EXCLUSIVE RESEARCH: The 2017 WatchPro Reach List

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Welcome to the 2017 WatchPro Reach List, the UK’s first comprehensive study into the customer reach of the UK’s biggest watch e-tailers. The Reach List measures the digital footprint of the biggest retailers across the UK using quantitative analysis of traffic to their websites, total number of Facebook likes, Twitter followers and Instagram followers.

Watch Shop has comfortably the greatest digital reach of any retail brand in the UK.

Its WatchPro Reach List score of over 31 million is thirty times higher than its closest online-only rival, Watches2U and almost three times higher than the best placed multi-channel retailer, H Samuel.

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The good news for every site trailing in the wake of Watch Shop is that there is so much potential to improve.

If Watch Shop can amass 2.6 million visits to its website in a month, then it seems entirely reasonable that its competitors should shoot for far higher traffic to their sites, particularly since many shoppers for a certain watch will check more than one site to see if there is a better deal out there.

When it comes to social media, Facebook is the platform on which Watch Shop has the greatest advantage. The 219,090 Facebook likes for its page is 3.65 times more than Watches2U, 2.7 times more than H Samuel.

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However, Watch Shop is not the country’s biggest watch retailer on other social media platforms. H Samuel has more Twitter followers than Watch Shop – 26,900 compared to 19,500. H Samuels stable mate at Signet Group, Ernest Jones also has more Twitter followers with 25,300.

The biggest of all retail brands on Instagram is Watch Finder, with 28,200 followers. The Watch Gallery is a distant second, with 11,900 Instagram followers. Watch Shop is only the 11th biggest brand on Instagram with a lowly 2797 followers. It appears that Instagram fans really love luxury watches, with Scottish independent retailer Rox punching well above its weight with 7466 followers.

To adapt an old phrase from the financial director’s lexicon, you could consider social media as vanity while web traffic is sanity. It could be argued that it is websites where people buy watches, with social media used mainly to ogle them.

The country’s biggest web retailer would not agree. Alex Fisher, CEO at Watch Shop, believes social media is a vital part of improving relationships with customers. “We see social media as a platform where we are able to connect to our customers on a more interactive and personal level,” he tells WatchPro.

“Our strategy is based upon three core principles: growing the business, creating brand awareness and driving direct sales through social. Our approach is very much about understanding customer interaction with brands, and maximising this either through the existing audience, or in addition through lookalike acquisition. Our attitude is religiously contemporary and up-beat, whilst always underpinned by a professional undertone,” Mr Fisher adds.

Not all social media platforms are created equal, according to Watch Shop, which uses them for specific objectives. Facebook is used to drive sales, marketing and conversations, explains Mr Fisher. “We attain website conversion by using a combination of paid and organic reach. This is achieved through ad campaigns, posts, customer service enquires and the Facebook Messenger tool,” he adds.

Twitter is also used to drive sales and marketing, but, according to Mr Fisher is “primarily used as an easy port of call for our customers to contact and connect with us as a business. We want to be able to both listen, understand and most importantly help our consumers.”

Instagram is the least developed platform for Watch Shop. “Instagram is used for marketing purposes and brand awareness, as this is a fairly new platform for Watch Shop our main aim is to utilise the vast user database to drive brand awareness and engagement. As this channel is in its infancy, direct revenue is very much a later stage initiative,” Mr Fisher admits.

It is vital to have something interesting or important to say when it comes to social media. Millenials and Generation Z’ers are quickly turned off by crude sales tactics. It works best, Mr Fisher suggests, when time-sensitive news is shared across all platforms. “We have linked social media up with onsite activity to create a seamless message to our followers. We have also discovered when our following is most likely to be engaged with us (times of day) and which brands have the highest success on social media. Using these two specific pieces of information we are able to send posts out at specific times to maximise on reach. The success we experienced during Black Friday period was a great example of this,” he reveals.

Smaller multiple retailers and independents face a massive challenge getting noticed on the Internet. The Aurum Holdings and Signet Group businesses can dominate Google and other search services either by paying for the most common search terms or by virtue of their colossal scale, which is instrumental in moving up search rankings. WatchPro searched on Google for Bulova, and the page returned a list of retailers stocking the brand that ran:

1. Watch Shop
2. Ernest Jones
3. Beaverbrooks
4. The Watch Hut
5. Amazon
6. Watches2U
7. Jura Watches
8. Goldsmiths

Smaller groups like Hugh Rice, a significant stockist of Bulova in the North East and the highest ranked independent on the WatchPro Reach List, were on page 9 of the Google search. Rox, a luxury retailer with which has five boutiques in Scotland and one in Leeds, did manage to make it onto the first page in a search for Hublot, but trailed behind The Watch Gallery (a paid listing), Watches of Switzerland, Goldsmiths and Watch Finder.

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Social media is arguably more important to the smaller retail groups because they can take a more personal approach that plays well across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It is notable that Hugh Rice’s 22,822 Facebook likes is more than many much larger retailers including Fraser Hart and F Hinds.

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HOW WE COMPILE THE REACH LIST

The 2017 WatchPro Reach List is compiled using web traffic as counted by the Internet’s best measuring service Compareweb.com. This does not claim to provide perfectly accurate data on overall visits to any website, but research has found that it gets closer than any other service aside from those like Google Analytics that are used by the owners of the websites.

SimilarWeb doesn’t rely on any single channel for data collection. Data comes from four main sources, the company explains: 1) A panel of monitored devices, currently the largest in the industry. 2) Local internet service providers (ISPs) located in many different countries. 3) Web crawlers that scan every public website to create a highly accurate map of the digital world, and 4) Hundreds of thousands of direct measurement sources from websites and apps that are connected to us directly.

By using Compareweb.com’s figures for all watch retailers, the absolute visitor numbers may not be precisely accurate, but the comparison between sites should be.

We have taken the visitor numbers from Compareweb.com, multiplied them by the number of followers and likes on the three social media platforms to reach a final Reach List score. The data is all from November 2016. Because the Reach List score becomes so large when multiplying such large numbers, we divide the final score by 1000 billion to make it a digestible figure. Ultimately, it is the ranking that matters more than the Reach List score.

The Reach List ranking is broken up into three categories: multi-channel multiples, multi-channel independents (with fewer than five physical stores) and Online-only e-tailers, so that each retailer is compared to competitors with similar business models.

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