Welcome to the 2018 WatchPro Reach List, our annual study into the customer reach and engagement of the UK’s biggest watch retailers and pure play ecommerce sites. 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.
WatchPro first produced its Reach List analysis in January 2017 and so, a year-on, we are in a position not only to report on which UK-based retailers have the best statistics across their websites and social media feeds, but also to see which have increased their reach the most in the past 12 months.
The Reach List ranking is a simple multiplication of web traffic and social media engagement. The two naturally reinforce each other, with rising social media engagement driving more people to retailer’s ecommerce websites. This leads to better brand recognition and more social media followers.
However, this is not a passive process, or at least it should not be. The best retailers are constantly looking at ways to accelerate the growth of their digital reach, and also ensure that each digital medium is used to improve customer satisfaction, increase sales and reinforce key brand messages.
For example, a jeweller selling top end Swiss watches will favour the quality of its digital audience over the quantity, and will want to create a sense of luxury across platforms.
That said, I’ve yet to meet a retailer who wants less footfall around their stores, and digital footfall is no different. The cost of providing the right environment, information and engagement for a million people across social media and the web is pretty much the same as providing it for 10,000 people, so why not shoot for the biggest audience possible?
The UK retailer with the greatest digital reach is Watchshop, and this is a business that very much relies on volume. Web traffic measuring service Similarweb estimates that it had 4.8 million visits in November 2017, almost double the 2.6 million it welcomed a year earlier.
Interestingly, this dramatic rise in web traffic was not matched by growth in social media engagement. Twitter followers increased by only 4% in a year and Facebook likes rose by just 6%. Instagram followers increased 61% to 4514, but this did not even place the ecommerce giant in the top 10 retailers on the picture-based platform this year.
Signet Jewelers’ H.Samuel is the closest competitor to Watchshop for inexpensive watches and has also notched impressive growth to its ecommerce website; adding 500,000 visitors in the month of November compared to a year earlier.
This year’s total monthly visits of 2.1 million would have seen it nipping at the heels of Watchshop a year ago, but the Aurum Holdings-owned etailer is a moving target and has stretched its lead from 1 million more monthly visits than H.Samuel in the 2017 Reach List to 2.7 million more visits this year.
Another major battle is between affordable luxury multiples Ernest Jones, Goldsmiths, Beaverbrooks and Fraser Hart. All four of these major multiples has spent the year refurbishing their physical stores in an effort to shift upmarket. Goldsmiths and Fraser Hart both sell Rolex in their stores, but are not allowed to complete transactions for the brand online. Ernest Jones and Beaverbrooks face the same issue with Rolex stablemate Tudor, and EJ can only sell Cartier in store for now.
Ernest Jones comes out on top of this year’s Reach List among these four heavyweights, thanks mostly to having more than double the number of Twitter followers than its three rivals.
Goldsmiths has bragging rights when it comes to web traffic, with 1.4 million visits per month compared to EJ’s 1.2 million.
Fraser Hart is surprisingly far behind Ernest Jones online. Ernest Jones with 190 outlets has almost five-times more shops than Fraser Hart’s 40, but its website receives 14-times more visits, according to Similarweb estimates (1.2 million versus 149,500 visits).
Instagram is the fastest-growing platform for these affordable luxury jewellers.
Ernest Jones has the fewest Instagram followers from the big four at 5095, but is fastest-growing. Goldsmiths and Beaverbrooks are almost neck-and-neck with just over 8500 followers a piece.
Goldsmiths and Ernest Jones are in a tight race for Facebook likes, with Goldsmiths currently leading with £67,600 likes compared to Ernest Jones’s 64,200.
We have included Chrono24 for the first time in this year’s Reach List for two reasons. First, the secondary market for luxury watches is booming and represents a significant section of the overall watch industry; secondly, its digital reach is so substantial. Only six watch retailers rank higher on the Reach List.
One final story to note is how poorly independent jewellers are faring on the Reach List, both this year and last.
There are some excellent businesses that have scaled up to several physical stores and respectable digital reach, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
This makes no sense because small independents cannot afford to sit mutely on high streets praying that footfall will return to pre-Internet levels. It won’t.
But the Internet is as much an opportunity as a threat. Indies need to focus on building great databases of local (and not so local) customers; reaching out to them via e-mail and social media; inviting them to exciting events or enticing them to stores with great offers.
Social media also allows for fantastic local advertising campaigns at very little cost. WatchPro has experimented with budgets of under £20 on Instagram with promotions that can be targeted to a specific address, an age, income or gender. You can even target people who like certain watch brands for just a few quid.
Building professional ecommerce sites is so simple today that if an owner can’t do it, their children or grandchildren almost certainly can.
Off-the-shelf website designs also have built in search engine optimisation tools and advice that will take indies up Google rankings; maybe not nationally, but the aim is to improve engagement locally.
The 2018 Reach List shows businesses like Chisholm Hunter improve their reach by 640%; Berry’s is up 387%; Rox has risen 223%. These are businesses with just a handful of stores a decade ago. If they can do it, you can too.