In the upwardly mobile East, the opposite is happening.
“We don’t cater to need, we cater to desire,” Mr. Vigneron said. “So more and more, pricing in luxury is an art in itself and you need to ensure the right product is available for customers at every entry point to the Cartier brand. People of all backgrounds are more than willing to buy into a dream, but it has to be at the right price.”
In an evermore competitive market, however, this also means meeting customers in new ways. For Cartier, that meant investing heavily in renovating key flagship locations, including New Bond Street in London, which reopened in December, and ensuring these stores could also be used for meetings and events. The house also has hosted several high-profile museum-style exhibitions of key pieces from its archives, and reconsidered its product introductions. To celebrate the unveiling of the new Santos de Cartier watch in San Francisco last year, for example, Cartier held three days of talks with modern-day creative figures, campaigners and entrepreneurs.
“As digital gets evermore important so, too, has sharing, learning and finding a community in the physical world, too. If a luxury brand can move beyond product and also facilitate those relationships as they then develop both on and offline, then it is a very powerful thing,” Mr. Vigneron said.
A greater focus on such encounters, and on data to understand market changes better and to identify potential customers and how to reach them, has become paramount, he said. So has adapting to client needs and desires as they are shaped by shifting societal trends.
“Traditionally, luxury has always been a very centralized business, both physically and philosophically,” Mr. Vigneron said. “The guardian of the temple will remain an artistic director, but today you also need to democratize and spread and test yourself across new markets — far beyond just your stores — in order to really resonate wherever you are.
“Inclusivity is critical to most many luxury shoppers who are shaping today’s industry.”
For Cartier, beyond building its local teams worldwide, this has meant experimenting by, for example, adapting its video and social media campaigns for different cultures (like deciding its Sofia Coppola-directed video was too provocative and creating a different video for Middle Eastern markets) or male celebrities (like Lu Han in China) to model high jewelry designs directed at women. A retail innovation lab to test new technologies has been opened in Brooklyn, with sites in Tokyo and Shanghai planned for later this year.