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At PSFK, Instagram is the New QVC, Kanye’s Model of Success and Redefining Luxury

If you want to learn a thing or two about how to succeed in retail these days, just look at the success of Kanye West (notwithstanding his recent controversial comments).

At PSFK’s CXI conference in New York on Friday, Assembled Brands CEO Adam Pritzker held up the rapper-turned-fashion-guru and father of three as a prime example of what and how consumers want to buy today, even as he described Instagram as “the new QVC.”

In a far-ranging conversation with PSFK’s president of strategy Scott Lachut, Pritzker said many direct-to-consumer darlings find themselves experimenting with physical retail eventually, often in the form of pop-up shops they hope will attract attention to the brand. But the real measure of pop-up success, Pritzker explained, is when customers who bought from the temporary shop purchase directly from the brand’s e-commerce for their next transaction. That’s a meaningful sign of true conversion.

What’s more, the metrics associated with physical retail’s role as a marketing channel are “a little bit messy right now,” Pritzker explained, largely because tracking brick-and-mortar’s impact on the customer’s ultimate purchase poses significant challenges. However, attracting customers to the energy and excitement around an influencer and an experience could be one winning way to move merchandise, he added.

“I hate to mention Kanye West right now but I think what he did with Yeezy was in the way he was on tour and the way he created this experience—and then sold a product around that,” Pritzker said. “It was really smart.”

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Of course, not every company has the luxury of having megawatt celebrities on deck, but brands must consider how consumers’ purchasing patterns are evolving—and amplify in-person, in-store experiences through the power of social media.

“It’s amazing when these words become part of the vernacular,” Lachut said. “I now find myself saying ‘Instagrammability’ when having conversations with clients.” A customer’s “social capital” can be a valuable investment for brands, he added, because “they’re ultimately the advocates expanding our marketing.”

Social media’s endless streams of aspirational imagery—much of which comes from lifestyle influencers—has primed consumers to shop in the moment and get their instant gratification fix without having to click away. That’s why Pritzker said he sometimes jokes that “Instagram is the new QVC or HSN” and is becoming a “shopping channel.”

Pritzker also addressed how the concept of luxury is changing and being reinterpreted by the millennial and Gen Z consumers. “I think that the idea of luxury probably used to have a one-to-one relationship with status, which is why it’s kind of a dirty word in a certain sense for maybe a younger generation,” he explained. “I think the idea of luxury has really transformed to a sense of discovery, like music. People really want to discover brands they want to have a direct relationship with them.”

Consumers increasingly disinterested in mass-market products instead “want a sense of intimacy. Maybe they know the person making the product,” Pritzker added. Shopper tastes are evolving toward well-thought-out goods born from a sense of “refinement,” he said, and beyond the products themselves, consumers also want to spend their money with businesses that embody these values—discovery, intimacy, refinement—at the heart of their corporate culture.