Although Chinese watch brands have gained international recognition over the years, there’s no denying that the country’s local consumer market still strongly prefers foreign luxury watches.
Young consumers, in particular, associate international brands with high-quality watches and view them as symbols of high status.
In this article, we’ll discuss the trends and insights you should know about China’s luxury watch market to help your brand gain the trust and patronage of Chinese shoppers.
Overview of China’s Watch Industry
China is leading the global luxury watch industry, generating over 10 billion US dollars in market share revenue in 2022 alone. As you can see from Statista’s report, this Chinese market segment overtakes international luxury goods market leaders like the US and Japan by a wide margin.
Source: Revenue of the luxury watch market worldwide by country in 2022 (Statista)
Given the growing purchasing power of the younger generation in Mainland China, the watch industry is expected to grow by 1.96% annually. If this development continues, experts predict a market share of around 12 billion US dollars by the time 2028 comes.
Despite the international popularity of luxury items made in China, Chinese consumers still prefer to purchase watches from foreign brands like Rolex and Swatch Group. These Swiss-made watches also covered over half of the segment’s market share in 2021.
Other Swiss watches taking China’s market by storm are Richemont, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe. These are not cheap watches, so affordable prices are not a factor in this demand.
With these statistics, it’s easy to see that the brand value of international products within the local luxury market is much higher than that of Chinese watch brands.
Key Figures of the Luxury Watch Market in China
Despite the demand for foreign goods in this market segment, introducing a new luxury watch brand to Chinese consumers isn’t an easy feat. You must conduct a market study and examine the key figures to craft an effective digital campaign to promote your brand.
Here are a few details to help you get started:
- Male consumers aged 25 to 40 are the primary market of luxury watch brands in China.
- The Chinese culture views luxury watches as a symbol of success.
- Consumers of Chinese watches are mainly Gen Zs & Millennials living in top-tier cities with stable incomes.
- Chinese consumers have a high preference for Swiss watches, with over 52% of Statista respondents expressing interest in buying the said product.
5 Marketing Tips to Promote Your Luxury Watch Brand in China
1. Launch a targeted social media campaign
As you may have noticed, major foreign luxury watch brands in China are not too reliant on digital or social media platforms to reach Chinese consumers. If you’re wondering why, it’s because these Swiss watches already have a global brand reputation. Their offline presence in physical stores, retailers and department stores mainly drives their sales.
Meanwhile, as the watch industry becomes more design-focused, new brands find an opportunity to promote their products more effectively in the Chinese digital space, specifically in social media channels.
Foreign luxury watch brands can take advantage of China’s 1.03 billion social media users by launching targeted marketing campaigns on the following platforms:
● Little Red Book
Since Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) is a lifestyle-sharing app, it became an excellent platform for new brands entering China’s luxury watches segment. Besides its 174 million monthly active users, the platform has an enthusiastic audience mainly focusing on fashion, beauty, and other luxury-related products.
Omega on Little Red Book
Most of the content produced in Little Red Book is from actual users exchanging reviews about certain products or services. If utilized correctly, this kind of word-of-mouth marketing strategy can easily generate online visibility and a positive reputation for a non-local watch brand.
On top of social media, one of the most useful functions of this app is its e-commerce features. Thanks to this, a watch brand can promote and sell its products without the need for the users to leave the platform.
WeChat is basically a super app. Regardless of what business you’re trying to promote in China, it’s still the best digital platform to launch your marketing campaigns. It has a wide range of marketing features, from messaging to social media and e-commerce.
If you want to utilize WeChat’s 1.3 billion user base, we recommend creating an official account for your watch brand. Not only will it allow you to have better communication channels with your followers, but it’ll also open opportunities for you to create mini-programs and online stores to attract organic traffic and sales within the platform.
Swatch WeChat Mini Program
Apart from its broad online reach in China, WeChat comes in handy for budding businesses, specifically because of its built-in wallet services that consumers can use for seamless virtual payments when buying products online.
Remember that it’s a conversational app, so Chinese users expect you to engage and interact with them. If you want an example of how to customize your content in WeChat to maximize the app’s reach, our work with Veja is the perfect example of this strategy.
Although it’s not a watch brand, this collaboration shows how effective WeChat’s online branding is, especially for generating user engagement and visibility. This strategy also ensures that the product’s messaging and tone strictly resonate with potential buyers on the platform.
Luxury watches are highly visual products, and Weibo’s focus on multimedia content, including images and videos, allows brands to showcase their watches in a captivating way.
It boasts millions of active users in China, including a significant number of high-net-worth individuals and luxury enthusiasts. This vast user base provides luxury watch brands with a substantial potential audience.
Rolex on Weibo
The platform also includes interactive features like comments, likes, shares, and live streaming. These functions can encourage real-time engagement with followers and allow luxury watch brands to build a loyal community around their products.
2. Collaborate with KOLs to promote your luxury watches
In every online channel popular in China, you’ll find numerous Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs with dedicated followers who trust their expert opinions and content. These influencers have the power to sway the purchasing decisions of many online shoppers.
Luxury watches have a specific target audience, so selecting a suitable brand representative can be crucial. You should also ensure that your KOL marketing campaign resonates with the interests and preferences of your chosen influencer’s fan base. If not, this strategy can very quickly turn into a disaster.
Remember, it’s a collaboration. Asking them to just post about your luxury watch brand isn’t as effective as you think. To maximize their reach, marketers must aim to generate conversations among consumers and respond to common queries about their products.
3. Conduct a thorough keyword research
Modern Chinese consumers are savvy when it comes to online shopping. Before spending money on watches and other products, most of them scan the internet to find all the information about the brand.
Because of this, it has become crucial for brands to integrate industry-related keywords into their content and other digital marketing strategies. Doing this gives your potential audience easy access to your product’s information from various sources like search queries, social profiles, and data listings.
“Luxury watches” search results Baidu
Using strategically chosen keywords can help luxury watch brands generate the most qualified traffic. Localizing and optimizing your content will increase the chances of reaching target audiences seeking information related to your offerings.
The more precisely you target these qualified prospects, the higher the likelihood of conversion and successful engagement with your brand.
4. Build a solid online presence on e-commerce platforms
The e-commerce landscape holds a considerable part of the digital business scene not only in China but also globally. As a matter of fact, the country accounts for 37% of the e-commerce market worldwide.
This market growth can also be seen in the luxury e-commerce market. If you want to reach consumers and local partners through this route, here are the best platforms you can start with:
● Tmall (or Tmall Global)
This social commerce channel primarily caters to premium brands and high-end products, making it the perfect platform to market and sell foreign-made watches.
TMall provides an opportunity for foreign companies to establish exclusive online stores and directly connect with Chinese consumers, all without the necessity of a physical presence within China.
Luxury watches queries on Tmall
Like any other platform in China, TMall operates according to government regulations and may require specific requirements before you can establish a virtual store in this sales channel.
For detailed guidance on selling international products through TMALL, we recommend contacting a reputable local digital marketing agency with expertise in this area.
Although not as massive as TMall, JD.com is also a reliable cross-border social commerce channel that facilitates direct sales to Chinese consumers without requiring a physical presence in Mainland China.
Watches dedicated section on JD.COM
Product authenticity and quality are the bread and butter of JD.com, so foreign brands trying to market their watches on this platform can bank on their credibility to gain the trust of local consumers.
Marketers can also utilize JD.com’s marketing and promotional tools to help brands reach their target audience, increase brand awareness, and drive sales.
5. Leverage O2O marketing strategies
The watch industry is also no stranger to the success of online to offline marketing strategies. Through this approach, a new brand can differentiate itself from the overflowing digital marketing campaigns in China.
It’ll also allow marketers to integrate their online promotions with the in-store experience, which luxury watch buyers will undoubtedly appreciate.
The best example of this strategy is the treasure hunt campaign of TAG Heuer in China. This Swiss watchmaker used WeChat QR codes to guide visitors in navigating their exhibition event. Through this innovative integration, local consumers got to know the brand better.
Types of Luxury Watches that Chinese Consumers Buy
Just by looking at the number of luxury goods listed in China’s online sales channels, it’s evident that you have to compete with a long list of local and foreign watch brands. But before doing the strategies we mentioned above, marketers must know what type of luxury watches Chinese consumers want to buy.
Here’s a quick guide:
1. Casual Fashionable Watches
In the Chinese market, casual fashionable watches refer to products with high-quality craftsmanship and unique designs.
This style isn’t exclusive to women’s watches but also men’s. Local consumers, regardless of gender, often gravitate to luxury watch brands that resonate with their taste and personal style.
However, it’s worth noting that not both genders have the same purchasing motive in the luxury watch market. While female buyers prefer watches with trendy designs and styles, male consumers in China care more about brands that have gained popularity in the current market.
2. Work or Business Watches
Another style popular among luxury watch brands that Chinese consumers tend to go for is work watches. More often than not, these are luxury items bought to match business outfits.
Items under this category are often traditional mechanical watches because they’re often used in professional settings. It’s the luxury watch business people in China would buy for functionality and classic aesthetics.
3. Smart Sports Watches
Modern technology is now part of the global watchmaking industry, and smartwatches are evidence of that.
Unlike the typical clockwork, this luxury item not only tells you the time but also monitors your heart rate and other health-related metrics. On top of that, it can connect to other devices via Bluetooth and start playing music or receiving phone calls.
Despite its non-traditional design, smartwatches have a considerable demand in China. You can even see it through the segment’s growing market volume of 27.2 billion yuan in 2020.
Ready To Dominate The Luxury Watch Market in China? Get In Touch With Us Today!
As the Chinese luxury watch market thrives, many brands (local or international) will continue to compete in the local market. The competition will get tougher, but the reality is that Chinese consumers will gravitate to products that resonate with them the most.
At Sekkei Digital Group, we understand the specific complexities of the watch market segment in China–including consumer behaviors and the ever-evolving trends that shape it. With our extensive expertise in this niche, we offer you the avenue to unlock your brand’s potential and secure a formidable position as a leading entity in the industry.
Whether it’s crafting compelling advertising campaigns, utilizing social platforms, or collaborating with relevant KOLs, we have all the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let us help you navigate the intricacies of China’s luxury watch business scene.