Drawing on the vast global market research resources of Euromonitor, Jorge Martin, Head of Fashion Research at Euromonitor International, discussed three issues: digitisation trends and balance, relevant connectivity, and analogue reinvention.
Mr Martin said 4 billion people around the world use the Internet – up from just 2 billion a decade ago – and 41% of these users access the Internet daily. He emphasised the advent of “digitisation democratisation” – half of connected users are now from emerging economies, while 10 years ago most were in developed markets. Other recent developments include the change in lifestyles in the connected world; until recently people mainly used the Internet for communication but now everything can be connected − from homes and cars to traffic lights.
He said these changes have helped empower consumers, making them the centre of the digitised world. But these enormous changes had resulted in passive consumption, as businesses used big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to predict what consumers needed. And it has resulted in a “digital detox” for many people. Euromonitor research found that 25% of consumers say passive access to the Internet adds stress to their lives. As a result, big companies like Apple, Google and Facebook are enabling users to actively manage their online access.
Other issues are whether the connected device is relevant, in terms of addressing unmet consumer needs or adding extra value to the consumer experience; whether it does the job it was designed to do; and whether it is user-friendly, in terms of allowing effortless interactivity, for example.
Mr Martin discussed the ever-changing positioning in the smart wearables ecosystem, as sportswear manufacturers such as Nike enter the smart-tracking market. “Differentiation allows product cohabitation,” he said. Traditional timepieces offer the time function, while the others are mainly fashion-oriented.
He pointed out that traditional watch players have seen a recovery in the market, while those aggressively pursuing smart watches have seen sales fall recently. Brands such as Swatch, Rolex, Omega and Casio, for example, have all seen a recovery, while hybrid sales have declined.
Mr Martin discussed the issue of “analogue reinvention”. Aware of the power of digitisation and connectivity, analogue watch manufacturers and retailers have been trying creative approaches, he said. One example is slow watches, which use a 24-hour dial. This is in-sync with the “slow movement”, while minimalistic designs are also proving popular these days, he explained. Instead of pushing people to always be connected, watch manufacturers are taking the opposite approach – going back to the basics. One example is Crown and Caliber, a company that sells pre-owned premium watches online, and tests and guarantees them to reassure buyers. Another example is Schaffen Watches, a small brand that allows consumers to co-design their own personalised watch.
Mr Martin concluded that while digitalisation is growing exponentially, consumers seek “digital balance”, and there is a need to avoid redundant connectivity. “Through analogue creativity, there are a lot of things that can be done with traditional timepieces,” he said.