The worldwide annual watch market is valued at around €50 billion, and a wave of new online marketplaces has rushed in to meet the demand. Key among these is Watchbox, a luxury brand that focuses on reselling high-quality watches that is capitalizing on both an increased interest in luxury goods and secondhand shopping. But even great ideas and platforms need the right user experience.
Sweden Unlimited is a creative agency that designs e-commerce platforms for luxury, fashion and lifestyle brands, and their work has propelled Watchbox—which stresses “personal commerce” instead of classic e-commerce—to a new level of success. Working in tandem, the two implemented live chat support and more personalized experiences to remove the hesitancy that comes with online shopping and resale in particular, especially for luxury items.
PSFK sat down with Leja Kress, CEO and founding partner of Sweden Unlimited, to glean insights from her work with Watchbox on designing an e-commerce experience for the emerging luxury resale market with millennial consumer needs in mind:
PSFK: Could you explain the Watchbox concept and what Sweden Unlimited set out to help them accomplish in redesigning their site?
Leja: Watchbox is a platform for buying, selling and trading pre-owned luxury watches. They are like a marketplace in some ways because customers can buy, sell, or do a combination of both through a trade. But the main difference is that Watchbox owns every piece of inventory on the platform and are responsible for the authentication, verification and proper functioning of every watch they sell.
Our agency recently partnered with Watchbox on a rebrand and website redesign as they upgraded their technology by re-platforming to Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
In terms of UX, what objectives did you have to consider that would be different from a classic retail brief?
Marketplaces can still feel somewhat dubious, so a key objective was to create a strong sense of trust with the UI and UX of the platform. We wanted to create a reliable and trusted brand that conveyed luxury, legitimacy and authority. Having so many different user journeys to consider was definitely a challenge—there are customers that simply want to shop, some that want to sell, some to trade, and many to simply be educated.
The details that are stored about each watch are extremely complex, so there’s a ton of information to display and ways to sort and filter on the site which makes the platform really unique. Showing a lot of information about an item while still conveying a sense of luxury is a tall order, but I think we were able to achieve it.
When we first met with the team, we were surprised to learn how much they really wanted to encourage customers to interact with the people behind the platform, and not simply transact on the site. Watchbox’s CMO, David Kaplan, explained to us that as opposed to an “e-commerce” platform, they call their business “personal commerce” because it is technology-driven to educate the customer, but everyone has access to their traders to help execute what can become a complicated transaction.
How does the consumer-end experience manifest? Does it rely on capabilities like chat assistance, or social media integrations?
Live chat is a great engagement mechanism for them. The same traders that can provide a quote on the phone operate the live chat, so the customer gets the same level of expertise, and even service from his or her own personal client advisor. Even though Watchbox is a technology platform, there is a huge emphasis on the human element. They are very interested in forming relationships with their customers, as they fully understand that a personal interaction adds so much to any luxury buying experience.
Social media is a big driver for them as well. They’re the largest YouTube player in the industry, and Instagram is growing quickly behind it. YouTube and Instagram help to establish or reinforce that trust and credibility in a world where we will not meet most of the people that are spending $10K+ to purchase a luxury watch.
There seems to be a growing list of “middle-tail” retail networks now. What do you think is driving this?
We can see with The RealReal’s recent successful IPOs, luxury resale is growing like crazy. There’s been a democratization of luxury and I think that people, particularly millennials, are drawn to luxury products but don’t feel the need to buy them directly from the retailers themselves. Buying pre-owned or even renting these items allows them to adhere to their values of sustainability. In addition, if you’re going to buy pre-owned luxury items, it’s great having a middle man to do the authenticating for you. Buying luxury on eBay or other open marketplaces has always been incredibly risky.
Why does “middle-tail” retail work for high end products?
I think it works really well for high-end, luxury products. For Watchbox in particular, the fact that the pre-owned watches are not only authenticated but then put through the company’s authorized service center, which has access to parts from all of the largest watch brands, and then resold only when it’s been serviced, helps to eliminate any hesitation one might have to buying such a high ticket item online.