Despite early predictions that digital platforms would not impinge on the high-touch in-store sales experience for luxury consumers — convenience, accessibility and independence from salespeople have become the new hallmarks of “low-touch luxury.” Yet many Watches & Jewelry brands, including Rolex, Hublot and Boucheron, still treat their products as Fabergé eggs, not to be tarnished by e-commerce.
Remarkably, among the subset of 28 Watches & Jewelry brand sites L2 has tracked since 2010, support for direct e-commerce was stagnant from 2013 to 2014, stalling at 54 percent. Of the 82 brands in L2’s wider category Index, just 45 percent support e-commerce. The tepid attitude toward e-commerce is even more prevalent outside the U.S. Just one out of five L2 Index brands supports e-commerce across E.U. market, and in Asia, aside from Japan, brands largely abstain from e-commerce in favor of alternative paths to purchase.
Brands that do support e-commerce tend to do so begrudgingly. Levels of e-commerce site services and functionality are disappointingly at odds with the price points — over half of e-commerce-enabled Watches & Jewelry sites now sell products above $25,000 — and customer sophistication. Only half of brands selling online provide customer service during checkout, for instance, and fewer support one-page checkout.
A quarter of e-commerce-enabled brands still elect to keep e-commerce at arm’s length by implementing e-boutiques as separate destinations or “add-ons” to the primary brand site. Breitling- the category’s most recent convert to e-commerce – uses this technique. These separated boutiques tend to mar the consumer experience by expanding the clicks needed to reach a product page, often causing awkward shifts in site templates and even directing customers to out-of-stock items.
Premium brands are also falling behind in mobile, where there’s a drop-off in e-commerce functionality compared to desktop sites. Two-thirds of brands in L2’s Watches & Jewelry Index brands now maintain mobile-optimized properties, but fewer than 40 percent support m-commerce and lag desktop sites in overall features.
The digital holdouts will ultimately be dragged into the e-commerce age as the numbers become harder to deny. Take Cartier, which has sold jewelry online in the U.S. since 2010 — its online sales now rank third only behind sales at its two major flagships.
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