Watch industry executives are often (but not always) notorious for not understanding what their end-consumers want, need, or feel about their products and the industry at large. Oftentimes, this simply comes down to the fact that those same executives aren’t getting direct feedback from those consumers. We’ve done this before on aBlogtoWatch in various ways, but now at the end of 2016, I’d like to once again offer our audience the opportunity to “speak” with the watch industry and, in their own words, give some feedback for what they would like to see in 2017.
Let me also explain why I think the watch industry is in particular need of feedback from aBlogtoWatch audience members. We are talking about an industry that is in many instances failing in one way or another at being successful in what I feel are three crucial areas that must all be in harmony for watch consumers to purchase items. I will outline these a bit more below. The first area is product creation. The second area is product communication. And the third area is product distribution. Together, these make up the trinity of creating desirable products, communicating the values of those products to consumers, and then making sure those products are conveniently and clearly sold to those customers.
Let me step back a moment and explain a larger problem which I think unnecessarily hurts the watch industry in general. The problem is one of innovation, and in this context, I mean that watch brands are continuously looking to the past in order to justify their decisions today – especially when it comes to product creation. This results in a sort of closed innovation loop where very little is actually new. What tends to happen is that the watch industry looks at its own past – with brands often often looking to their own history. They look to a time when they created products focused on the future to make decisions on what new products to make or marketing directions to take today. It doesn’t matter how relevant or irrelevant the past was (usually, not at all), the industry seems almost entirely unable to make any innovative decisions that would imply they actually do something new.
The closed innovation loop that halts actual product novelty and design innovation is, in my opinion, one of the biggest problems the watch industry has, and I’d like to know who else in the aBlogtoWatch audience agrees. I’m not saying a “retro-redo” watch isn’t nice now and again, but without many products that truly feel like contemporary expressions of the here and now, the watch industry is slowly robbing itself of a future. Today, the watch brands are obsessively focused on what they did 50 years ago. In 50 years from now what exactly will they focus on? Will they simply then redo watches which themselves were redos of other, older watches? I believe the watch industry needs a bit more encouragement from its actual customers insofar as that truly new things aren’t just expected, but also missing. So, in the comments below, please share with the watch industry what types of products you feel are missing.
I personally feel that the established watch industry for the most part ignores our contemporary times when it comes to producing new models. Sure there is more true design innovation in high-end boutique brands, whose products can better reflect modern themes. That doesn’t mean the big players are following suit. I’ve been asking myself the question, “what major brands have come up with truly original product families over the last decade or so?” I have almost no good answers to that question. I feel that product design which reflects contemporary themes is sorely missing. The Submariner reflected contemporary themes of the early 1950s. What is the Submariner of today? Is the answer as simple as “a smartwatch?” If that were the case, then more traditional watch lovers would jump on these new products, but they clearly aren’t (yet). I’d like to hear from the audience on what types of themes and directions they feel brands can take in producing entirely new product families which are a result of “today.”
Then we come to the matter of marketing relevancy. I don’t feel like a lot of the marketing and communication practices employed by the watch industry result in particularly good messages. Remember that effective marketing is the result of good message creation and good message distribution. I would say that the former area is where the watch industry is failing the most. In fact, they aren’t too bad at getting their messages in front of the right people, but all too often those messages are ineffective or totally absent. So what advice do you have for the watch industry in terms of how it can create marketing messages that when they reach consumers like you actually have some positive outcome or effect?
The third area which I discussed above is distribution and pricing. A few months ago, I published an article on Forbes about watch industry pricing which resulted in more personal feedback from the watch industry than almost anything I’ve written about in a while. The gist of the feedback was “you hit the nail on the head.” That was good to hear, as it validated my argument that watch pricing is pretty out of line with perceived product value by consumers. This means high-end watch pricing (even though it is slowly getting better) is too high, and doesn’t actually need to be. While I encourage the aBlogtoWatch audience to comment on this, I also want them to comment on the related topic of distribution. In other words, the landscape of watch shopping and availability. Are you happy with the process of getting a watch? Do you think it is easy to find the best place to purchase a product? Are you confused as to what price you should actually be looking for? Do you have a preferred place to buy watches? If not, then what is missing?
I want to add that while distribution and pricing is hurting the sale of new watches, the pre-owned and gray market for watches is thriving these days. The first implication of this is that watch demand by consumers is very much alive and well. The second implication is that these types of retailers are doing something well, that traditional retailers often are not. My belief is that these non-authorized dealers are doing well because they aren’t subject to the strict limitations that watch brands impose on authorized dealers. Not only in terms of price, but also of being able to deliver a convenient and safe purchase experience online. One thing the watch industry could really use feedback on from consumers is advice on how they can properly leverage e-commerce distribution to get sales. So by all means, let them know what you think in the comments below.
To summarize, I would like to invite aBlogtoWatch audience members to share their thoughts on what they would like to see from the watch industry in 2017 when it comes to product design innovation (what new watches you’d like to see and why), how to best communicate to them via marketing (how the industry can effectively communicate their news and values in advertising messages), and how the watch industry can make it practical and convenient for consumers to purchase their products. While it might take more than a year for the feedback to be implemented, I can assure you that important decision makers at top brands in the watch industry will be carefully paying attention to what is said below.