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The Lean Startup applied to luxury

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    In an increasingly demanding and competitive market, creating a luxury product or service, whether you are a new or established brand, requires more than ever significant investment in product development, communication and launch. However, regardless of the initial investment, and even for established brands, it could happen that the developed product does not meet its audience. As luxury customers and consumption habits are constantly changing, the risk is more difficult to control. The consequence is therefore often without appeal: bankruptcy for new brands, buyout or destruction of stocks for established brands.

    This observation is obviously not without appeal and the ideal would be to validate as early as possible the adequacy between the product and its target market by limiting the initial investment. It is actually possible.

    There is a method used by digital startups to launch new products more efficiently: the Lean Startup. Popularized by American entrepreneur Eric Ries, the Lean Startup is a method of launching new products (or services) based on the concept of successive iterations: launch a first version of your product, test the market, adjust your assumptions and start over again, until you find the most suitable product for the targeted market.

    As launching a luxury product or service is not quite the same as launching a digital startup, I wanted to propose an adaptation of the Lean Startup method that integrates all the specificities of luxury: branding, precision of details, quality of materials, etc ...

    1 - The Luxury Canvas

    The first step of the Lean Startup is to put on paper your initial assumptions: who is the customer, what are his problems, what is the proposed solution, what would be the positioning, the economic model, etc.? To facilitate the inventory of these hypotheses, several canvas have been developed, including the Lean Canvas, which served as a basis for developing a Luxury Canvas, more suited to luxury.

    The Luxury Canvas below has 9 modules to fill with your assumptions before launching the product (and before designing the product or service): customer segments, customer desires, the proposed creation, the creative brief, the unfair advantage, the validation metrics, the communication (and sales) channels, the revenue model and the estimated costs.
    2 - Designing the Minimum Viable Experience

    Once the initial hypotheses are listed, you should be able to validate them in real conditions with potential customers. But rather than investing in large stock production and grand openings, the idea instead is to develop an initial version of the product (or service) while offering customers an experience as close as possible to the final product experience.

    Therefore, the ultimate validation of your concept being the act of purchase (and not just hypothetical intentions), it is extremely important that the customer believe that this is a final experience and that he could even leave with the product presented, or subscribe to the service. This is the principle of the MVE (Minimum Viable Experience).

    The main idea is to avoid investing in stock of materials or products until the concept has been validated by customers. So for example, if your suppliers charge you minimum quantities, try finding other materials or independent craftsmen, even if it is more expensive at first. You can always justify the high price by advertising the product as a limited edition or by highlighting the craft work.

    In case the production is very complicated, you can for example make a first version of the product and display it during an exhibition or in a video. As the customer can not leave with the product, you can have him pre-order his product, like Tesla did with its Model 3. In both cases, be very careful to properly validate your production capacity upfront to be able to keep your promises, because the disappointment would be very strong among your customers.

    Also, in order to communicate effectively about your product or service, choose Internet and social networks, while keeping in mind that there are solutions for creating websites that do not require the use of a developer or an agency.

    Finally, if you need a space to present your product or service, do not commit to a long-term lease right from the start. There are other alternatives, such as pop-up spaces, which are up to the luxury standards and allow you to remain flexible.

    3 - The Validation

    Now that your MVE is ready, all you have to do is validate it in real conditions with your target customer segment. As stated above, the goal here is to allow the customer to project themselves into the product (or service) by offering the most possible realistic experience, and to measure quantitatively and qualitatively the related feedbacks.

    From a quantitative point of view, it is necessary to refer to the validation metrics initially listed in the Luxury Canvas. In case of a product, this metric can be the number of purchases or the number of pre-orders. In case of a service, it could be the number of subscriptions.

    While the quantitative measure is obvious, measuring the qualitative feedback of customers, even if it is subjective, is also very important because it will make it possible to find reasons in case of a lack of purchases or subscriptions. During this phase, it is necessary to open your eyes and ears because each customer feedback, especially if it is recurrent, can be extremely important in the next iteration of the MVE.

    Be careful not to let yourself be influenced by flattering feedback that is not associated with quantitative validation. These "vanity metrics" boost morale but are not necessarily indicative of the future success of your product.

    The purpose of the Lean Luxury is to allow you to arrive as quickly as possible to validate the fit between your product (or service) and your market, in the form of small iterations. Do not try to be right the first time, but rather to be right in the end.

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