They say necessity is the mother of all invention. In watchmaking, that has historically been very true. The world right now is facing a global pandemic, something that has resulted in a lockdown across numerous continents for months. Even with that, the future of retail is challenging and unpredictable at best.
With many brands, e-commerce has become an essential lifeline, a platform that allows one to engage with clients, albeit in a rather impersonal manner. When it comes to luxury products, it’s difficult to develop a narrative about a product on a shopping cart. As CEO of IWC Christoph Grainger-Herr explained in an interview with us last year, retail needs to “combine elements of story-telling with a warm and welcoming atmosphere, where we try to have a good balance between story-telling and the focus on products.”
The interest in immersive story-telling is part of the reason why IWC is unveiling a new initiative, spearheaded by the brand’s SEA team in Singapore. The new virtual boutique concept is based around the brand’s refreshed boutique in ION Orchard, which represents the latest in the brand’s retail identity.
This virtual boutique launch exists on the Internet and can be readily accessed by anyone with the link. Going in, one can choose to roam the store on your own or to be aided by the brand’s retail staff through a fixed appointment. With 360-degree views of the entire store, one can wander through the shop on your computer screen, and enjoy the brand’s welcoming physical retail space in the comfort of your home.
According to IWC’s managing director for Southeast Asia, Stanislas Rambaud, the project began in March this year, “as part of our ongoing process of integrating technology into our retail business. IWC has always been a pioneer in new innovations to enhance the journey of discovery for our clients, and the development of virtual or augmented retail concepts is a natural progression that adds value to our client experience.”
The project started before the lockdown in Singapore began, but was accelerated in part because of it. Rambaud adds, “As desires for digital touchpoints and interactions have risen with advancements in global connectivity, we understand and have experienced Singapore consumers being receptive to new retail technology experiences. This willingness and openness makes Singapore the ideal starting point to launch our new concept.”
An Augmented Digital Retail Experience
At the various displays, you will be able to discover the different universes that IWC inhabits, from the Portugieser collection to Aquatimer. Each contact point provides additional technical information on their products, or arrange a virtual meeting in their private web conference room where a Client Advisor from the brand can explain these products in greater detail. These advisors are available on weekdays from 10am to 7pm. Private walkthroughs can also be arranged.
In an official statement, Rambaud explained, that “the launch of our new virtual reality retail experience, the IWC Virtual Boutique perfectly embodies the brand’s DNA and offers a tailored online shopping experience. At a time where virtual connections are more frequent and accessible than physical ones, visitors can now enjoy the convenience and availability of an IWC experience, outside the traditional retail infrastructure.”
The concept also allows the brand to engage with its younger clientele on a more personal digital front and add a bold new innovative front in its retail network. As more users engage with the platform, the experience will steadily improve making it even more interactive in the future. It’s definitely a bold move and one that allows it to extend its client conversations further digitally.
This project was led by the IWC SEA marketing team, in collaboration with INSPIFY, a Singapore-based technology company. The company has been working with IWC on an existing retail initiative connecting content from publishers and social media streams to IWC’s product offerings. Rambaud adds that “to build and improve on the platform required a great level of collaboration and input at regional and headquarter levels, and across functional teams; Digital Marketing, Retail Operations, Client Experience, Trade Marketing and more.”
He also points out that “the possibilities of extending this concept into our other boutiques is under discussion, with the present attention being on enhancing our current store.” We’ll have to check back to see just how this project continues to develop.