The Luxury Watch Market Amidst The Coronavirus Pandemic
When covid-19 first reared its ugly head in China back in December 2019, while everyone knew and expected the virus to be a formidable force, nobody could have anticipated the sheer magnitude by which the novel coronavirus has affected the luxury watch industry. It first started with the limitation of large gatherings, forcing Baselworld and Watches & Wonders to abandon their plans. After that, with whole countries and continents going into total lockdown and stores shutting down until further notice, travel and trade all but ceased with production stopping and traditional sales on an all-time low.
It has been 5 months since the start of the outbreak. While some countries have since relaxed lockdown restrictions and production has slowly resumed, our problems are far from over - we now need to learn how to adapt to this ‘new normal’. With new social distancing measures in place, retail shops will not go back to the same capacity anytime soon and watch supply will drop (at least in the short term) as production slows down. On top of this, this pandemic has also resulted in many countries slipping into recession. With pay cuts, furloughs and retrenchment rife, it is not a far stretch to assume that consumers are going to become more cautious of their spending and by extension, the luxury watch sales cycle will become longer.
Despite all the bad news, this is not the time to rest on our laurels. Staying at home during the Circuit Breaker period has forced us all to take a step back to think about how we can continue to adapt to the situation at hand.
With everyone staying at home, now is the perfect time to self-improve in preparation for when our stores can finally re-open. With everyone having access to Zoom and other online communication platforms, it makes team meetings more accessible. We have been refunneling our time on regular educational sessions for our sales associates to help them understand better about the Rolex and Tudor brands. We have also been taking this time to self-upgrade when it comes to customer service. Customer service has now transitioned (and will continue) to be online as well - and it is necessary for us to be prepared for this new reality.
Taking engagement online
With no storefront, we had to make sure that we continue to engage our regular customers as well as to attract new prospects. We have been focusing on social media for some time now but during this time period, it is more important than ever for us (or any business for that matter) to double down on online engagement. Our top-of-funnel sales strategies have been to invest our time heavily on social media including more product postings and educational pieces. We have also been following through with more digital enquiries until it is safe for us all to go back to physical retail. While online engagement will never beat going into the store to experience it for yourself, it is the next-best alternative for us to share as much information in the most accessible way possible during the awareness and consideration phase of a customer’s journey.
Personalizing the sales experience
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I personally do not believe that a fully online experience can ever be justified when we are talking about luxury timepieces. There is still value and beauty in going into the store, feeling and experiencing the watch before one reaches the point of purchase. Building on the point above on taking engagement online, we still hold fiercely onto the buying experience being physical and incredibly customized. Despite the odds, we still ensure that the personal touch is felt despite being us all being far away. We still believe in the importance of personalized service for every customer - and we are able to achieve this with the introduction of our digital enquiries as part of our concierge service. Prospects and regular customers can reach out to us online to ask us about anything, and post-circuit breaker period, we are able to follow up with their personalized enquiries during their in-store experience with a dedicated sales associate throughout their purchase journey.
Redefining the in-store experience
We do not know for sure when we will be back in operations, or if we can even celebrate Kee Hing Hung's 50th Anniversary this year. However, what we do know for sure is that our in-store experience, and therefore your buying experience, is going to change. Social distancing measures will likely to continue to be in place and as such, we will prioritize visits by appointment only as compared to casual walk-ins. With visits by appointments only, we can ensure a more personalized experience with a dedicated sales associate with you. With this, we hope to improve the luxury buying experience by focusing back on the customer.
The luxury watch industry is not likely to fail any time soon, even in these unprecedented times. Luxury timepieces are still valued by many. However, other things like how we approach retail sales will likely never be the same again. While traditional luxury retail sales will not be completely done away, there is a need to rethink the luxury buying experience. Watch sales will remain resilient if we are.
If all goes well with fewer covid-19 cases, let us hope that we will be able to receive all our customers at our store with open arms very soon