Just as technology has disrupted every market from travel to financial services, now a new generation of luxury players is offering wealthy consumers a range of products and services based on innovative technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Augmented Reality (AR). And, ironically, this disruption is once more bringing an emphasis on some of the core elements of luxury — exclusivity and exemplary, personalised service.
12 tech brands that are transforming the luxury market
17th January 2019
The world of luxury service is becoming more user-friendly with the advent of new high-end tech companies delivering exemplary personalised services
Describing itself as “the world’s first luxury marketplace that combines both high-end products and services into one ecosystem”, Keyyes is an AI-based app that acts as a 21st-century concierge service.
Behind it is Sarment, which, backed by Paolo Bulgari of the jewellery dynasty, is a lifestyle service provider. Keyyes will enable users to order private jets, book tables at exclusive restaurants at the last minute, test drive the latest sports car, get a private tour of an art exhibition or even a bespoke stylist session at a fashion atelier — all at the touch of a button.
It was only a matter of time before someone took the Uber business model and moved it upmarket. That someone is 29-year-old Anton Chirkunov. Wheely provides chauffeur-driven executive cars such as the Mercedes E-, S- and V-class, none of which is more than three years old. Its chauffeurs are suited and booted and each carries an umbrella. They’ll hold doors open for customers as well as helping them with their luggage.
Does Wheely, which has enjoyed 100 per cent growth since January, regard itself as a disruptor? “Definitely,” says its spokeswoman. “Wheely came up with a golden standard in ride-hailing and now our chauffeurs, who have to pass exams, are considered to be the best.”
A superyacht on the cheap? Well, not exactly cheap, but in this very traditional world, Hawk Yachts is cutting costs by up to 50 per cent by building in commercial shipyards rather than only using the well-known superyacht yards.
"The superyacht market has reached a tipping point,” says Matthias Bosse, the company’s CEO. “It’s known for building overpriced yachts with limited capability and high maintenance costs — perhaps why only two per cent of ultra-high-net-worth individuals own a yacht. Our yachts bring some of the most beautiful and remote locations around the world that are usually accessible only by boat within the reach of high-end ocean explorers.”
Describing itself as a “luxury eco-system” and aimed at ultra-high-net-worth individuals, Luxury Cave is built on four pillars. The first is a curated collection of limited editions, capsule collections and rare pieces for purchase online. Second is a luxury lifestyle magazine with a focus on ethical living and sustainability, while the third pillar is a concierge service offering access to the best restaurants and sold-out events. Members can also, for instance, configure their own high-performance car online and have it delivered direct from the factory. The fourth pillar is a series of events showcasing the very best in the arts, starting with a special exhibition at the Design Museum in February.
“Our audience is exceptionally wealthy individuals bored with the current luxury offering,” says founder Darren Miller. “The word ‘luxury’ is so over used these days, so we’ve recruited a panel of experts who can curate the very best items and services for our members.”
The backlash against fast fashion and the desire by consumers to invest in a piece that has longevity has driven the value of what is known as “the repair economy” in the UK to somewhere between £116m and £312m, according to WRAP, the sustainability charity.
The Restory is an on-demand restoration service for luxury shoes and designer handbags. With fans including super-influencer Peony Lim and Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begović, the service is now available at Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge as part of the store’s multi-million-pound refurbishment of the first floor.
You probably won’t have heard of it, but this was the company that transported the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress from the Givenchy workshop in Paris to Windsor and it carries Anna Wintour’s clothes to whichever fashion capital she’s visiting for the shows. Worldnet is known to fashion insiders as being “like couture freight”, while the head of logistics at one major fashion PR claims that it somehow makes the unthinkable happen.
CapitalRise is a crowdfunding platform that connects luxury residential real estate developers seeking finance with investors.
“CapitalRise is a disruptor for the way it’s using technology to drive disintermediation of the old-fashioned property lending sector,” says CEO and co-founder Uma Rajah. “The appeal for developers is the access to quick and cost-effective finance. The appeal for investors is being able to invest as little as £1,000 to access opportunities and returns of between 10 and 18 per cent that are usually only available to banks and large institutions.”
Even the discreet and very traditional world of the family office, the wealth management advisory firms that serve wealthy families, is being disrupted. Dos&Co is a virtual family office, aimed specifically at ultra-high-net-worth families and the younger wealthy.
“We’ve developed an online platform specifically for complex and large wealth holdings to help track, automate and consolidate paperwork, administration and reporting for huge property portfolios, investment portfolios or simply complex family travel and residential requirements,” says founder Darragh O’Sullivan. The platform also handles private aircraft movements, yacht charter, multiple residences, art collections, vintage car collections, jewellery collections and more.
Thomas Clipper claims to be the first luxury crowdfunded brand. Its high-end men’s skin and shaving products have recently been joined by a collection of luxury leather travel bags and accessories, which are made in Modena, Italy.
“Crowdfunding has the amazing potential — done well — to democratise a highly undemocratic industry: luxury,” says co-founder Antonio Weiss. “We operate in a sector that is full of promises: ‘look like this handsome chap, live like this millionaire’. We’re not offering that. We’re speaking to men who have already had success in their lives. They’ve got nothing to prove — they just want a moment of consideration, a space for relaxation.”
You’ve wandered into a smart boutique, browsed the stock and sauntered out again. But did you realise that your movements are being tracked and technology is informing the store about your every move — from your route among the displays to the amount of time you spent looking at an item? Backed by Groupe Arnault, the controlling shareholder of LVMH, Euclid Analytics does just this and, as a result, it’s changing the way that luxury stores operate.
Its technology uses wifi to analyse the exact movement of customers through their mobile phones so that retailers adjust their offering to match shoppers’ demands.
One of the struggles online luxury retailing has is that customers don’t feel they can see products properly to get a good sense of what they’re buying. Luxury houses such as Guérin Joaillerie and Jazmín Chebar are using technology developed by Cappasity to solve this problem. Its AI-based 3D analytical tool enables retailers to understand customers’ behaviour. A heat map reveals “dwell time”, points of customer interest and the best angles for thumbnail product positioning to improve the way we view products on the net.
“Luxury tech is a new market segment as luxury brands have only just begun their way to e-commerce,” says Kosta Popov, founder and CEO. “Online shopping is different from in-store because it’s hard to bring the same engagement.”
Fundamentally changing the humble shop mirror, MemoMi Labs’ Memory Mirror uses AR to allow shoppers in Nieman Marcus and outlets owned by LVMH to try on clothes virtually so that they can see exactly what a dress, a suit or a shirt would look like if they’d gone through the trouble of trying it.
“The idea is to create new experiences using an obvious object as the mirror, but without the limitation of the traditional mirror,” says Salvador Nissi Vilcovsky, founder & CEO. Is he a disruptor? “Absolutely, and what proves
it is the amazing traction we have. We’re currently working with almost every luxury group in the world.”