Complex Made Simple

Is digital killing the traditional business of luxury?

How are the latest advancements in technology affecting the business of luxury? Will traditional businesses survive or will the advent of digitalisation make them obsolete?

“Disruption is just a way of living. It is not a provocation,” said Jean-Claude Biver, the President of the Watches Division, LVMH Group, and who also oversees TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith.

Biver made these remarks on Monday while speaking at arab luxury world, a leading conference on the business of luxury in the Middle East, held in Dubai.

The man who is credited as having “single-handedly saved the Swiss watchmaking industry”, Biver also said disruption has become an inevitable part of business and, if used correctly, it helps one become first, different and unique.

“If you are the first, different and unique, how can you fail?” he asked.

Nonetheless, he added, one needs to know the past in order to create the future.

He also warned against going away from the brand.

“Disruption must be coherent. You cannot disconnect from the brand for disruption,” he said.

He went on to note that people will have to make mistakes to adapt disruption.

“As a CEO, I would advise you to forgive mistakes and encourage mistakes…which is part of learning process,” Biver said.

When asked whether smartwatches and connected watches will affect traditional watchmaking negatively, he said: “Smartwatch technology is not a threat to the art of watchmaking.” He further noted: “Connected watches will become obsolete.”

“Technology only goes forward by destroying the past. Art, on the other hand, is eternal,” he explained.

Future of retail

Earlier at the conference, Julien Hawari, Co-CEO of  Mediaquest, the organiser of arab luxury world, said that despite the economic challenges in the Middle East and across the world, there is still hope, because a new class of consumer is emerging.

But what are these consumers looking for in an era where any product can be purchased on their phone and delivered to their doorstep? That’s the question a panel of experts attempted to answer today at the conference in a session titled The Future of Retail.

The panellists agreed that it has become essential to create a wholesome experience for shoppers.

Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, told the audience that consumers of the future would only come to a shop physically to “share a moment”, adding that brands offering special experiences would be the only ones to survive the impending “digital disruption”.

Fahad Hamidaddin, Chief Commercial Officer at King Abdullah Economic City, was also part of the panel. He said that it is essential to create wholesome experiences for the consumers of tomorrow.

Annalise Fard, Director of Home and Beauty at Harrods, was of the opinion that the store of the future will have “no transactions, authenticity of products and personalised interactions.”

Several well-known experts, who have gathered at Westin Mina Seyahi in Dubai for arab luxury world, will discuss a number of issues concerning the luxury sector in the Middle East and across the world.

The two-day conference will conclude on Tuesday.