Defining Luxury Across Consumer Segments
From its literal definition, Luxury is a state of great comfort and extravagant living. This includes things that are desirable, that are non-essential, have some value or expense, and generate a state of comfort or elegance. As the world changes, as does the concept of luxury. For example, before the universality of the internet existed, the norm for communication was mail delivered by postal service, and then over time this expanded to include communication by fax. As many people may not have seen the need to communicate immediately with someone in a written sense, the idea of email could have been viewed as a luxury. In that time, email was not essential, it was definitely expensive, difficult to obtain and really was for the elite.
The concept of luxury has been present in divergent shapes since the starting of civilization. Its purpose was just as key in older western and eastern empires as it is in present day marketplace. With the unmistakable differences between social classes in earliest civilizations, the uptake of luxury, traditionally, was specific to elite classes. While the word luxury is used in everyday lives to allude to a certain lifestyle, the underlying concepts definition is customer and situation specific. Numerous other endeavors have been made to define luxury using the price-quality dimension positing higher priced products in any category is luxury.
We can see the same trends occur with the developments of new products, new technologies, new inventions, manufacturing methods and global competition. New products are released every day that can be classified as luxury products, such as Tablet PCs, jet boats, massage chairs, steam showers, etc. with the associated price tag allotted to the luxury category. Over time, as the exclusivity of the product becomes diminished and other manufacturers from around the world can replicate the item to the same quality level, production costs can be reduced and the items can become available to the consumer for a reasonable price. Access to these products becomes easier and more affordable.
The question becomes, if the price of a product classified as a luxury item becomes lower without compromising the quality of the product and access to the product is easier to eliminate the scarcity of rarity of the product, can we still define the product as a "Luxury" item? Yes, with the accelerating democratization, different new product classes were created within the luxury market place which were aptly labeled accessible luxury OR massive luxury. This form of luxury is specifically aimed at the bourgeoisie. As luxury pervaded into the masses, defining luxury has become ever so difficult. In contemporary marketing usage, luxury can be defined as a unique (i.e. higher-priced) grade of offer in almost any product or service category.
Perhaps it is necessary to redefine the concept of luxury within the current environment of global commerce, open markets, international logistics and communication, and mature modern manufacturing and technological advancements. Looking back to the definition of Luxury, we still crave products that are non-essential and desirable, produce a state of comfort or elegance, but which now have become more affordable. While the core element of a luxury product was once the expense of that product, we are finally shifting the paradigm across consumer segments making quality and comfort accessible to all.