Millennial Luxury: A New Mindset

Posted in Insights

A gold ring, bottle of rose water, and tube of lotion atop a beaded bag

A millennial is someone who was born between 1980 and 1996, but this generation's attitudes have created a mindset that permeates those who came before and after—bringing with it a new understanding of luxury.

This consumer segment craves personalization, purpose, and authenticity, but most of all, they care more about what they can do than what they can have. Demand for exclusive, high-touch, high-status products and services remains, but more inclusive, eclectic, and self-defined experiences are attracting big discretionary spending.

So, what makes for an exceptional luxury experience according to a new generation of cultural pioneers? We've narrowed it down to four qualities.

  1. Self-Directed: Consumers are equipped with the information and support to choose their own path.
  2. Fast & Frictionless: Services are available on demand, delivered quickly and conveniently.
  3. Personalized Experience: Customer journeys are tailored to each individual, presenting unique and highly relevant pathways and recommendations.
  4. Real & Inclusive: Brands are authentic and consistent, creating a sense of belonging and acting in alignment with purpose and values.

While each of these qualities is capable of elevating value in the minds of millennials, the true hallmark of luxury is the totality of all four working together.


Millennials don't call themselves consumers—they are independent by nature and prefer to define and engage on their own terms. While a more traditional, high-touch service method can cause friction if it feels unnecessary or intrusive, the solution isn’t as simple as brands “getting out of the way.” Enabling customers to choose their own path and self-guide requires thoughtful, preemptive engineering of the journey to provide what customers want before they know they want it. Across industries, leading luxury brands are adapting their service model to deliver self-directed experiences.

Revered automotive brand Bentley is putting customers in the driver seat with its new digital co-creation program, empowering consumers to custom-build their vehicle in collaboration with designers. The process is entirely remote, beginning with a style survey, followed by mood-board development and a configuration consultation. When design options are ready, customers can experience and compare the final build options from the comfort of their home through virtual reality. This self-directed approach is a far cry from the standard hand-holding and hard-sell methods of car-buying experiences.

The hotel industry, another traditionally high-touch, staff-heavy luxury sector, has surfaced a few innovative brands focused on pivoting toward self-driven experiences. These properties allow guests to check in by phone, purchase items from kiosk pantries, and utilize flexible spaces as they please. While this might sound like a hotelier's dream for a beefed-up bottom-line and limited staff, the investment required to create an elevated experience with humans standing by to help (and not intervene unnecessarily) is significant.

An example of this approach comes from FINE client Bode, a hospitality brand setting the bar for invisible service and technology. Bode gives guests the option to pre-order grocery items for their stay, check themselves in via personalized key codes, engage on their own terms via SMS, and make use of communal social spaces. Properties are designed for flexibility in service of casual, impromptu experiences, from grab-and-go food in the morning to fire-pit gatherings in the evenings. For a growing number of luxury-minded guests, the hospitality experience is enhanced through careful engineering, removing superfluous layers of service while retaining enough poise to step in and support when needed.

Fast & Frictionless

No matter the industry, service that supports a luxurious, self-directed experience must be efficient to the point of invisibility. Today, that nearly always means technology will play a leading role, with humans on standby for those seeking a little extra support—but how the service model is supposed to work doesn’t matter if any part of the experience creates friction.

To be worthy of heightened value among this consumer segment, services must be delivered seamlessly in real time, whether in person, online, or over the phone. This principle applies to everything from website load times and responsive transport to customer-service hold times and shipping turnarounds.

Transportation has been revolutionized by brands like Uber, Lyft, and FINE client Lime becoming staples in our lives. For those accustomed to these on-demand ride-hailing services, contacting a transportation company in advance to arrange pickup times at defined locations sounds nothing short of a modern-day nightmare. Now with UberLUX, summoning a Tesla or Maserati for a special occasion is so fast and frictionless, today’s younger, extravagant minds wonder why the world ever saw any advantage in owning one.

It's about accumulating experiences not things.

Personalized Experience

Millennials eschew more traditional, linear customer journeys in favor of highly personalized experiences with many disparate touchpoints, half of which are digital. According to a 2018 report from McKinsey & Company, 80% of online and offline luxury sales are now digitally influenced, with personalization surfacing as a key driver of purchase.

While this trend is not exclusive to millennials, personalization is an expectation within this group. From custom skin-care routines to clothing subscriptions and fitness training, millennials perceive luxury as something found or made _specifically for them_—a notion that directly challenges the retail practice of displaying or presenting the newest, hottest item for all to see.

Take Prose, a custom haircare brand that curates product formulations for a customer’s exact needs. It starts with an online quiz that acts as an initial consultation, gathering information about the person’s everyday habits, diet, location, stress levels, hair concerns, and ingredient preferences. The shopper is then presented with a variety of scents to choose from before an individualized product lineup in the selected scent is shipped directly to their doorstep. Next, based on the results of a few wash cycles, customers are guided through a “Review & Refine” process, in which they provide feedback so that Prose can further tweak the product formulation and provide an improved lineup.

Interestingly, even though customers are purchasing a product from Prose, perceived value is driven by the experience and backed by the product. This goes to show that whether or not a brand fits into the experiential category (the fastest growing luxury segment among millennials), what a brand does and how it makes the customer feel has never been more important.

Real & Inclusive

A 2020 trends report from Deloitte reveals that millennials are attracted to brands that are inclusive, genuine, and driven by purpose. But building perceived value among this generation isn’t as simple as using the right imagery or words; it’s about what is done with them. Luxury brands are required to operate from a place of authenticity, consistently demonstrating their connection and support for the causes and communities they claim.

Millennials may be willing to pay more for eco-friendly products produced through sustainable practices by brands committed to philanthropic giving—but they’re also extremely adept at sniffing out and rejecting brands that feel fake or inauthentic. Luxury requires trust.

Consider FINE client Hotel Zena, a boutique hotel and cultural hub in Washington, D.C., dedicated to advancing gender equality. Inside the establishment, gallery walls feature a curated selection of artwork that honors changemakers and historically underrepresented groups; restaurants named after feminist icons invite connection and set an inspiring tone. The message that “those who go together, go further” reverberates across the property through inclusive, genderfluid celebrations of feminine strength that serve all people. These spaces don’t just reflect the brand’s purpose; they’re built to facilitate it. And moving beyond design, Hotel Zena demonstrates its commitment through programming oriented to the cause, from provocative idea-filled happy hours to open-invitation speaker nights.

To resonate with and sustain perceived value among millennials, luxury brands can’t just claim or allude to a cause or purpose—they have to show integrity. Brands have to walk the walk, grounding operations, expression, and experiences in purpose.

The Future of Luxury

The millennial mindset is different. Luxury branding is no longer reserved for mansions, yachts, and watches. It’s a way of life that can’t be bought into or fabricated. There’s no shortcut, no secret emoji-to-word ratio, winning image, or Pantone color that will resonate with the millennial-minded. For this generation, luxury is about expedience, experience, and ethics, consistently delivered and beautifully aligned.

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