The handcrafted machinations of a watch seems delightfully archaic in a world of smartphones, space travel and high-speed internet, but luxury watches are seeing a new renaissance, with sales increasing around the globe. So, how is this handmade timepiece making a comeback?
Most European-based watchmakers haven’t felt the need to modernize their brand image or story to get a foothold in the modern age. By maintaining the same classic aesthetics and design, luxury watchmakers like Cartier can market themselves as timeless icons of luxury, working above the rise and fall of traditional fashion cycles. Although digital and smart watches are available, when it comes to status symbols, the hand-wound mechanisms of an analogue watch reigns over more recent electronic creations due to its hard-won image of timeless luxury. However, with online sales set to account for 25% of all luxury purchases by 2025, how long can this last?
This isn’t to say that the industry has rejected digital innovation. Several brands have been ramping up online marketing efforts to reach out to potential customers through the internet via e-commerce platforms, marketing on video hosting websites, and on social media. Many others, however, feel that watch-shopping is a tactile experience that can’t be replicated by clicked through slides on a computer screen. A watch needs to be touched and listened to in order to be fully appreciated. The personalized, high-quality customer experience, and the exclusivity synonymous with luxury shopping has made most executives behind luxury brands wary about the possibility of e-commerce expansion.
However, these aspects of a traditional experience can be adapted, if not fully replicated, on a digital platform. Social media platforms like Instagram are natural avenues for luxury brands to display the lifestyle and aesthetic desirable to their target audience through a series of images, designs and interviews. Luxury brands can curate image portfolios of aged scotch, private vets and classic limousines, to appeal to their aspirational customer base.
Some consumers may be unable to purchase luxury products, but love to keep updated on the brand’s aesthetics. They will engage with content and boost a brand’s online profile, and may purchase a product in the future. Creating content that is made to spark discussions, such as long-form blog posts, documentaries, interviews and extended articles, will also add authenticity to a brand.
Exclusivity can also be imagined online. Brands can create special mailing lists for VIP members who have purchased a certain amount of goods, or been a repeat customer for some years, and offer access to special digital perks, such as advance access to new products or invites to company events. Showcase the benefits of VIP membership to encourage casual customers into spending more so they can join the elite inner circle of the brand with all its exclusive benefits.
In-store experience and online retailing can work hand-in-hand, particularly with luxury brands courting a new, younger audience. Webcasting live events or a show/stall at a jewelry fair adds to the air of exclusivity. Consumers are forced to observe via screen, but also replicates some of the charm of in-store shopping with walkarounds of displays and up-close looks at new products.