Is online a friend or foe to watch retailing?

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Peers Hardy’s Paul Harry writes about the trials of online watch sales

By Paul Harry

Whether traditionalists like it or not, the internet is a fact of business life in the 21st century. King Canute would no doubt replicate his previous result if trying to stop the tide of this phenomenon.

Another Christmas has passed with reports of exponential growth in online sales. Success was far and wide across the board with the independent and multiple retail sectors in rude web health as well as online-only businesses faring well.

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But how best can watch suppliers serve their brands, retailers and consumers? When looking for physical doors, distributors try to avoid having too many in one place, thereby maximising the revenue for the stockist in that location but how to replicate this online?

Although the internet is vast, in a few key strokes the whole market can be brought to the consumer’s computer screen. This then includes all national account, department store and independent retail e-commerce sites, not to mention the internet-only sellers. If flooding a town with physical doors can shorten the life of a watch brand, what effect will the huge number of sites available on a single screen at the click of a mouse have?

In physical shops, imposing window displays, personal service and the history of a retailer play a huge part. Online is a different story. Service is more and more a key element in this sector with choice, secure payment, money-back guarantees, flexible deliveries, etc, becoming the norm. Some sites are also investing in the latest technology such as augmented reality so that the online experience is more akin to a physical shop.

For many of the remaining sellers, price tends to be the method of standing out from the crowd. While morally, not to mention legally, distributors welcome the fact that consumers can enjoy value, they prefer that value is not just reflected purely in price.

In answer to the opening question, the internet has to become a friend because it is the future, but for the sake of a brand’s longevity, it is wise to choose online partners carefully and work with those adding value or it may quickly become a foe.

 

Paul Harry is sales and marketing director at watch distributor Peers Hardy. 

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