Chopard is the latest luxury company to use the internet for sales of their products. They join a long list of competitor brands such as Cartier, Montblanc, and Bell & Ross who are using the internet's reach and 24/7 availability to sell their products to interested consumers. I pointed out 4-5 years ago that online sales for luxury giants direct to consumers would be inevitable. Each few months more and more brands set up shop online with their own direct-to-consumer e-boutiques. Most people win, but arguably hurt are traditional brick-and-mortar independent retailers who will lose out on a lot of sales. What will their place be moving forward?
Internet sales for the Swiss watch brand Chopard will currently only be available in the United States. In reference to my above statement (ironically), Chopard USA President Mr. Marc Hruschka stated that, "the watch and jewelry market has changed dramatically in the past four or five years thanks in great part to the rise of social media, and we aim to be on the forefront in all realms, including luxury e-commerce." Chopard continued to point out that the e-commerce site is intended to service people outside of metropolitan areas who cannot visit a Chopard retailer. In defense of their retailer network, Chopard does state that the experience of going to a store and touching and feeling a product cannot be reproduced online.
However, the advent of social media has allowed users to exchange actual photographs and reviews of watches and other Chopard products. Part of what aBlogtoRead.com does is offer precisely this type of media. At least I for one have found that seeing a product review by a trusted person online is the next best thing to seeing a product in person. In many cases that is enough to induce purchase. Chopard and other brands have carefully seen the success of gray market retailers online selling watches which ought to be proof enough that online sales are not something they should ignore.
People can visit us.chopard.com to check out Chopard's new online store here in the US. The website isn't half bad. There is no bulky un-navigable Flash and the website seems to offer the right options and information. Chopard even invites people to contact them for more information and I believe a live chat function is also available. Chopard made sure that their e-boutique wasn't just one by name, but also offers the features people expect to actually shop online.
Even if people won't use the new online store to buy watches they will use it as a useful research tool when trying to make purchase decisions. With Chopard at least, no longer are questions about the price or availability of a product an issue. People can at least theoretically use this information to decide what they want before going into a store. Brick and mortar retailers may still have the upper hand a bit in terms of price. While not officially sanctioned by Chopard or other brands, buying a watch at a third-party retailer gives you the opportunity to get a deal. On their website, all people will be asked to pay the full retail price on all items.
While the Chopard e-boutique is available in the US only at this time, the brand has clearly stated that the program will go global soon enough. It does make me happy each time I see brands moving closer to integrating their brick and mortar business with an internet business.