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ESSEC MBA Students Are At The Forefront Of The Luxury Industry’s Digital Revolution

ESSEC's MBA in international luxury brand management is the perfect launch-pad for careers in a changing industry

By  Marco De Novellis

Wed Jun 8 2016

Digitization is taking the luxury industry by storm. According to McKinsey, online sales of luxury goods could sky-rocket to almost $80 billion by 2025, 18% of total luxury sales.

“[A] digital revolution is transforming the ways in which brands reach out to consumers and how consumers interact with brands,” says esteemed professor Denis Morisset, director of executive luxury marketing programs at France’s ESSEC Business School.

ESSEC has always been at the forefront of change and innovation in the luxury industry. Launched over 20 years ago, its MBA in international luxury brand management was the first of its kind.

Today, 40% of all luxury purchases are in some way influenced by a consumer’s digital experience, according to McKinsey figures. And ESSEC is constantly updating its sector-specific MBA, as big name luxury brands – initially concerned over potential loss of exclusivity – are turning to the digital sphere.

“[The] empowerment of luxury consumers through digital channels has made it imperative for luxury brands to understand how to navigate the specificities of digital,” Denis explains.

“[For example], how to build a strong presence on digital channels where their customers are present, and how to be able to engage in meaningful conversations with them.”

Students on ESSEC’s MBA in international luxury brand management are taught the same things. In under a year, its pioneering syllabus covers all aspects of digital marketing, social media branding and omnichannel retail. And the school has strong connections with big luxury groups including LVMH, Richemont and Burberry; a 160-year-old brand leading digital innovation in the industry.

“There isn’t anything that can compare to the specialization and the resources of ESSEC's MBA in International Luxury Brand Management,” says Teresa Chen, a current student who previously worked in luxury retail for Christian Dior Couture.

The MBA class is 90% international, with 15 to 20 nationalities represented each year. And in the past 11 months, Teresa has visited a multitude of luxury firms in France, and during international weeks in Hong Kong, Dubai and Italy.

“Each visit is unique,” she says. “We could be meeting a CEO and listening to their vision and strategy, or we could be visiting artisan workshops and understanding local markets.”

Teresa sees digital customer experience as the future for luxury. Upon graduation, she wants to work in client relationship management; a career path for which the MBA at ESSEC is the perfect launch-pad.

“It’s been a journey of personal growth,” she says. “I’ve learnt, not only from the academic aspects of the program, but I’ve also improved my soft skills by working with people of many different nationalities from different professional backgrounds.”

As luxury enters the digital era, big brands are increasingly hiring specialists with tech backgrounds to help them achieve their goals.

“If you come from a digital background and love luxury, it’s time to make the switch,” says Hajar Oushine, a student on ESSEC’s luxury-specific MBA who moved on from an e-commerce career in Africa in order to pursue her dream of working in the luxury sector.

When she joined ESSEC she had little knowledge of the industry. Now, she’s launching an app and website which compares beauty products based on customer reviews; a TripAdvisor for luxury. And plans are underway to launch her own luxury beauty brand selling skincare products based on natural ingredients.

“I’ve been talking with top execs and using the wide network of [over 46,000] ESSEC alumni all over the world,” she says. “Wherever I go I find people to help me penetrate the market.”

Digitization is opening up new opportunities for a millennial generation of tech-savvy luxury entrepreneurs. Massive luxury consumer groups in Asia and the Middle East are viewing products online before buying in-store. And Hajar thinks that the big luxury brands that fail to adapt to digitization will struggle to survive.

“Flagship stores play an important role in the customer journey,” she says. “But the first touch point is not going to be the retail store anymore, it’s going to be online.”