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What’s the difference between a luxury service and a luxury experience? According to Antonia J.A. Hock, luxury high-rise developers must discern between the two to correctly forecast the market’s future.

Hock, CEO of Antonia J.A. Hock and Associates, was a speaker at Elevate, a two-day exclusive event held in Miami in early December. The event, sponsored by Livabl and partners ARCHITECT and Multifamily Executive magazines, featured well-known speakers in the luxury high-rise space, covering subjects such as branding, luxury amenities, and design.

Hock said most people connect with emotion when they see images of luxurious places, and the feeling ties into where luxury is headed in the future. “It’s about that emotion, connection, and feeling of desire,” Hock said. “People in the ultra-high wealth category can afford to buy whatever they want. But it’s the things that they cannot buy—a feeling, an intense experience—because those are the things that transcend into good products worth buying.”

‘It’s About Magic’

“It’s about those luxury relationships, and it’s about magic,” Hock said. “People have come so far and gone so deep in this world that they expect magical experiences.”

Hock then explained the difference between a luxury service and a luxury experience. She set a scene in a five-star restaurant where a couple received immaculate service. The server was attentive and never intrusive. The sommelier offered suggestions for wine pairings with their meal. A dropped fork was replaced quickly and quietly. Hock said this impressive meal didn’t constitute an actual luxury experience because the restaurant’s staff did exactly what they were supposed to do. Furthermore, there was nothing memorable about it for the couple.

She contrasted this with another scenario where a couple celebrated their engagement at a restaurant. The server presented the couple with a card signed by all the staff. Champagne was offered on a tray. A special engraved menu was provided, with the date of their engagement. At one point, the server overheard the couple reminiscing about sharing red velvet cupcakes on their first date. Without pausing, the server asked the chef if he could whip up the dessert and surprise the couple with the cupcakes, as well as a hand-written recipe card.

Hock argued that the latter experience will not only be remembered by the couple for life but could also lead to future financial benefits for the restaurant. After all, the couple would likely share this experience on social media and could consider the restaurant for catering events in the future—such as their wedding.

So, how do these scenarios tie back into the high-rise luxury industry? Hock said developers must understand that their customers are no longer impressed with obtaining whatever they desire. “You need to think about creativity and how to take it to the next level to make that human connection. It’s not about doing more of what you already know. It’s about thinking about the luxury experience in a brand-new way.”