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Digital Transformation Brand Strategy Social Media

Consumer conceptions about luxury are changing, according to Reddit data


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

May 14, 2024 | 14 min read

Exclusive insights from Reddit for The Drum indicate that behavior drivers, product consideration and purchase decisions in the luxury space are shifting across categories from beauty and fashion to travel and automotive. And brands are taking note.

Man with Dior shoes hanging out of car window

Today's high income consumers are thinking of luxury in a new light / Brian Lundquist

Reddit, often hailed as the “front page of the internet,” has increasingly become a hub for valuable consumer insights – which brands are happily lapping up.

The shift can be at least partially attributed to the platform’s growing sophistication in advertising in recent years, as it’s expanded its ad capabilities and inked a handful of data licensing agreements.

Among the most potentially lucrative consumer trends popping on Reddit? Growing interest in luxury goods and experiences.

The spike shouldn’t be entirely surprising, considering the demographics of Reddit’s user base. “Reddit has a higher percentage of high-income folks – $200,000 to $500,000 in salary – than any other social media platform,” explains Rob Gaige, head of global insights at Reddit. “They [also] tend to be better educated. It’s an information-heavy platform, so it attracts people who are interested in that sort of content.”

With insight into user income and education levels as a guiding light, Gaige’s team began researching Reddit conversations and habits around luxury. A few key trends soon emerged.

The resurgence of ‘stealth wealth’ and ‘quiet luxury’

The terms ‘stealth wealth’ and ‘quiet luxury’ are not just relegated to TikTok videos and Reels featuring silky-haired women sporting tennis skirts and ribbons in their hair. Redditors are driving the trend in their own way.

Despite initial hints at a decline in subtle, HBO Succession-style luxury, Reddit data reveals a 94% increase in discussions around ‘stealth wealth’ over the past year. Redditors are veering away from conspicuous displays of wealth, favoring understated elegance and quality over flashy logos.

“People are tired of broadcasting their logos all over the place. There’s a certain amount of understatedness to demonstrating that you’re wealthy or that you want luxurious things. Luxury is not being a billboard anymore. Luxury is having the highest-quality products and services,” says Gaige.

More informed consideration and purchase decisions

It’s not just income and education levels that skew higher among Reddit users. As Paulita David, Reddit’s senior managing director of large customer sales in North America, puts it: “Redditors are very discerning … they over-index on research.”

This is especially apparent in categories like travel and beauty, according to David. As an example, she says: “On all of our skincare subreddits, you see a ton of talk around products – not just like, ‘What’s ‘in’ and what’s popular?’ It’s, ‘What ingredients do they use? Does it work for my type of skin?’ You see people going really, really deep down the road of research and efficacy.”

Brands are taking note of this shift, adapting their marketing strategies to help educate audiences and meet the demands of discerning consumers.

For instance, beauty brand Kate Somerville turned to Reddit in an effort to share insights about the quality of its products and drive engagement among the platform’s research- and results-focused users. The brand launched carousel-style posts with a prompt attached, designed to garner engagement from beauty enthusiasts. By tapping into interest and keyword targeting, the brand was able to connect with a community of highly engaged beauty and skincare fans.

And the effort paid off: the engagement prompt had a 90% upvote rate, 29% above the brand’s goal. What’s more, the campaign’s click-through rate surpassed benchmarks by 46%.

“[Kate Somerville] was shocked. We were not surprised because Redditors love to learn – and they love to learn what works and they love to learn about ingredients. And in this case, the brand really doubled down on education and getting the word out about their quality product.”

The pursuit of authenticity in the face of ‘dupe’ culture

A demand for luxury goods – and the appearance of luxury – has spurred a boom in replica (or ‘dupe’) culture online. Proprietary Reddit data indicates a 50% average year-over-year increase in views of replica-focused communities – like r/fashionreps, r/reptime, r/replika, r/designerreps and others – from 2022 to 2023.

“Any time … a rise in demand for luxury goods coincides with economic turmoil – which we certainly had [in the US around] two years ago and is still continuing [in some ways] – we see a rise of replicas,” says Gaige.

But in response to the influx of faux luxury goods, consumers have demonstrated reinvigorated scrutiny around authenticity and provenance. Rather than seeking lookalikes, many consumers on Reddit are focused on ensuring the products they own or are shopping for are the real deal, often becoming self-taught authenticity specialists along the way.

Earlier this year, for example, one user took to r/jewelers to ask the community for help in determining whether her cousin had secretly swapped out her iconic Cartier Love bracelet for a dupe. Users responded with an impressive degree of knowledge about the jeweler’s signature details and signs of authenticity.

Plus, recent research on how Reddit is used by Gen Z – which has in many ways made ‘dupes’ socially acceptable or even cool on platforms like TikTok – suggests that Reddit is the place that young users go when they’re researching authenticated luxury goods.

“One of the interesting quotes I heard from [gen Z users] was, ‘I go to other sites to be inspired. And then I come to Reddit when I’m obsessed,’” says Gaige. “What we see in these communities is that they don’t want a dupe – they’re obsessed with finding a way to own the real thing and they want to make sure it’s the real thing.”

Of course, consumers’ growing demand for authenticity coincides with the ‘stealth wealth’ trend because many luxury goods brands attend to small details that can’t be easily replicated.

Brands that prioritize authenticity and craftsmanship are finding favor among Reddit’s discerning community.

‘Upgrade’ obsession hits automotives

In the last two years, Reddit has found that high-income users have become 41% more likely to visit the platform for advice when making an automotive purchase. At the same time, the luxury conversation within Reddit’s automotive category spiked 32% from 2022 to 2023, according to data from Brandwatch.

But wealthier consumers aren’t just shopping around casually for cars – their behavior is increasingly reflecting patterns common in consumer tech. In particular, Reddit’s user behavior evidences a growing trend of regularly ‘upgrading’ to the newest, best model.

“They’re looking at luxury auto on a two-year horizon. They don’t care about things like the longevity of the product because they know they’re going to upgrade it in two years anyway, like an iPhone,” says Gaige.

Moreover, Reddit data indicates that pre-ordering luxury vehicles has become a new kind of status symbol, signaling a commitment to exclusivity and innovation. 58% of high-income Redditors who tend to purchase premium products like to be the first to try new things, according to recent GlobalWebIndex (GWI) research.

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“Being on the waitlist is actually part of the luxury experience,” Gaige explains. “The number of people who put down thousands of dollars to pre-order their Rivian before they even came out [evidences this idea]. That’s now how you show you’re in the luxury [socioeconomic] status – you have enough disposable income to literally park it somewhere – pardon the pun – for a couple of years until you actually get the product.” (Being able to pre-order Tesla’s boxy, futuristic – and recently recalled – Cybertruck also became its own kind of clout when the vehicle was released in November.)

Today, brands including Porsche and Volvo are tapping into Reddit communities to showcase intricate product details and foster brand loyalty among enthusiasts.

And some brands that haven’t traditionally been considered luxury, such as Mazda, are getting in on the hype in their own ways. “You don’t think of Mazda as a luxury brand in many cases. But what it is really doing well, and what folks on Reddit are really noticing, is the details,” says David.

“One of those details that has gotten a lot of coverage on Reddit is that it has race car pedals [in some models]. It doesn’t need to do that – no one’s expecting it,” she explains. “But because it did it, it’s a detail that folks are really noticing. And Redditors really focus on the details. For brands that care about details, Reddit is an incredible place to have a deep conversation with your consumers or future consumers.”

A ‘zero compromises’ mindset around luxury travel

Like the automotive and beauty spaces, the travel category has attracted growing engagement from high-income consumers on Reddit. In fact, over the last two years, high-income users have become 20% more likely to go to Reddit for advice when making a travel purchase.

Within the realm of travel, the definition of luxury is also expanding. As David puts it: “Luxury travel is not just about, ‘What’s the best hotel?’ It’s also about ‘What’s a destination that no one’s been to?’ ‘How do I get there?‘ ‘Who can help me get there?’”

On Reddit, travel and hospitality brands are meeting consumers’ broadening expectations for luxury travel. This spring, Delta and American Express are running a campaign on the platform focused on promoting its co-branded credit card. The message centers on the idea of “going further” and helping consumers gain access to more exclusive places and experiences. “That exclusivity piece” really resonates with luxury consumers, says David.

Go further when you go Gold.

byu/AmericanExpress inu_AmericanExpress

“What we’re seeing is that in the luxury space with travel … is really about [the idea of] no compromises,” Gaige adds. “What’s interesting is that the rise of solo travel post-pandemic was more about self-discovery – it was your ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ right? It’s now pivoted to be more about the fact that while I might have a partner that I love and want to spend time with, I also want to do what I want to do. And I don’t want to need to compromise for anyone or anything. We’re seeing a huge rise in [conversations on Reddit about] ‘I want to go to the place that is on my bucket list, and when I go, I’m going to do it the right way.’”

One brand capitalizing on this sentiment is Westin, which is currently running a Reddit campaign with the tagline, ‘Find Wellness at Westin.’ A 10-second spot depicts a woman practicing yoga peacefully in her Westin hotel room alone, focused on doing exactly what she wants to do on her vacation.

It’s an opportune moment for brands to capture growing interest in luxury travel, considering that 1 in 4 high-income Redditors are planning to purchase a vacation abroad, according to GWI data from August of last year.

Gifting takes on a new tone

The luxury trend observed on Reddit is anticipated to extend into the realm of gifting, especially during the holiday season. Consumers – and especially those with comparatively high disposable incomes – will be looking to spend that money in more intentional ways.

“We have some recent research that says what people are trying to do with their gifting is to actually drive meaningful experiences,” says Gaige. “You’re going to start seeing people being a little bit more selective, a little bit more specific … about connecting their gift with the passion points of the recipients.”

And this mindset will translate into their purchase decisions, he anticipates. “They’re trying to find that thing that is meaningful for that person. And so they’re going to buy less, but buy bigger, or buy more specific.”

Behavioral data on Reddit’s community of 850 million monthly active users can, in some ways, be used as a proxy for the evolving definition of luxury among all consumers. Today’s luxury is increasingly shaped by scrupulous, informed consumer decision-making, a demand for quality and authenticity and a premium on meaningful experiences. As brands navigate this changing landscape, those that prioritize consumer education, demonstrable quality and curated, unique experiences stand to thrive.

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