Watching for opportunity in the watch industry

After months of strict social distancing protocols against the coronavirus, Hong Kong is finally easing up as people are allowed to visit bars, gyms and cinemas again. However, luxury retailers still have many hurdles to clear given the weakened economy. How can the watch industry better connect with consumers and buyers during this time of wary spending?

Upping the digital ante

Despite Hong Kong’s success at containing the virus, many other countries are still struggling. As social distancing and lockdowns continue elsewhere, brands must emphasise a stronger online presence to maintain meaningful interactions. With conventions suspended for the time being, online events like the 2020 Watches and Wonders offer fairgoers a chance to stay connected with the latest industry developments from the safety of home.

While conventions and trade shows are a fine way to reach buyers and sourcers, younger audiences are often not among those demographics. In the past, we’ve explained the importance of empathy and diversifying a brand’s online presence while expanding an online reach – as YouTube stands as the world’s second largest search engine, brands have a great existing platform to generate more attention.

For example, renowned brands like IWC or Omega currently have channels that primarily feature product showcases. During the coronavirus epidemic, YouTube had launched the #StayHome #WithMe campaign to entice viewers to stay at home – offering viewers a unique opportunity to entertain, exercise, cook and more alongside prominent content creators.

A channel that can help viewers take their minds off their troubles shows empathy and care for the audience – like with British model and fashion designer Alexa Chung’s channel, a video with insightful tips on hair management during home quarantine is arguably more valuable to viewers than one promoting the latest fashions. A brand that generates a strong sense of community is one that consumers will remember later down the line!

Aesthetic affordability

Hong Kong’s economy had been hit hard by the coronavirus – reaching a 4.2 percent unemployment rate as of March 2020. Although the Hong Kong Government has pledged to create 30,000 new jobs and issue a HK$137.5 billion relief package, consumers have changed their spending patterns in response – few willing to spend their savings on non-essential goods before the threat of the epidemic subsides.

Given the hefty price tags attached to luxury watches, brands looking to tap into the millennial market should consider offering more affordable collections. According to a McKinsey & Company luxury goods industry insight article, millennials value “experiential luxury” like high-end hotels, resorts or cruises and “Instagrammable moments” over luxury products.

Although the Apple Watch has more or less become the affordable luxury watch, it’s capacity as an experiential luxury is limited – as is with most Apple products, there isn’t much of a story behind each new edition aside from new features and upgrades. Should a luxury watch brand release an affordable collection during this time of economic difficulty, it’d show an empathetic understanding and a prompt response to market conditions. If perhaps a portion of sales were dedicated to the fight against the virus, it’d be a great motivator for Instagram attention from millennials looking to splurge a little (and for a good cause)!

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