For over 60 years, Bluebell, a major actor in the luxury B2B ecosystem, has been helping Western luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Davidoff, Moschino, Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo enter key Asian markets. However, the luxury industry is experiencing digital disruption and increased competition fuelled by the rise of online e-commerce and international travel, along with increasingly connected consumers. While Bluebell’s role as a link between the brand and the local consumer is still vital, it needs to alter its business model to remain in the game. Its adaptability has been the reason for its success so far, but to add value in the future it needs to evolve from a predominantly transactional role centred around distribution to one with greater connectedness, integrating new channels such as social commerce, and anticipating evolving customer tastes.
This case discusses the transformation of B2B intermediaries operating in the luxury, fashion and premium goods industry in response to novel challenges brought by digital gamechangers that have enabled brands to directly reach end-consumers (cutting out the middleman), put power in the consumer’s hands, reduce prices, and increase the number of brands while shortening their lifespan. In a sector characterized by (a) an increasing reliance on digital tools – both as ways to talk about and buy luxury products, and (b) emerging marketplaces (more brands, more tiers, more status products), the case articulates the threats and opportunities associated with these game-changers and the issues Bluebell must address to deliver long-term value to its partners, notably: • How digital disruption challenges B2B ecosystems and traditional business models • How incumbent B2B players respond to and integrate digital game-changers and re-legitimise themselves by redefining where and how they add value • How digital channels redefine the role of curator and require stakeholders to acquire new skills and develop digital capabilities • How to design a digital transformation (where to start and how to prioritize) • The role of digital disruption in shifting the dynamics between brands, retailers and consumers in B2C markets • The evolving role of B2B players between brands and consumers in luxury markets • How luxury brands implement successful strategies to attract the Asian consumer (today and tomorrow)
- digital disruption
- social media
- digital transformation
- B2B intermediaries