The share of Watch & Jewelry brands in the U.S. selling directly to consumers online has increased from less than a third in 2011 to over half in 2016, and now includes many major industry players selling at premium price-points. But looking across borders, e-commerce remains an under-tapped resource for brands in the industry, particularly in Europe.
Jewelry brands are the most prolific e-commerce players, with two thirds selling online in the U.S., and just under half in the UK, France and Germany. But Watch brands are significantly behind, with 14% selling direct in the UK and less than 10% in France and Germany.
Why is there such a large discrepancy, leaving brands under-penetrated in their own backyards? Many European brands, including Bell & Ross, Breitling, Bulgari, Longines, Panerai, and Rado, are currently using the U.S. as a test market for e-commerce. While this allows them to pilot their operations in a large and sophisticated market, it means central site developers and local marketing teams are sitting on two different continents. This slows down feedback and introduces conflict between U.S. best practices and European ones, ranging from basic labeling conventions to data privacy concerns about triggered email targeting.
The lack of direct to consumer e-commerce from official sources has left the door open for gray market players to fill the gap. Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which appear on searches for 59%of brands, take up half of the first page search results on mobile devices. Since only brands with a DTC e-commerce site can buy PLA listing ads, brands resisting e-commerce handicap themselves at the start of the digital purchase funnel.
Digital genius brands Tiffany & Co. and Cartier, along with nearly half of the Richemont portfolio, operate e-commerce across all major European markets. Several other European brands, including Chopard and TAG Heuer, have recently launched e-commerce in the UK. A plan for how (not if) to address e-commerce in Western Europe is essential for all brands in the sector.
For more on the digital performance of 66 Watch & Jewelry brands in the U.S. market, download L2’s 2015 Digital IQ Index: Watches & Jewelry.