It is no secret that the future of retail is online. This goes for most consumer goods but this has also started to affect the luxury world, which includes watches. After several Richemont brands entering e-commerce together with Net-a-Porter and Mister Porter (think IWC later followed by other members of the Group), it’s now time for Audemars Piguet to start testing such retail processes, yet in a non-conservative and unprecedented manner, as the high-end watchmaker has just started to test E-Commerce in China with a pop-up boutique on JD.com.
While the European and American markets are still rather conservative in the way watches are sold to clients, who still rely on physical point-of-sale, the Chinese market has demonstrated to be much more mature when it comes to online shopping, mainly due to the innovative spirit of two e-commerce giants: Alibaba and JD.com. Both have recently launched luxury portals – Luxury Pavillon for Alibaba and TopLife for JD.com – on which most luxury goods can be purchased, through WeChat e-stores. And if this might sound inconceivable in Europe or in America, this is how Chinese consumers are now doing.
Audemars Piguet and its up-to-date CEO François-Henry Bannahmias thought that an opportunity was opening here. This is why the Le Brassus-based brand, otherwise not short of relying on traditions for its communication, has decided to announce the opening of its first online pop-up boutique in partnership with JD.com. If Audemars Piguet states that this partnership is a perfect combination of analogue “Swiss Made” and digital “Chinese Speed”, this is also a way for the brand to access to one of the largest markets in the world, where proximity with a physical point-of-sale can be problematic, in addition to the known fact that the Chinese middle class are increasingly shopping online.
According to the brand, which is about to hit the critical 1-Billion Swiss Francs barrier in turnover, the Chinese market is growing faster than ever – confirmed by the exports to China, which rose 18.8 percent last year, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (and growth this year is expected to be even faster).
Several models of Audemars Piguet’s collection, ranging from CNY 149,000 (USD 24,000) to CNY 463,000 (USD 74,000) – including the Kakhi ROO Diver, the ladies’ ROO Chronograph, the Yellow Gold RO Chronograph or the RO Quartz with diamond bezel – are offered to consumers through the Swiss brand’s e-store on China’s WeChat social-media platform – a specific luxury service, which includes the shortest possible delivery time with personal couriers.
François-Henry Bennahmias and Richard Liu delivering his new watch to the e-commerce platform’s first client. Image: South China Morning Post
The first client to order online has just received his watch directly from the hands of François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, and Richard Liu, founder of JD.com. Later sales will be handled directly through a pop-up store under WeChat and by China’s largest e-commerce platform JD.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.