Looking at the mechanics of the Internet

When Lux and Tech Collide

However, the cost of providing customers with devices and gadgets to gain access to new tech and maintaining them is not a small expenditure for most luxury fashion businesses. What’s more, when a customer is enthusiastic about testing a hi-tech headset in a store, it does not necessarily guarantee that he or she has the desire to purchase a $1,500 handbag.

Source: Village: How to Combine Tech and Luxury Fashion in China the Smart Way | Jing Daily

I confess that when I began my career thirty-odd years ago, I saw the luxury fashion industry as an easy target for ridicule: alien rituals and strange affectations aside, I found it hard to give credence to a group so focused on the capricious whims of the planet’s most pampered posteriors. That perception was both short-sighted and immature.

The opportunity I had to watch China’s luxury market sprout and blossom has given me a different perspective. Luxury consumers are an informal yet exacting standards body. I have found that the more that we can conduct any consumer-oriented business or marketing activity in accordance with the standards of this rarified niche, the better we can serve all consumers.

That’s why I was fascinated by this London panel talking about the use of technology (specifically augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)) to sell more luxury fashion.

One truism I’ve never forgotten about luxury customers: they all want the most fulfilling possible experience delivered with the least possible friction. The gratuitous application of kludgy technology (and, let’s face it, while AR and VR are getting better, neither are ready to fulfill their promise) seems to be a guaranteed way to chase luxury buyers out of your store.

Which leads to a second truism: The well-to-do are not early adopters. They’re the demanding knife-edge of the mainstream user, the guardians of the far side of the chasm twixt “niche product” and “widespread adoption” into which so many promising inventions fall.

If you can tweak a technology or product to the point wherein you can match the exacting standards of the luxury consumer, the big-time awaits. Smartphones went mainstream when the iPhone passed the lux test; satellite radio went wide after Damlier, Toyota, Nissan and BMW were able to make them accessible to finicky upscale buyers; and electronic cars went mainstream when Tesla introduced its luxury roadster and Toyota made the Prius hip with the well-to-do.

China is no exception to this rule. The Chinese luxury consumer often shares as much of her psychographic profile with her counterparts in Europe and North America as she does with her home-girls in Shanghai or Bengbu. Until you can offer her a great experience with the minimum of friction, forget about being first-to-market: go back to the lab.

Some New Year’s Resolutions for Bloggers

In the Hutong
Contemplating breakfast
0921 hrs.

Jorn Barger, the man who coined the phrase “weblog” over a decade ago offers a sobering perspective about what blogging was intended to be in a brief piece in WIRED. He does so simply – by posting the original 10 rules of weblogging.

Sobering.

You can argue with the specifics, but I think in direction he is right. We could all use a little more humility in creating our posts – I know I could.

Have a read, absorb them. Then get someone to translate into Chinese.

(The picture is pretty cool. Barger’s hairstyle does Richard Stallman one better. Oh, to have facial hair.)

Blogging as TV Covers Blogging

NBC Beijing Bureau
Doing some wide shots and insert shots
1044 hrs.

This is probably my favorite kind of live-blogging: writing something in order to look like I’m actually working for the benefit of the cameras at a broadcasting studio.

Really, I’m trying to look natural as they do this. It was pretty cool to be interviewed with Silicon Hutong on the screen behind me.

By the way, the folks at the NBC bureau – Mark Mullen, Adrienne Mong, and their team – are the kind of people who are living testaments to the high priority China now enjoys with editorial desks in New York, London, and around the world. As is usually the case for a major global city, we have always had a cadre of outstanding foreign correspondents in Beijing, but what amazes me is that the quality is staying consistent even as the sheer number of foreign journalists rises. In a day when traditional news organizations are finding it more and more difficult to afford and hold onto really good journalists – much less staff expensive overseas bureaux – the NBC team is a reflection of Beijing’s status as a global capital.

This shift of journalistic resources to this part of the world, in the long term will, I think, prove to be a very good thing for China. Better and smarter journalists will feel less of a need to run sensationalist stories, and will be more comfortable reporting in the way Mike Chinoy used to at CNN. Mike understood his mission to be something quite different than finding stories that would anger or outrage Americans – he saw his goal as explaining China to Americans so that Americans would understand – right or wrong – what the Chinese were thinking and why.

HutongLive: Under the Digital Influence

The Grand Ballroom
Renaissance Beijing Hotel
1602 hrs.

Under the Digital Influence

Just got of the dais from my panel at the AmCham-China “Under the Digital Influence 2007.” The discussions so far have been superb.

What do I mean by that? I mean that this is one of those rare occasions where I have – without exception – learned something useful and valuable from every one of my fellow panelists.

Matt Roberts – Matt moderated, but his preparation, his selection of questions, and the fact that he sneaked his questions to us beforehand made our discussion livelier and better.

Micah Truman – eCommerce is coming back, and it’s coming back HUGE.

Andrew Lih – The tools the Chinese government uses to block certain websites are getting stronger, more robust, and more precise. In one sense, that’s disturbing, but in another sense – the precision sense – it is actually a good thing.

Jeremy Goldkorn – Moderated. Ask risky questions, even weird ones. You’ll be happier with the answers. Jeremy likes asking the tough questions – of all people, including his friends, and it brings out the best in a group of smart people.

Dan Harris – Comments that add value are fine, but your dedication to free speech cannot overwhelm the value of editing stupid, ad homenim, or irrelevant attacks from your site.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis – If you’re going to blog for your business, seek aggressively to measure the effect, so you at least know what the ROI is – or is not – from your blogging. It may not make any difference to whether you do it or not, but you SHOULD know, and it should be a part of an integrated marketing plan.

Will Moss – Will finds what I do: the opportunity to build chemistry with potential clients outweighs the danger of chasing potential business away. Also – companies don’t blog, people do.

Back in the Hutong, Pushing the Thief

Running out the Door
1000 hrs

Running out to a function for my son’s school – interestingly enough the only Jewish day school in Northern China – but wanted to check in.

After a desperately-needed one month hiatus and research trip in the U.S. and a brief run to Singapore, Silicon Hutong is back and getting ready to post.

In the meantime, a not-so-shameless plug for the Image Thief blog of my friend and former colleague Will Moss. Great stuff, Will. I think you missed your calling.