Luxury brands are big fans of Facebook, other social media sites

High-end brands have woken up awakened to the power of social media because of some compelling statistics. "Households earning over $100,000 a year are on the Internet 23 hours a week and on Facebook six hours a week," said Bernie Brennan, co-author with Lori Schafer of "Branded: How Retailers Engage Consumers with Social Media and Mobility." And 80 percent of households with annual incomes of more than $240,000 use social networking, primarily Facebook, said Brennan. Luxury brands now realize "there's a new way to communicate and if retailers or brands are not engaging in social media, they're missing an enormous market opportunity," he said.

Some of the world's most exclusive names are quickly becoming the world's most engaging brands. Why? It's simple really. Facebook is the social media home to millions of affluents.

These statistics are the sirens song to luxury brands:

– Households earning more than $100,000 spend 6+ hours per week on Facebook

– 80% of households earning more than $240,000 use social media, primarily Facebook

Luxury brands are realizing the intrinsic value of having both affluents and aspirational customers interact with their brand and products at a time and place of their choosing.

So it's little wonder that BMW, Gucci, Chanel, Ritz-Carlton and Louis Vuitton have jumped headfirst into social media, particularly through Facebook.

Burberry has used direct engagement – such as asking Facebook users to submit photos and videos of themselves carrying the signature raincoats and handbags – to boost "likes" to more than 6 million.

One facet of social media metrics that is vastly underappreciated, however, is influence. When a user "likes" a brand, they broaden the degree of influence for that brand.

Even if the user themselves is aspirational and cannot yet afford the brand, generally users will have another 10-20 Facebook users within their network that can afford the brand. By "likeing" the brand, they are spreading the luxury brands influence directly to all of the users within their network. When that "like" shows up on their wall or stream, it serves as a call to action for other users to engage with the brand.

For example, if I "like" a new car from BMW, it will post to my wall. It will be seen by my entire network and the peer influence fundamental will prompt my friends to "like" that BMW and engage with the brand. If the average Facebook user has 130 friends, then Burberry's 6 million fans potentially influence tens of millions of Facebook users.

Luxury brands, with historically smaller traditional footprints and touch points, are finding a home on social media. And with 83% of affluents now making purchases online, Facebook and social websites have truly become the new showcase for the world's premiere brands.  

Travel Trends for China's Millionaires

The Hurun Research Institute has released The Chinese Luxury Travel White Paper, giving insight into the preferences of China's luxury consumers.

The study, which was created from one-on-one interviews with 463 Chinese millionaires and billionaires, sheds new light onto how the wealthiest Chinese make travel decisions.

I found several details to particularly interesting, including:

  • Chinese millionaires average 15 days of vacation annually, including three trips abroad. One-third will take more than 20 days of vacation per year and 20% will travel abroad five or more every year.
  • France is now the top travel destination, followed by the United State (which had been #1 in 2009 and 2010), Australia, Japan, and the Maldives. 
  • 4 out of 5 millionaires consider sending their children overseas for education, with the US, UK and Canada topping the list. 
  • 80% of Chinese millionaires prefer to travel on their own rather than with a tour group.
  • 57% of the ultra-wealthy make their own travel arrgangements using a travel agent or professional website.
  • Only 11% of Chinese millionaires book travel through a hotel website. 
  • When choosing where to stay, brand is the most important factor, followed by service, facilities, and location.
  • The preferred hotel brands of Chinese millionaires are Shangri-La, Hilton, Park Hyatt and The Ritz-Carlton. 

For US hotel companies seeking to gain a toe-hold in the Asian travel market, this study gives actionable insight in how to market to ultra-wealthy Chinese. 

For example, with such a large number of Chinese considering an overseas education for their children, do you think proximity to major universities would be a consideration for the guest? If so, do your professional travel agents have a list of area universities? Is this information detailed on the top-performing international travel websites? 

With such a high percentage of millionaires preferring to travel without a group, is your hotel prepared to host a single Chinese family? Without a group guide as a primary communicator for the guests, are your facilities and staff prepared to service a Chinese guest? For example, do you have community maps and guides printed in simplified Chinese? Are your restaurant and in-room dining menus availble in multiple languages? Do you provide multiple Mandarin television channels? Do you provide currency exhange services? 

I think this study is truly fasciniating. Hotels and brands that implement these insights in their service standards and marketing stand to gain marketshare in this rapidly emerging market.