Brands across the consumer spectrum have turned to livestreaming as a lifeline during the coronavirus outbreak, from expanded initiatives by early adopters in beauty and fashion to newer efforts by automakers and real estate firms trying to maintain their connections with consumers. Until now, one holdout has been “hard luxury,” encompassing high-end watches and fine jewelry, a sector that has been slower to embrace digital transformation amid concerns over brand dilution and the willingness of core customers to make big-ticket purchases online.
But as with everything else, the coronavirus has upended normal rules and playbooks. This year one of the most important and exclusive events, Watches & Wonders Geneva, has shifted to an online event open to the public.
- For the Chinese market, Watches & Wonders has gone a step further with an expansive livestreaming campaign in partnership with Tmall Luxury Pavilion and Net-a-Porter. The luxury conglomerate Richemont is the major participant of Watches & Wonders, and its subsidiary Yoox Net-a-Porter established a joint venture with Alibaba in 2018 that included the launch of Net-a-Porter’s Tmall flagship store in September 2019.
- The “Watches & Wonders Tmall Cloud Watch Show” runs from April 25 to 29 and includes the debuts of more than 100 new models from nine Richemont watch brands, including Panerai, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, and Cartier (which has also launched its own global platform in English, French and Chinese).
- In a new twist, many of the new products are being made available for sale once they appear on the show, a rarity for luxury brands, which typically use livestreaming to preview upcoming collections. An offline “wear test” service is available to connect e-commerce consumption with in-store service.
- The first livestream ran for four hours on April 25 and featured rare and expensive watches, with appearances by top watch brand executives, Alibaba Group vice president Mike Hu and Wu Yating, the CEO of the joint venture between Alibaba and YNAP, and drew around 800,000 viewers. Replays are available on Net-a-Porter’s Weibo account and Tmall created a special section on its app to provide additional brand and product information.
- Watches & Wonders also promoted the cloud event via Weibo, creating a short promotional video starring singer Bibi Zhou and engaging several key influencers from diverse fields to discuss watches and their meanings, yielding more than 90 million views for the campaign hashtag.
- The Chinese livestreaming initiative underscores a more sales-oriented approach for the market, where consumers are less reluctant to forego the offline experience. Even as Swiss watch exports fell by nearly 22% over the past three months, exports to mainland China rose by 10.5%, and it is the world’s leading market for online sales of high-end timepieces. Read more in Chinese from Luxe.co.