By Carl Scutt
It’s been no secret to anyone reading our articles that Omega is one of our favorite brands, and now with their long-awaited entrance into the online marketplace, they are set to test their brand resilience.
Brands in the horology space can be differentiated into three main sections, Swiss Luxury, Luxury Fashion, then cheap & cheerful, but it’s the luxury market where we see brands spending time and money cultivating their image and back-story. The end result is a product with a price point that locks the product in the luxury sales space. So how can a brand officially enter the online space well known for discounting items, and retain their hard fought for brand value?
From the Quartz crisis to Global recession, to the Grey market sales, the luxury watch industry, in particular, the Swiss brands have been facing an uphill struggle to maintain their foothold, but slowly, things are beginning to change.
Until recently the only way to buy a genuine Omega was through one of their boutiques or via a discount grey sale but we are not going down that road today. Now Omega has announced their new online direct-to-consumer sales via their USA website to start with, and plan additional countries down the line.
Although we’re not going to talk about the grey market and the pressures it has put on the industry, it’s only logical to assume it’s a major factor in Raynald Aeschlimann’s Omega CEO, reason to issue a statement stating they;
“Recognise that e-commerce is growing rapidly in the luxury sector and many of today’s consumers use it as their primary way to shop.”
The End Result
This isn’t the first time Swiss brands have attempted to meet the challenges of the brave new world. We have seen TAG Heuer build a Connected Smartwatch, as well as Frederique Constants’ Horological Smartwatch back in 2015 for example, but this latest breakthrough could well be the bravest step so far.
Although it’s attacking the competition on a level playing field and possibly able to push the online discount store off their respective perches, there’s a very real danger of doing damage to their own brand value.
While the grey market has always offered great discounts the two markets have never really needed to meet head-on. Mainly, this is due to a very different demographic, but with the move into e-commerce; there could be a chance of these two marketplaces colliding, where the only delimiter is a price point.
Perhaps the saving grace will be Omega’s insistence that brick and mortar boutiques will never go away completely. After all, they have been invested in heavily over the years, and there is always room for the luxury customer services that come with a luxury product, let’s face it, pampering is always an option the wealthy will gladly pay for.
While most Swiss luxury brands have been slow to act, Omega are making a concerted effort to change their business model to better suit today’s market, but can this brave action keep their hard earned brand value in a modern online world? Certainly, we’ll be able to see how the US test bed fares over the coming year which should be pretty good pointer to how and where Omega is going.
In my view the ability to reach more customers online and offering brick and mortar boutiques is simply meeting the competition on a common battlefield while maintaining tradition. While they do battle online they know by gaining and maintaining more controlled of distribution of product, together with limiting the flow of products they regain some kind of economic stability.
This is surely how Omega plans to protect the consumer experience? With more control it’s easier to maintain a sustainable price points, prevent excess inventory in order to reduce or control the culture of excessive discounting that online customers often seek. For more info, please visit omegawatches.com