“In the last 12 months, we found the need to accelerate our plans for the next three to five years, like enhancing our digital techniques,” David said at the Commerce Next Marketing Summit Series. “It was a quick but really enormous journey to get a brand like Cartier in a position like this new paradigm shift.”
With online obviously being a “non-touch channel”, David said they had to create a digital environment that is relevant, accurate, consistent and can also help the customer decide what he or she may want from the brand.
“We had to take clienteling to a whole new level,” he said. “In late December 2019, early January last year, we saw the Covid tsunami work its way across our stores worldwide, we have many boutiques in China, so it went from China to parts of greater Asia, the Middle East, to Europe and finally to North America. We had to close our physical stores. But what ended up happening was our e-commerce was still active and we still had our logistics and warehouses open.”
“We introduced a suite of tools usable by anybody who’s a store ambassador or a sales associate working from home to still be able to communicate with their customers or clients or their prospects as if they were still working in the store.”
Clienteling is how luxury brands showcase their brand image to their clients with a first-class, personalised customer experience. Sales associates keep a client’s information like his or her wish list, birthday, a client’s colour and style preference, size, and past purchases.
Traditionally, this kind of information was listed in a luxury brand’s sales ambassador’s customer log. Today, that data is now digitised on desktops and accessible on mobile and other digital devices.
“So we had to turn our store solutions so sales associates could work from home and then guide the customer to use e-commerce as a platform to choose and to transact,” David said. “It obviously was very radical for a brand like Cartier but I think when you’re looking at the severity of what was happening around the world, we had no other choice.”
David said it worked for their business and they did not have any store associates sitting idle even when their stores had to close during government-imposed lockdown.
“We still had clients calling, our customers were still very much interested in what we have to offer and there’s no reason to stop that communication,” he said. “We became very agile and we tried to service the customer with the suite of tools that we had. They weren’t all perfect, but we made the best of what we had.”
Cartier’s digital future
David said at present, the company is looking at different technologies, including augmented reality, to make their customers’ online experience even much better.
“We’re using lots of different visualisation techniques,” he said. “Those can’t replace our physical stores but this is about building confidence and making our clients see that what they see is what they’re ultimately going to get.
“This is not like going online and buying a pair of shoes and you’re going to wear that for eight months and trade up. What we sell to many people or at least what we aim to sell are dreams. Our clients buy something that they’ve been thinking about for a long time and there’s a confidence that you need to build to get people to go over the precipice of making the purchase online.”
According to David, they had to make investments and continue to look for content and visualisation tools, like allowing people to check rings and get their ring size on their site as well.
“Trying to do a ring sizer online is very, very difficult because you’re talking about millimetres on a finger which is three dimensional and the technologies that we’re seeing are just not quite there yet, or at least not the accuracy that we demand at Cartier,” he said. “But we’re focused very much on digital innovation and trying to find these solutions, to make it exciting, engaging and can instill confidence in our clients.”
David said they also continue to ask their site visitors every day about their experience and how Cartier can do better.
Last year, Cartier signed on to the Tmall Luxury Pavillion and became the first brand in the fine jewellery and watch category to offer bespoke services on the platform, including custom engraving, embossing, gift-wrapping and white-glove delivery.
The luxury brand also harnessed Alibaba’s livestreaming platform Taobao Live for the first time ahead of the 11.11 global sales event, giving 770,000 viewers a peek inside an exclusive exhibition that showcased hundreds of timepieces and jewellery, including a necklace valued at about RMB190 million (US$29.4 million).
Cartier was one of the first luxury brands to reach the RMB100 million transaction milestone in the 11.11 event.
“The world has changed in the last 10 to 12 months and I know that in the world of luxury, as many know, and Cartier is included in this, we’re not always the first adopter of digital techniques, but with the way the world is moving in terms of omnichannel, we needed to fasttrack our digital efforts and be where the customers are these days.” David said.