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In this day and age, a mobile phone can do more than making a phone call; it records the time, takes pictures, orders meals and even measures your heart rate. Who needs a watch these days?

You may be surprised to learn that even though 81.4% of Thais own a mobile phone, many still wear wrist watches.

Mobile phone user penetration in Thailand; eMarketer.com

What do Thais Look for when Buying a Wrist Watch?

Out of the 877 Thai respondents, 94.9% wore a watch and more than half (56.0%) owned three watches or more. Data from the ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018 indicated that watches remain a necessary accessory among Thai consumers with demand still high despite a large number of smartphone users. Statista reported a total of 25.75 million smartphone users in Thailand but the days of the wristwatch are not yet over.

Apart from the obvious reasons to tell the time (62.5%), 13.5% also wore a wristwatch as an accessory. Male respondents especially mentioned that wearing watches was the easiest and classiest way to look good. Around 8.6% cited that wearing a watch reflected their status and style and helped to boost their confidence.

For this reason, design was naturally the most important factor that Thais considered when buying a wristwatch, followed by price and brand name. Brand name also reflected status and personal style. For example, Rolex is still highly regarded as a prestigious timepiece brand in Thailand. Wearing a Rolex advertises high income and social status.

Price, naturally, is another high-ranking factor. Watches are deemed as expensive accessories and not something to be bought on an impulse. Thais only buy new watches every few years (58.7%). Most respondents indicated that they were comfortable to spend around 1,000-30,000 baht on a wristwatch.

Factors that Thai respondents look for when buying a watch; ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018

The top three watch brands preferred by Thai respondents were Seiko (25.6%), Casio (21.6%), and Omega and Rolex (10.9%).  What do we learn from this ranking?

  • Seiko is a Japanese company that revolutionized the industry and is known for its long history of watchmaking. Prices range from 5,000 to 30,000 baht and the brand is popular among 20K-50K baht income earners.
  • Casio offers a diverse product assortment and brands including G-SHOCK and Baby G. Casio are known for their affordable but attractive designs.
  • Rolex and Omega are popular among consumers aged 40 and above. These two brands are preferred by the older generation, while youngsters opt for IWC or Tag Heuer as luxury timepieces.
  • Daniel Wellington, is a hipster brand that rose to popularity fast and won the hearts of the younger generation. Up to 75% of respondents aged 18-25 wore this brand. Tag Heuer is also popular amongst the 31-40 age group.

When asked about the media channels they used for news and information about timepieces, 48% of the respondents stated that they received news from social media with 33.7% using brand websites.

In Thailand, 74% of the population are active social media users, as reported by ETDA 2017. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that social media was the main channel respondents used for news concerning watches. Brand websites offer more genuine and trustworthy news about the brand itself.

Media channels that Thais use for news about wrist watches; ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018

Where do Thais Buy Wrist Watches?

Despite the heavy usage of the Internet to consume news, 76.7% of Thais still buy wrist watches from offline stores. The most popular offline channel used by 55.5% of the Thai respondents was Central Department Store because of the store’s credibility.

Like most department stores in Thailand, Central Department has a dedicated section for wristwatch sales. Apart from their reliable reputation, buying a wrist watch from Central Department Store is very easy and convenient. Up to 19% of the respondents looked for convenience and a holistic service, especially regarding after-sales service when buying a watch. Every Central Department Store has a ‘Watch & Clock Clinic’ that offers after-sales service for watches bought from the store.

Watch & Clock Clinic at Central Department Store, Pinklao Branch

Only 23.3% of the respondents bought wrist watches online. Lazada received the highest scores in terms of an online sales channel where Thais buy watches. The second preferred option would be the brand website, due to its credibility.

The online channels Thai respondents choose to buy watches from; ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018.

 

Similar to other product categories, the top reason cited for opting for online channels was because of convenience; ecommerce saves time and is hassle-free. On the other hand, some Thai respondents refrained from buying wrist watches online due to a perceived lack of credibility in the sellers and/or marketplaces. Offering a warranty and after-sales service are also factors that some online sellers fail to provide.

Reasons why Thai respondents bought wrist watches from online channels; ecommerceIQ Wrist Watch Survey Thailand 2018

It is also interesting to note how wrist watches are listed by Lazada and Shopee websites as each has a slight difference. From our observations, watches are only found in the ‘watch and glasses’ category on Shopee, while Lazada lists watches under: Electronic accessories, women’s fashion, and men’s fashion. This provides users with more exposure to the products and hence higher conversion to sales.

On the Lazada website, users are able to see watches listed on the e-marketplace more frequently and in more sections than at Shopee. Lazada, watches can be found under Electronics as wearables and accessories, which is also categorized into male, female and child timepieces.

Shopee, on the other hand, only offers watches under the watches and glasses category, and does not categorize watches for different demographics like Lazada.

How Can Watch Brands Take Advantage?

Watches are deemed as a luxury item by Thais. More often than not they are bought as an investment. Thais look for credibility and confidence from the seller, as well as a warranty proving that the timepiece bought is authentic.

It is not enough to list your products on a marketplace and engage in advertising campaigns. Rather, brands should focus on establishing confidence among consumers. One way to ensure this is to be listed as an official seller on LazMall or Shopee Mall, as well as including a clear statement about warranty and after-sales service conditions.

For luxury timepiece manufacturers, an e-marketplace may not be the ideal strategy as it may conflict with the brand’s positioning. Luxury brands should focus on providing beyond-expectation services and ascertaining that information is clearly visible on their websites.

As watches are still mainly sold offline, now is the right time for brands to give omnichannel a try. Take Burberry for example. They created the Burberry Retail Theatre that streams live runway shows into a number of their stores worldwide and through their other online channels. In the Retail Theatres, customers can browse live streaming collections on iPads and purchase items online immediately.

Burberry’s Runway to Reality campaign allowing consumers to order items from the runway in real-time

However, high-end or mid-range Thai timepiece brands should not ignore the power of social media. Daniel Wellington sets a great example through owning its own social media game. The company reduced spending on traditional advertising and turned instead to social media to reach potential consumers through use of the hashtag #DanielWellington. This also leverages user-generated content (UGC) to engage its customers and drive brand loyalty.

An Instagram post was created with #DanielWellington as #DWPickoftheDay and #DWPickoftheMonth

By taking your brand digital, you are embracing an endless supply of consumer data. As Shadi Halliwell, the creative and marketing director of Harvey Nichols stated,

“Data is a conversation; the more data you have on someone, the more conversation you can have.”  

THE BACKGROUND

Anyone that has ever logged into Instagram has probably encountered at least one picture featuring a minimalist watch with a NATO strap and trademark ‘DW’ on the dial.

Daniel Wellington Instagram

The classic rose gold-tone watch with the stripes NATO strape

In the six years after its inception in 2011, the relatively young Swedish watch brand Daniel Wellington (DW) has successfully become one of the world’s best-selling watch brands under the $200 price range.

DW was inspired when the founder Filip Tysander met a British man with “impeccable yet unpretentious style” during his travels in Australia. Tysander was inspired to create his own line of watches after seeing the man’s pairing of a vintage Rolex Submariner with an old, weathered NATO strap.

Within three years after its launch, DW sold one million watches worth $70 million and the company is now worth over $200 million.

It is also the fastest growing private company in Europe — recording 4,700% growth in revenue between 2013 and 2015.

What factor contributes to its massive success?

It is almost single-handedly owed to the company’s Instagram strategy.

THE CHALLENGES

Coming from the Gen Y millennial generation himself, Tysander knew personally the pain of finding an affordable minimalist watch as most companies charge a premium for the style.

“I thought there was also something missing in watch design, when it comes to watch that is slim, thin, and minimalistics, that you can wear together with a suit, that is not that expensive,” Tysander said about the opportunity he saw in the watch industry.

So how does one make an affordable stylish watch without looking cheap? On top of that, how does a brand create an identity that millennials want to be associated with?

THE STRATEGY

The company picked a perfect time to start its business, a period right after the economy recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and profits in the watch industry jumped from $3.7 billion in 2009 to $5 billion in 2014.

Tysander also noticed a classic trend in fashion hadn’t yet made it to the watch world – the preppy style so he drew inspiration from Ralph Lauren to match his new NATO straps.

To keep price points relatively low, the company manufactures and assembles its parts in China but the brand maintains a certain level of quality by sourcing the time-keeping parts from Miyota, a Japanese supplier known for its good quality-to-cost ratio.

“Our watches are inspired by the upper echelons of the watch world but at a very accessible price point. It’s fair to say that we want everyone to be able to own a Daniel Wellington,” said Frans Sjo, DW’s business manager for the US.

Indeed, the brand has made it very easy for people to purchase a Daniel Wellington watch by partnering with over 6,000 retailers in 75 countries.

The company also sells its products online, offering free worldwide shipping and returns on not only its official website but also distributing its timepieces in Southeast Asia through popular marketplace Lazada.

Daniel Wellington Instagram

Daniel Wellington ecommerce website with free worldwide shipping

Unlike other upscale brands that are bound by guidelines and can only sell their products in certain boutiques, DW partners with any retailer that will have them – department store, boutique, standalone, etc.

While its omnipresent channel distribution is impressive, the company’s most notable strength is its marketing. The company refused to spend on traditional advertising and turns instead to social media to reach potential consumers.

In its early days, DW gave watches to key influencers on Instagram so they could show it off to their thousands of followers. But the company didn’t choose celebrity endorsers and started with the several smaller influencers to achieve the same “viral” effect at a cheaper cost.

Daniel Wellington Instagram

The company curates its Instagram feed with pictures from customers around the world.

DW has also curated a very stylish Instagram profile itself as a fashion brand and has successfully garnered 3.2 million followers. It also leverages user-generated content (UGC) to engage its customers and drive brand loyalty by featuring user posts with hashtag #DanielWellington.

Daniel Wellington has succeeded in lowering its product’s base cost, and consequently the retail price, while branding itself to be a stylish and desirable brand to a wide demographic.

THE FUTURE

Having excelled in an online channel strategy, DW is now looking to expand its offline footprint to further expand the business.

The company is planning to open 300 flagship stores worldwide within a year, ten times of what the company had at the beginning of 2017. At least 100 of them are planned to open in China.

To increase global recognition (and now that DW has the money), the brand has appointed Kendall Jenner to be its brand ambassador to launch its Classic Petite collection — the company’s first mesh band watch.

Daniel Wellington Instagram

Kendal Jenner is the face of the company’s Classic Petite collection launched March this year.a

“If you go back to 2013, I had no idea the company had the potential to grow to its current size, but today it’s part of my everyday life. I’m incredibly fortunate,” said Tysander in an interview.

With $66 million profit all for himself? No doubt.