It’s the year 2015 and excluding products that cannot be shipped via FedEx, USPS or UPS – such as cars, boats and other very large items – virtually all other products are available for purchase online.
The age-old argument that luxury items, such as watches, need to be purchased in person, is no longer valid. Every day that a competing watch brand is online and your watch brand is not, you’re losing sales, and ultimately market share.
Am I saying to close retail locations altogether? Of course not.
By combining online and brick and mortar, the cumulative result should be higher. One only needs to look at Apple to see how they do both, with perfection. I have personally made numerous purchases from Apple online, Apple stores and from Apple authorized resellers. This is how business is done now. It’s about empowering the customer and making it more convenient to them (just as the internet has done for consumers in regards to researching watches).
And yes, I have also purchased watches both in person and online, I like having the freedom to do both.
This brings me to the motivation behind this post.
On April 15th, Breitling announced the launch [of an official online store](http://www.breitling.com/en/). This adds to the ever-growing list of well-known watch companies that already sell online (in the United States), such as: Cartier, Bulgari, Longines, TAG Heuer, Chopard, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Louis Vuitton and Baume & Mercier.
In 2014, we asked Stephen Urquhart (the longtime CEO of Omega), about his thoughts on selling watches online.
With more and more watch brands launching e-commerce each year, do you forsee Omega selling directly to consumers online in the next five years?
If 5 years is the limit, probably not. In the European Union, legally they cannot stop them (authorized retailers) by law.
Urquhart then went on to say that selling watches online is a bad sign for the watch business in general, as it’s an emotional purchase. He also pointed out that Omega has 300 mono-brand stores worldwide.
I agree with Urquhart to some extent, as watches are a highly emotional purchase, yet technology has significantly changed the market and businesses need to adapt. Moreover, the 300 stores Omega has, are all the more reason to start selling online as it will presumably strengthen the physical network they have already built.
Yesterday we spoke with Thierry Prissert (President of Breitling USA), and asked why they decided to launch an online store.
What was the driving force behind Breitling’s decision to start selling online?
We wanted to create an official online Boutique where customers could purchase and know they were getting a genuine and authentic Breitling timepiece, with the same warranty that they would receive if they made the purchase from a retailer.
Customer service is our number one priority, so we wanted to make the Breitling experience as seamless as possible for the customer, whether that means empowering the customer with information from the online boutique, or enabling them to purchase an authentic timepiece and have it delivered to their door sized and ready to wear.
This brings me to my original question. Why should watch companies sell online? For the convenience of their customers.
At the absolute minimum, watch companies should list the prices of their current watches on the corporate website, as a point of reference for consumers. And if your company is not doing that, then you’re doing it wrong.
Editor’s note: To clarify, I strongly believe that authorized retailers should be allowed to sell watches online as well, not just watch companies.