it believes the modern luxury traveller is seeking. For this reason each hotel is designed to tell a story and connect guests to their location. This was underlined by the company’s latest brand initiative #RCMemories, which sought to immerse guests in the local culture with events such as the ‘Dance of Thanks to the Sea’, a traditional dance which takes place at sunset on the beach at The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi in Malaysia. For its latest brand campaign ‘Let Us Stay with You’ the luxury hotel chain gathered thousands of stories about how its staff go above and beyond to create ‘wow’ moments, such as one employee working with a local tailor to replace the contents of a guest’s lost luggage when all the shops were shut.
Personal Fulfilment and Self-Actualization
Charlette Rogers at MarketingWeek recently wrote The luxury market in 2018 is complex and highly nuanced. It is not simply enough to trade off heritage or exclusivity, modern luxury consumers want to understand why a brand deserves their attention and how it is going to enrich their lives.
Just before the Pandemic, Marriott International and Skift Research conducted a worldwide survey of more than 5,000 high-income luxury consumers to capture attitudinal and behavioral differences toward luxury across the US, UK, China, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. One of the key things to emerge from the study was that roughly 75% of respondents across all markets said that “luxury has a different meaning today than it did to my parents’ generation.” Skift and Marriott’s research also points out that more than 75% of survey respondents across all markets either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that they find “more value in goods and services that enable them to learn something new.” As the report notes, this, once again, implies a shift in priorities from notions of “what you can do” to “who you can be”.
According to an article by eTail, and WBR, Worldwide Business Research, affluent consumers may be spending more on luxury goods and services than ever before, and they may still be using these purchases to help shape their identity – but, increasingly, luxury is no longer defined only by concepts of quality, comfort, and elegance. increasingly, luxury is no longer defined only by concepts of quality, comfort, and elegance. Instead, there is a shift from the external to an internalization of what is considered to be “luxury”. Today’s high-earning consumers are looking for experiences that help them learn, differentiate themselves, express who they are, and have a purpose beyond comfort and pampering. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in this, and luxury brands will do well to ensure they are incorporating emerging tech – such as artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality experiences – into their offering. Ultimately, the concept of “luxury” is becoming less about products consumers want to own or places they want to visit, and more about who they want to be. Luxury brands that understand this, and help their customers live up to self-actualization aspirations can give themselves a competitive advantage in the evolving world of luxury. The key to luxury is and always will be centered around an idea of exclusivity – the feeling that not everyone will be able to get their hands on or experience whatever it is that the brand is selling. However, while this feeling is usually evoked through perceptions of quality, comfort, and elegance, the term “luxury” is evolving to encompass several additional things to consumers around the globe. “Luxury” has a different meaning today than it did to previous generations.
From Heritage And Legacy To Seeking New Relevance With Modern Heritage
Physicians have a long, healthy reputation and heritage of helping people. Only in recent decades since the mid 1940’s and after WWII did a lot of this change within our society.
Both in and outside of healthcare we can probably all agree that around the world, people are less and less willing to respect established brands and institutions just because they have a long-standing legacy.
The past is no longer here. Today, people want, deserve and expect some form of luxury into every experience they receive. From the Apple Store experience to the retail healthcare clinic.
The key to the heart of this new luxury consumer [eg Patient] is personal relevance.
Medium.com cited The Luxury Report 2019: Redefining The Future Meaning of Luxury in which it stated In today’s world, no brand has an eternal right to claim its luxury status, which is why no brand can afford to rest on its laurels. To be relevant today, every luxury brand must constantly look for new and refreshing ways to contextualise the old within the new. Luxury brands need to bring the story of their heritage, craft and legacy within the cultural context of today to appeal to the new generation of customers. As the new markets are opening up, new media and technologies are entering our lives and a whole new generation of luxury consumers is emerging who think, act and connect in ways that could not have been predicted even a few years ago, luxury is being pushed to diversify and find a new role and relevance in our lives. Brands who seize this opportunity will enjoy impressive growth. Those that ignore it will continue to struggle.
What Can Doctors, PAs, Nurses and Those Coaching and Helping Doctors Do Prepare For and Redefine the Future of Healthcare? And, How Can Luxury Brands Can Win in the New Reality?
I like to think the answers are out there if we’re just willing to be in the unique position or frame of mind to recognize Unique when we see it. Unfortunately, little in healthcare is often truly Unique. There’s pockets of Unique certainly. But as a whole, when you ask a Physician if they love their job, most would say ‘No.’ That has to change.
What makes a brand a “luxury” brand? Is it the quality of the materials? The design? The price tag? Yes, yes, and yes – but if these were the only criteria, everything from smartphones to well-made running shoes would be considered luxury items.
The story in BCG helps us understand this. Brands that address challenges and opportunities without delay will be in a better position to navigate the new reality. In the initial Flatten phase, luxury players prioritized protecting their people and cash. Some switched to making personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and other essentials. In most regions, brands now are transitioning to the Fight phase, where they need to reset and streamline operations and invest in areas that will drive advantage into the Future phase of the new luxury reality. (See Graphic)
So let’s look outside of healthcare for a moment to see if we can answer this question.
Lesson 1. The ability to personalise the product. Maserati general manager Mike Biscoe sees the quality of the product and materials as essential elements of luxury. Although increasingly exclusivity, especially the ability to personalise the product, is becoming more important. “Globally, I think distinctiveness and the desire for individuality are important if I look at the market we’re in today and the competitors we are operating against,” says Biscoe. “The likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes are probably selling in excess of two million cars a year globally. A brand like Porsche is selling something like 250,000 cars a year globally versus Maserati which last year sold just over 50,000 cars. Maserati is far more exclusive a brand and therefore that appeals to this sense of individuality and distinctiveness, which I think also leads into the desire for more personalisation as well.”
Lesson 2. Attaining a state of calm and peace … is vitally important to enjoying the luxury experience according to Siraj Singh, director of marketing and ecommerce at Edwardian Hotels London. The hotel group, which owns The May Fair Hotel, the Bloomsbury Street Hotel, 11 Radisson Blu Edwardian London hotels in London and Manchester and a collection of restaurant and bar brands across the capital, is also in the process of developing a luxury hotel, spa and cinema concept in Leicester Square. For Edwardian Hotels luxury is defined as a combination of beautiful surroundings and perfect service, a mixture Singh says enables customers to truly relax. “We know that people cannot enjoy a luxury experience unless they are relaxed, and so luxury brands must attend to each and every guest’s individual needs,” she explains. “The May Fair Hotel is known for its style and sophistication, and while it’s set in the heart of one of the most sought-after addresses in the world – it’s the seamless service that makes it a luxurious and desirable brand.”
Lesson 3. The demand for more personalized healthcare experiences … delivered practically immediately or overnight at everyday market bearing prices will continue to put a lot of pressure on various Doctors, Hospitals and technology innovators in the future. The opportunity for these tech-savvy operators and Physicians to innovate across healthcare, cardiology, primary care, family medicine, pediatrics and dental care is obvious over the next two decades. According to Forbes, the data proves this out to be true as well in other markets. A mass of opportunity surrounds the power of customization, and brands, retailers and new entrants will be wise to look for new ways to support and grow the bespoke business.
Lesson 4. Intelligent growth. While we are seeing more on-demand customization from relatively smaller and sometimes strictly digital retailers, more and more consumers will start to expect custom offerings as part of the everyday retail experience. Soon retailers will need to supplement custom offerings with new technologies and artificial intelligence (AI). Some brands are already exploring the power of machine learning and technologies such as 3-D printing in retail. New offerings will allow consumers to visualize entirely new and custom products–imagine the in-store or online experience that could accompany this capability. Many brands are just in the digital visualization stage, but in the near future automated knitting machines and 3-D printing will allow people to bring their custom creations.
Lesson 5. Custom and subscription unite. Subscription services continue to use data to curate wardrobe and pantry picks tailored to a consumer’s preferences and behaviors. In the future, consumers will expect these picks to not only be products they like, but products tailored to them. Take popular personal shopping services, Stitch Fix. The company has mastered the use of data paired with human touch, and now will need to deliver the perfect fit. These services already have access to data such as a consumer’s measurements, fit preference and which color looks best. A day will come when companies bring customization into the fold. This will of course not only mean innovation surrounding the user experience and fulfillment, but throughout the supply chain.
Lesson 5. Online channels are blossoming. Some luxury brands had been cautious about venturing into e-commerce because it doesn’t fit consumer expectations for a high-end shopping experience. But as more people bypass shopping in person for the convenience and relative safety of buying things online, luxury brands must accelerate sales through online channels.
Lesson 6. A quieter style of luxury emerges. The next decade will be one of uneasy affluence, with shoppers in many parts of the world reverting to less conspicuous forms of luxury. In a recent BCG consumer survey, more than half of the respondents expected their preference to increase for luxury items that are understated and everlasting. Chinese consumers, however, continue to prefer luxury items with embellishments, logos, and other visible adornments, a difference that could polarize luxury values between East and West.
Lesson 7. Build an AI-driven technology backbone. Adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics, and other components of an enterprise-wide technology backbone will become a key differentiator in the industry. If the Fight phase of crisis recovery continues for some time, it may be difficult to predict product trends, at least in the near term. Brands can use AI to steer the way, doing pulse checks on buying patterns, for example, to improve demand tracking and analysis and gain insights that competitors might not have. AI also can help brands manage manufacturing and stock in a more agile way. The benefits include improved in-season inventory management and markdowns. And it can help them customize their value proposition to a hyperpersonalized level.
Lesson 8. Bring fresh skills to the workforce. The pursuit of talent with the necessary skills will be one of the luxury industry’s biggest challenges in the coming decade. The industry needs data engineers, data scientists, analysts, and other digitally savvy talent—all people whose talents make them highly sought after. There will also be a need to upskill existing talent as AI and advanced analytics continue to transform all areas of the value chain.
Lesson 9. Offering a perfect fit and exclusive product has yielded a loyal customer base and attracted millions in funding. For luxury brands, this means that it is becoming increasingly important to go beyond simply providing the “status quo” when it comes to the tech services they offer. Affluent consumers are looking to differentiate themselves from others through being “ahead of the curve” in the technology they use, so brands need to appeal to these desires by being on the cutting edge of new tech tools and applications.
Lesson 10. Expanding high-end design can be expensive and time-consuming, but these founders have figured it out. The bespoke economy is booming, with customer-design businesses like suit maker Knot Standard, a 2015 Inc. 500 company, reporting 1,000 percent growth in the past two years. Technology is enabling these emerging brands to manufacture more nimbly, while social media can help them find new customers miles away from their local Main Street. Still, custom-fit companies have challenges different from the typical product-based startup. We talked with four bespoke entrepreneurs about obstacles they’ve faced and overcome.
5 STRATEGIC ACTIONS FOR LUXURY BRANDS TO TAKE TO REGAIN RELEVANCE & VALUE:
Dr. Martina Olbertova is a leading expert on brand meaning and cultural relevance around the globe. She is the Founder & CEO of Meaning.Global, a global strategic brand and cultural intelligence consultancy powered by meaning. As a writer, speaker, strategist and cultural consultant, she educates brand and business leaders on how to be culturally savvy and capitalise on culture change to restore integrity, relevance, value and brand growth. She is a Contributing Author to Branding Strategy Insider, the world’s most influential resource on brand strategy, member of The Core Code, a new global think-tank humanising brands and businesses worldwide, and a fellow of the RSA. Based in Europe and available for strategy consulting, speaking and workshops worldwide. You can download her full 72-page The Luxury Report 2019 for free by clicking on this link: https://www.meaning.global/the-luxury-report
Dr. Olbertova I believe helps provide us all with some practical application and handles on how to stay relevant, as a modern-day luxury brand (eg. Concierge Medicine).
- Embrace Your Brand Identity And Essence. First things first. Understand who you are as a brand, what your values and beliefs are, how you want to express them, where you stand in this new world and how all this could complement and empower your customers’ own identities and personal lifestyles.
- Enhance Your Customers’ Identities And Lifestyles. Being in sync with your customers’ identities and lifestyles is a transcendental act for any brand. Here, the task isn’t about who you are as a brand, but who you are to your customers and who you want your customers to become when they purchase your brand. It is about empowering their own identity through the strength of yours.
- Become Essential To People’s Real Lives. Being essential to your customers is about discovering new ways to create meaningful value in people’s lives. You need to know what your place is in the everyday context and the role you play in your customers’ lives, given the values and beliefs you stand for and the meanings you create through your brand.
- Mind Your Cultural Context: Know What’s Happening Around You. Pay attention to what’s happening in the culture around you and actively seek out moments of surprise that can bring a new sense of relevance to your brand. Mind your context and draw relevance from what surrounds you to evolve your own meaning and inspire people.
- Tap Into Cultural Zeitgeist And Capitalise On Change. Finally, once you’re tuned into the culture and what the emerging cultural streams are telling you, capitalise on where society is going by creating your own platform that helps you reinforce your brand values and beliefs to become an active agent of culture change.
Dr. Olberova also notes, “When applied together, all these actions lead to a meaningful brand strategy. Making these conscious steps while being mindful of your essence and legacy will help your brand regain cultural relevance and rewrite the story of luxury, one step at the time.”
How do you convince Patients you’re worth the price?
Our final question of the day has to do with what all Physicians need, want and ask for. More Patients. A recent article in INC. Magazine I think illustrates and concludes our learn-ed conversation today.
The writer Kalee Thompson wrote Bespoke [eg. Highly personalized] products are almost always more expensive than mass-produced ones. Just ask Wagner Custom Skis, started by Pete Wagner in 2006. Today, he has a dozen employees and a manufacturing plant in an old gas station just outside Telluride, Colorado. They produce 1,500 pairs of skis a year at a starting price of $1,750 each, while “a premium set of skis from one of the big factories might be $1,200 or $1,300,” Wagner says. 
The Solution: Offer a better experience, and a better story. 
Wagner is an engineer who previously designed software used to build custom-fit golf clubs. “I worked with aerospace engineers on predictive engineering, doing things that you just don’t see in the ski industry,” he says. “It gave us a huge head start.” So he made the tech a part of his ski company’s narrative. Each set of skis takes 10 to 12 hours to produce over a two-week period, leading to “improved balance, comfort, control, power, and efficiency.” Wagner also offers refunds or rebuilds if customers aren’t completely satisfied, and when the ski season is over, customers can mail their skis back home to Telluride to be tuned. “It’s different from just a one-time transaction,” says Wagner, who drums up lots of word of mouth business. “You have a relationship.”
And there you have it. Relationship. That’s what Patients want from YOU, their Doctor.
It’s as simple as that. Now, go out and nurture it! We see you, we believe in you and we are FOR YOU!
Concierge Medicine Today/The DPC Journal