Bond Street in London remains quiet – it was once a UK center for international tourists spending their money on luxury watches. Now, the center relies on a much smaller native market, with shoppers more likely to search for that one special purchase than casually dropping liberal amounts of cash around.
Luxury watches have always been associated with luxury. Its world is a niche, but it has always been facing outward, with brand names that some people understood wherever you were – until recently.
Enter changes in the world of luxury watches – for the long term. High-profile brands like Hermes, Rolex, and others had to halt production and focus on shifting the existing stock. Thus came the plummet of Swiss watch exports.
However, over a year has passed, and the fortunes have changed. Exports were at almost CHF 2 billion ($2.15 billion), exceeding the 2019 baseline by 12.5 percent and representing an increase of 71 percent over June 2020 during June 2021, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
Many are doing well. However, there is an elephant in the room: the effect of shopping on watches.
During the last five to ten (5-10) years, online sales have seen the most changes. Among most industries, the watch is slow to react; e-commerce is an example of the slow pace.
Retailers were likely to be the first to sell watches online. However, realistically speaking, it would have been met with brand pushback. Some brands said they would never sell online. However, things may have changed drastically. Although the changes have been great, you cannot buy Rolex online in retail!
Nonetheless, it will take a little while for the brands to learn that there is an active demand for luxury brand retailing online. In the industry of luxury watch brands, the online world presents a can of worms to them. It manifests through forum pioneers being banned from trade fairs and brand CEOs not wanting to offer an e-commerce alternative for their customers.
You can even find Grand Seiko Watches online!
The resistance to fully embracing e-commerce has also meant missing opportunities for the biggest audience – and the biggest driver of the Swiss watch industry’s recovery: China-based digital platform Tmall Luxury Pavilion. The Tmall retail space is exclusive and invite-only. During the pandemic, its influence ballooned. The platform was a new ecosystem that could help raise brand awareness and touch a new demographic of consumers – who are digitally savvy.
The Luxury Pavilion has seen a 250-percent growth in the sales of its luxury watches. It was launched in 2017. Richemont Group’s luxury watch brands, including Cartier, IWC, Panerai, and Vacheron Constantin, are now visible on the platform.
Customer experience benefits both the customer and the brand, especially in luxury brands. When shopping, you want to get the best of what is available. When shopping in person, you hope for a more personalized experience. You also want to feel special and valued and become aware of the product.
Brands accompany prospective customers during the buyer’s journey to get insight into preferences, priorities, and lifestyles.
The reluctance of luxury brands to come online is tied to the “luxury” they offer. They offer quality and an “experience” that is ideally curated and not easily available. However, due to Covid-19, things have since changed.
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