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How Did Rolls-Royce Create the World’s Most Exclusive Members’ Club?
How Did Rolls-Royce Create the World’s Most Exclusive Members’ Club?
A look into the Whispers community-based Loyalty Programme
Rolls-Royce, a distinguished British luxury car manufacturer, has been crafting unmistakable vehicles since 1904, and has established itself as an icon in the global automobile industry. The brand's commitment to delivering unparalleled levels of luxury, customisation, and service is ingrained in its identity and history. This dedication is palpable in the meticulous tailoring of each Rolls-Royce car and extends seamlessly to the brand's post-sales customer offerings.
In a bid to not only meet, but consistently surpass the desires of its discerning clientele, Rolls-Royce launched Whispers in February 2020 —an exclusive digital space that serves as both a meeting ground for the brand's global community of clients and a catalogue for luxury products and experiences. These offerings go above and beyond the expectations of automobile ownership, redefining what it means to own a luxury car. So, we ask ourselves, how exactly does Whispers cater to the needs of its members, and why has it been dubbed the ‘world’s most exclusive members club”?
Rolls-Royce and the Inception of Whispers
Rolls-Royce stands as the epitome of British luxury, boasting a storied history as the vehicle of choice for royalty, and a named favourite of Queen Elizabeth. In a testament to the bands cultural impact, the term 'Rolls-Royce' was officially added to the English language Dictionary as a superlative in 2014.
For nearly a century, Rolls-Royces were manufactured and marketed by Rolls-Royce Motors. However, since 2003, the company has operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of BMW AG. What endures is the brand’s revered administrative and production facilities and HQ in Goodwood, Sussex. This 42-acre estate is fundamental to the legacy of Rolls-Royce, as it’s the location of their manufacturing facilities, home of their primary showroom, and host of many key company events.
For continued growth, the automobile industry has innovated at unprecedented rates in the last decade with companies heavily investing in electric vehicles, new markets, and improvements to their luxury and personalised offerings. Rolls-Royce is no exception. With strong brand recognition, a loyal following of luxury car collectors and elite clients, the company has steadily expanded its operations globally. This entry into new markets requires close customer analysis. One such example was Rolls-Royce’s introduction of its ‘Private Office’ in 2014. This department, comprised of a small group of highly trained individuals, was responsible for building and maintaining one-to-one relationships with clients around the world. Data derived from the ‘Private Office’ supplied Rolls-Royce with a wealth of knowledge on how their clients behaved, their needs and ways in which the company could innovate to meet them. Rolls-Royce’s CEO stated clients were eager for ‘more experiences, access and immersion’, and from this the Whispers Members Club was conceived. Notably, Ken Choo, CEO of the renowned car dealership HR Owen, the largest retailer of Rolls-Royces stated during a 2019 interview that his aim was to take car ownership and transform it into membership through events and experiences; a strategy that is closely mirrored by Whispers.
At the time of the platform’s release there was ample speculation, or whispers, around this members’ club. Whispers was first released for beta testing in 2018 to a small group of the company’s highbrow clientele. After a wholly positive response, Whispers membership became available to owners of every (new) Rolls-Royce vehicle. To access the “world beyond”, individuals must own models produced in 2003 or later. For reference, new Rolls-Royce models manufactured in or after 2003 typically start at around £255,000, with some exceeding the staggering price of £30 million. Once these requirements are met, customers receive a unique vehicle number (UVN) that will give them access to log in to the Whispers app, which is currently available across the US, Europe and the Middle East.
What is Whispers and what are the offerings?
Self-proclaimed as the ‘world’s most exclusive members’ club’ and digital house of Rolls-Royce, the app is where the ‘exceptional and extraordinary’ collide. For a speculated 20,000 members, the programme, which is free to use, provides both luxury products and experiences, but above all provides a community for these fortunate few.
“If you look at our customers versus other dealers, we are very personalised. We know them by name, we take them to the factories, to drives, to events, and they feel like part of the family. We get to know their family as well, and the cars they have in their collection, so it’s a very personalised relationship.” Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO
The programme provides an elite and private social network where Rolls-Royce owners can connect not only with each other, but also with the Chief Executive and Board members of Rolls-Royce. This platform goes beyond mainstream social media, offering opportunities for idea exchange, networking, business ventures, and valuable social connections. According to Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO, the app has been the location and facilitator for several “mega” business deals. The platform, which has been compared to a fraternity, encourages its members to socialize and converse, forging a community of leaders, royals, successful industrialists and much more together. And what do all these great names and individuals share – their love for cars.
This emphasis of knowledge sharing is central to the platform, and there is a focus on encouraging discussions as well as personal creativity. This can be seen on the app’s carefully curated content pages. Here, members can read from a selection of articles spanning philanthropy, sports, arts, and cultural insights, all tailored to their individual profile and preferences. Members can create their own forums that further delve into these topics and foster connections between like-minded Rolls-Royce owners. There is also a travel section on the app that showcases information about little-known restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs around the world, and these spots are often endorsed by members themselves, enhancing the trust in these recommendations. All the content on the app is frequently updated to stay current, relevant, and aligned with each client's evolving interests, which help its audience remain highly engaged.
“Private, curated, inspiring and lovely, Whispers is truly the most exclusive members’ club in the world”. Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO
Aside from the ability to connect with other like-minded HNWI, Whispers offers its customers immersive experiences. Owning a high-priced luxury vehicle is a clear statement of wealth, but what if your car was also a ticket? A ticket that waves you entry into some of the most talked about and subscribed events across the globe. Well, that’s exactly what Whispers aims to provide for its members. From backstage passes to the Grammys, tickets to the Academy Awards, private orchestral performances or seats at major sporting events like Wimbledon and The Olympics, Whispers members get unparalleled access to purchasing prime tickets.
“Whispers offers transformative experiences, rare and desirable products, whimsical treasures and exclusive Rolls-Royce previews that are curated by Rolls-Royce and delivered directly to the fingertips of our global community”. Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO
Finally, the platform also features an exclusive online store, allowing its members to personalize collaborative products. This includes commissioning personalized Monopoly sets that can incorporate one’s own properties and assets, crafting signature Cognac blends, customising pet portraits, and discovering the finest truffles in the world.
What makes it successful?
Community-based loyalty programmes
Community-based loyalty programmes are designed to incentivize and retain members by creating a sense of community within an organisation. The primary objective is to foster customer engagement by connecting individuals through shared interests and core values, ultimately nurturing a stronger brand identity within a community of like-minded individuals. This form of loyalty scheme is employed in digital spaces like the Whispers app. Such loyalty programmes emphasise building emotional bonds between brand and customer, which consequently help increase satisfaction with the brand and boost word-of-mouth marketing. Additionally, community led platforms can aid in differentiating a brand from its competitors and reduce switching costs. As soon as you connect with a brand emotionally, especially when its built on being part of its community, it’s hard for other companies to intervene.
Loyalty programmes rooted in community engagement enable companies to monitor trends, gather feedback, and innovate in response to customer interactions. This is crucial for brands to effectively cater to the evolving needs and demands of their customers. Leveraging its extensive sales history and client insights gained through its ‘private office’ and Whispers’ trial period, Rolls Royce gained a significant advantage in comprehending its customers’ preferences. This understanding, in turn, empowered the company to craft tailored value propositions for each customer profile.
Competitors & Exclusivity
The luxury goods industry is continually exploring avenues to enhance customer experiences. Over the past decade, there has been a concerted effort to establish memberships and loyalty programmes aimed at bolstering customer retention and fostering company growth. Notably, Rolls-Royce’s direct rivals have introduced their own membership platforms. For example, Ferrari, offers a membership at £150 per year, with no need to own a Ferrari itself. Once a person signs up to the club, a local representative will reach and guide you through the ‘ins and outs’, from here members can visit Ferrari events or even host their own. Similarly, Mercedez Benz provides an annual membership for £59.99 for any car fanatic, offering access to exclusive information, live car trading shows, and discussion forms curated by passionate MB enthusiasts. While commendable, Whispers and its comprehensive offers position Rolls-Royce significantly ahead of such competition.
Whispers stands as a bold expansion of the Rolls-Royce ultra-luxury brand, leveraging its rich history, abundant resources, and distinguished clientele to offer members an extraordinary experience that transcends the confines of the automotive worlds and ventures into the realm of elite experiences. The exclusivity of Whispers is marked by an exceptionally high entry barrier: ownership of a Rolls-Royce vehicle. While this article has highlighted some key features, the Whispers site intentionally withholds the full extent of the experience, creating a sense of curiosity among non-members. This deliberate strategy may serve as the perfect amount of information to entice customers away from purchasing competing brands. Notably, as of 2022, the global demand for Rolls-Royce reached unprecedented levels, with over 6,000 vehicles finding new homes.
Customer Service & Care
The success of Net-a-Porter’s Rewards programme stems from a dedication to the service and care of customers. It's all about forming one-on-one relationships that are as caring as they are exclusive.
Platinum and EIP’s receive priority customer care, placing their needs above other tiers and customers. Furthermore, EIP’s can pick and choose their desired items, from existing collections or unreleased previews, all of which are expertly assembled by their dedicated personal shopper. No need for EIPs to log into their Net-a-Porter online account; they can communicate their purchase via WhatsApp to their personal shopper, who handles the transaction for them. Moreover, for those in London, NYC, or Hong Kong, your personal shopper will liaise with the Net-a-Porter Premier team, ensuring same-day delivery and handing over the purchase in a neatly packed shopping bag. It's a hassle-free shopping experience at its finest.
An exclusive 'try before you buy' service has also been known to await EIP members. This allows customers to order multiple pieces, try them in the comfort of their own homes, and only pay for the items they decide to keep. This not only adds convenience and variety to the experience, benefiting the customer, but also encourages larger order volumes, benefiting Net-a-Porter. The dedication of personal shoppers knows no bounds. From tracking down incredibly rare products to orchestrating last-minute hand deliveries from across the globe, they go above and beyond for their clients. It's not just a transaction – it's a genuine connection that can transform into an extended network.
Whispers serves as a testament to Rolls-Royce's unwavering dedication to extraordinary, ultra-luxury experiences, cementing its position as a global icon not only in the automotive industry but also within the realm of luxury trade. By offering personalisation, unparalleled experiences, and the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, Rolls-Royce establishes a deep and enduring connection that mere ownership. Rolls-Royce’s Whispers is more than just a loyalty programme – it takes customers into new realms of luxury, builds a strong community, and ultimately redefines what it means to own a Rolls Royce.