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Luxury brands are “terrified” of impact of online but it’s nothing unless mixed with offline presence, says Watchfinder’s brand director

Luxury brands are “terrified” of the impact of online, but the reality is pureplay and physical retail cannot exist in isolation, but must be multichannel to survive, according to founder and brand director of luxury watch retailer Watchfinder.

Speaking at Brighton Digital Marketing Festival, for which The Drum is media partner, Amsdon said it is consumer confidence in the brand which drives sales – not website traffic – and to build this confidence the former pureplay retailer had to launch a physical boutique.

“Consumer confidence in our brand is what drives conversions. We don’t care so much about website traffic, it doesn’t have an effect on net sales. A physical store is what gives customers confidence in the brand – they want a physical store when buying luxury items.

Watchfinder launched its first boutique in the Royal Exchange in London earlier this year, and saw sales spike as a result, according to Amsdon.

“Luxury brands are terrified of the impact of online but the reality is it doesn’t work unless it’s used within a multichannel mix, and that means physical experiences.

“People talk about younger generations not wanting the same experiences as middle-aged people like me, but the reality is middle-aged people like me can afford the [luxury] product and by the time they can they won’t necessarily want their £5,000 watch couriered over to them the same day, they will want to visit the store and maybe take a day out to do it, it’s all about the experience,” he said.

It has started investing some of its £35,000 monthly marketing budget towards geo-based email and paid search targeting to drive in-store footfall and sales.

“We have just started doing this within a five-mile radius of the Royal Exchange store and we have since sold £240,000 worth of watches just as a direct result of that one campaign, which only cost us about £1,600 to run,” he said.

Alongside its physical stores it has six production service centres which it uses to run events, in which it invites customers to come and watch the watched being made, which also builds respect and trust in the brand. Its boutique features restaurants to encourage people to take time when purchasing, and enjoy the experience of buying a luxury watch.

Watchfinder also has a digital magazine, which Amsdon said has helped the brand cultivate a voice and authority in the luxury watch market, and has led to opportunities to swap audience data with other media owners.

"We realised the key to ecommercce is not just product, it's important to provide a voice and the heritage of the brand, that's why we moved into publishing," he added.