By Tim Harrison, co-founder and director of WatchPilot
They say it all starts with an idea but, for us, it was actually all down to a chance meeting. As a watch wholesaler, Akbar was selling watches on Amazon and, although an airline pilot by trade, I was also selling watches as an amateur competitor. When our mutual supplier sent me his parcel by mistake, I messaged him to say that I had his stock and he replied asking me how business was.
We soon got talking and we both agreed that there was a gap for online watch sales: to get into the watch industry is typically through being a high-street jeweller and there’s not a huge amount of online competition, apart from the major high street jewellers. We recognised the opportunity to be a ‘best in digital’ independent watch seller and, one year after meeting, we started WatchPilot in February 2020.
Needless to say, launching a new ecommerce brand during a pandemic has certainly made for a busy year so, 12 months on, what have we learnt? Here’s our top tips for ecommerce growth.
Customer is King
It’s crucial to focus on customer convenience. From the initial point of ordering through to shipping, returns and exchanges, a customer’s experience with your business should be seamless. If a business makes it difficult, a customer may well not come back, and existing repeat customers are far less costly than attracting new ones.
Customers also love a great user experience (UX). Site navigation should always be easy: a website must be straightforward and simple to understand because if site visitors get confused, they will leave. Alongside this, don’t forget to optimise your site for mobile and tablet viewing format. Today, around 85-90% of search traffic is via mobile and tablet, so if your website is not mobile first, you will be losing many valuable visitors and potential sales.
Build Your Brand
Focus early on in building your brand and ensure it aligns with your target audience: it’s essential to offer a clear message and product offering. To begin with, focus on creating great original content. A customer will engage with your brand much more via original content as opposed to regenerated brand content they have seen before.
To build on this, what’s next in our plan is to become a lifestyle content leader. We want to become an authority source and leader in print and video content within the watch industry rather than a destination where you just go to buy a watch. That’s where we’re aiming to differ from our competitors.
Your Digital Offering
Another big focus for us is our approach to bringing the aspect of an in-store experience as closely as possible to online; for WatchPilot, it’s important to not just have 360 images but also including product videos, dedicated brand pages and, eventually, being able to book an appointment online with a sales advisor – something which customers expect with higher price point items.
Utilise social media to add to your marketing mix, too. Whilst we primarily use Google, with shopping display networks, we’ve also been promoted across Instagram and Facebook, and we’re about to branch out to promote the site across YouTube, too. In addition to this, our influencer and brand ambassador strategy is also due to launch in Q3 this year.
Look to the Future
We’re very proud of what WatchPilot has achieved in just 12 months or so: our sales growth, the people who we’ve attracted to come and work for us, and what our vision for the future is.
We knew we wanted to establish ourselves as a brand that can be trusted as we’re up against many established competitors: getting brands and customers to trust us as a new retailer was an initial challenge. However, over the last year, we’re pleased to have secured distribution agreements with Intercity Group, Time Products and Dartmouth Brands to name a few, as well as several Swiss Brands such as Graham, U-Boat and Roamer.
It can be easy to get stuck in the day-to-day requirements of running a busy company but it’s crucial to always keep brand growth in mind. The only way is forward.