Cartier uses UK as test market for ramping up online sales via authorised retailers

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Cartier kicked off selling its watches online in the summer of 2016 with TheWatchGallery.com.

Goldsmiths has already followed, and Cartier itself has a transactional website, but sources close to the roll-out say that the Richemont brand aims to help every authorised retailer with an appropriate online presence to start selling directly to consumers.

Selling luxury watches online is in its infancy around the world, but the UK is blazing a trail because it is the most advanced e-tail market in the world with over 20% of all purchases across the entire retail landscape made via the web.

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David Coleridge, chairman of The Watch Gallery, has been an evangelist for selling watches online for a decade, and told WatchPro in an interview to be published in the February edition that Swiss watchmakers are finally getting the message.

He says The Watch Gallery is experimenting and learning every day, despite working online for almost 10 years.

His epiphany came around the time of a meeting in 2006 with Nick Robertson, founder of online fashion giant Asos. He persuaded Asos that DM London (the former trading name of The Watch Gallery) could set up watch sales on the site.

Mr Robertson initially declined, thinking he could do watches himself. But Mr Coleridge persuaded him that DM London could introduce watch brands that would not normally consider selling via a site like Asos. The deal was done and Mr Coleridge’s business has been running watch sales for Asos every since.

Over the four days of Black Friday sales, Asos sold 21,000 watches, and was on track to sell a similar number in the final week before Christmas, Mr Coleridge revealed when we met in late December.

As well as Asos and Selfridges, The Watch Gallery also runs online watch sales for John Lewis and from its own site – www.thewatchgallery.com.

Selling under the company’s own name, The Watch Gallery, is where all the lessons learned from working with Selfridges, Asos and John Lewis come together.

“We aim with The Watch Gallery to be a true omnichannel retailer,” Mr Coleridge states.

Cartier is exactly the type of luxury but affordable brand that The Watch Gallery sells best. Mr Coleridge says it typically takes around three months for a customer to buy a watch like a Cartier. They normally start researching online for what brand and models they like.

The Watch Gallery has an advantage here over the brand’s own sites because they present multiple brands.

If a customer researches at TheWatchGallery.com, they are offered help by an expert who will chat online or they can speak by phone. Uniquely, those same experts also work in The Watch Gallery’s Royal Opera House store in London’s Covent Garden.

This means that, as the online customer gets closer to making a decision, they can come into the shop and meet the same expert they spoke to online.

They still might not purchase a watch on the day they come to the store; preferring to complete the transaction online where they can look at financing options in the privacy of their own living rooms.

This is the omnichannel experience that Mr Coleridge has created, and it appears to be working.

“In the period since we’ve been transactional with Cartier we have outsold Cartier.com for watches,” he describes.

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