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Retailers will never have pure play, says Watchfinder founder

Founder of luxury second-hand watch reseller Watchfinder explains that retailers will never have an entirely online or offline business

Retailers will never be able to sustain a pure-play channel on their own, according to luxury watch reseller Watchfinder.

The firm’s founder and brand director, Lloyd Amsdon, said Watchfinder had tried to enter the market on a purely online basis, but realised it was impossible to sustain market traction with only one channel.

“The impact of offline should never be underestimated, and it’s our belief that you’ll never have a pure play in this business,” said Amsdon.

Instead of continuing with the online focus the business had tried when it was founded, Watchfinder began expanding into the physical space and using digital to merge the two together, becoming an omni-channel retailer.

“We were pure play and digital for so long. We’re now more focused on completing the circle and filling in the gaps – and the gaps for us were all offline,” said Amsdon.

Amsdon explained that as the economy worsened, people began to behave differently around luxury goods, leading the business to leverage the combination of stores and online.

Even online-only retailers such as Amazon and Google have tried their hand at customer-facing stores, and many have debated that retailers will not be able to sustain a single channel approach in the long term.

Watchfinder began to think of its stores as a differentiator, using its four locations as a marketing tool to push traffic to its website. The firm now has two more stores and a concession in a department store on the way.

“More people type Watchfinder into Google on a monthly basis than watch brands IWC, Longines, Audemars Piguet or Panerai,” said Amsdon.

“For me, PR is the new SEO. We do link generation through PR and good old fashioned marketing – and that drives our traffic.”

A connected experience

The brand began using its online channel to connect the experience between store and online, using the website for content as well as sales.

“At this price point you can’t just have an e-commerce site. You need to pad it out with editorial,” said Amsdon.

“What we’ve tried to do is take some of the offline technology and put them online.”

This is similar to Net-A-Porter’s strategy of mixing e-commerce with trusted editorial content to drive sales.

Part of Watchfinder’s unique selling point is the effort it puts into the service aspect of its business, including upskilling engineers to help them learn how to service watches.

The firm runs an apprenticeship scheme and holds workshops to teach people about the details of servicing a watch. Watchfinder also shares these aspects of its business online to increase customer engagement and the number of people exposed to the brand.

“If I share a watch-fixing session on YouTube, I can get three million people to watch it in a week,” said Amsdon.

“What we like to produce in terms of digital is a focus on the offline things.”

Omni-channel strategy

In the future, Watchfinder will continue with its omni-channel showroom strategy, providing good customer service and information online and allowing customers the chance to try products in store, with the ultimate goal of growing internationally.

“We almost over-deliver on digital, but we under-deliver offline,” said Amsdon, adding that Watchfinder is trying to address this by increasing their number of stores.

By improving their service by expanding offline, Amsdon said Watchfinder is keeping ahead of its competitors that rely too heavily on a digital presence.

“When you don’t have a service sector, stores or stock, you don’t have growth,” said Amsdon. ...............................................................................................................

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