How luxury fashion brands are increasingly using Instagram to win over millennials

Luxury fashion brands such as Gucci, Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton are using social media to appeal to millennial customers to great effect, according to a report.

The industry's larger companies are using clever e-commerce and digital strategies to attract younger customers, UBS said in its European Luxury report, published Tuesday.

This, it added, is contributing to polarization where the big names have gained market share over smaller brands during the past five to 10 years.

"Our view is that the brands winning over new consumers (notably millennials) are those gaining share," the report stated.

The Kering-owned Gucci is so successful at attracting younger customers that 50 percent of its sales are to millennials, while the figure for Saint Laurent (also a Kering brand) is even larger at 65 percent.

Instagram looks to be key to this, with the two fashion labels having some of the highest followings of any luxury brands, correlating with higher sales to younger consumers.

Gucci has 20.3 million followers on the picture-sharing network — its latest posts feature the high-profile actors it dressed in black for the Golden Globes on Monday night — which has helped it attract millennial buyers. The appointment of Alessandro Michele as creative director in 2015 (described by Vogue as a "relative unknown" and "daring") has also appealed to the younger group, UBS suggested.

Model Mica Arganaraz walks the runway during the Louis Vuitton show at Paris Fashion Week on October 3, 2017
Peter White | Getty Images
Model Mica Arganaraz walks the runway during the Louis Vuitton show at Paris Fashion Week on October 3, 2017

Louis Vuitton, meanwhile, has 20.7 million followers on Instagram, and 33 percent of its customers are millennials, according to UBS estimates.

Gucci was the largest share gainer of luxury fashion brands over five years (privately-owned Chanel is not included), with 11.8 percent of the market in 2013 increasing to 14.5 percent in 2017, according to UBS estimates. It gained share from Prada, for example, which had a 10.9 percent share of the luxury market in 2013, but this decreased to 7.1 percent in 2017.

Google searches for Gucci and Louis Vuitton are ahead of Chanel, Prada and Burberry; searches for luxury fashion brands peak each December, UBS's report said.

Kering had an 80 percent increase in its share price in 2017 and UBS expects organic sales at the luxury group to increase 8 percent in 2018, while it estimates that sales at smaller brand Prada will grow 3 percent, while at Burberry they will be flat.

The luxury fashion market in general is "back in vogue," according to UBS, and it forecasts a 7 percent growth in the sector in 2018, driven in part by middle-class Chinese consumers.