Jewelry and watch brands are displaying product ranges and history via rich mobile applications, but the focus should be longevity over instant gratification so that marketers can stay relevant to their customers between purchases.

De Beers bridal app

Tiffany & Co., De Beers, Audemars Piguet, Omega and Breguet are among the marketers of big-ticket jewelry and watches that are pushing these products via apps. This industry should especially take the time to organize an app strategy with augmented reality, photo capabilities and other interesting functions before release so that consumers can interact with the brand beyond a big-ticket purchase and not just for a one-time interaction.

“The cost of developing an app is pretty much the same, whether it is accessed a lot or little,” said Simon Buckingham, CEO of Appitalism, New York. “App longevity gives a luxury marketer a greater opportunity to get a return on its app development investment as well as a greater opportunity to interact with consumers.”

The app formula
Luxury brands use a few different types of apps to push products to the growing number of affluent consumers using smartphones and tablets, but the two main objectives of these app strategies seem to be brand history and bridal jewelry.

Since high-end jewelry and watches’ designs are meant to last season-to-season, these brands may not interact with their consumers as often as apparel and accessories brands. Therefore, mobile strategy is key to continue to stay top-of-mind between purchases.

“Luxury retail sales, especially jewelry, are for the most part going to be planned purchases or aspirational items,” said John Puterbaugh, founder/CEO of Nellymoser Inc., Boston. “When the shopper purchases for themselves, they are doing so as a reward and often after coveting a special piece for a long period, weighing it against other similar pieces and basing a decision on cultural, fashion and style cache.

“An app gives brands the opportunity to cultivate all of these elements in the personal realm of the shoppers’ mobile device,” he said. “By allowing them to choose from a collection, glean out their favorites, share them with friends socially or show them saved selections in person and covet an item or a selection of items, it will build their desire and cultivate the item as their personal aspirational goal.”

Watchmakers seem to have a standard app formula that includes collections, history, a store locator and a news feed.

However, these functions may not be enough to create longevity in an app and to push products over an extended period of time.

“As with any luxury brand, a successful app strategy must always include considerations for conveying heritage and craftsmanship in addition to the product catalog, but the brand must also focus on the utilitarian needs of the mobile consumer as well as devising innovative ways in which to proactively and consistently communicate value,” said Scott Forshay, mobile and emerging technologies strategist for Acquity Group, Austin, TX.

“Creating engagement longevity in an app environment requires a fundamental appreciation of the brand and consumer value exchange,” he said. “In exchange for consumers’ valuable time and attention, brands must provide equal or greater value from the experience in return.”

Swiss watchmaker Breguet released a new app for the iPhone and iPad last quarter that showcases the brand’s history, collections and innovations.

The official Breguet app lets consumers browse through four sections that users can navigate from the main screen: collections, boutiques, news and inventions.

A GPS-enabled store locator shows consumers where the brand’s boutiques and retailers are located.

Breguet store locator 

Meanwhile, Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet’s app for the iPhone and iPad also includes sections for its collections, retailers, news and innovations, but includes a video feed and a section dedicated to the watch’s chime.

These features might not achieve app longevity, since this is the type of information that can be found on the watchmakers’ Web sites.

Also, jewelers such as De Beers and Van Cleef & Arpels have apps that are dedicated to wedding jewelry.

De Beers’ app for the iPhone and iPad serves as a wedding jewelry finder as well as a consultant on diamonds and the brand.

Consumers can look at engagement rings, wedding bands and jewelry, but there is also access to videos and other details about the De Beers brand, history, design and the diamonds it uses.

Van Cleef & Arpels’ app acts as a size guide, catalog and lifestyle resource for brides-to-be. It includes the bridal collection, a wish list, catalog, size guide and love stories.

Van Cleef & Arpels bridal app 

These apps have a clear goal in mind and offer content that is suited for a specific audience, but may become irrelevant once the pre- and post-wedding stages in a woman’s life are over.

Long-time coming
Mobile apps, especially for jewelry and watch brands, should not be a replacement for mobile-optimized sites. They should offer worthwhile information and functions that will make them a go-to source for the brand’s consumers and its fans.

“Apps that simply take the text from the jewelry brand’s Web site and present that in a mobile app format can hurt a brand’s image,” Appitalism’s Mr. Buckingham said. “Try to offer something that enhances the brand image such as strong visuals, information or offers that are not available via other media to give the app value in and of itself.

“Consumers would like to be informed with specialized valuable information such as special offers, limited editions, new releases, sneak peeks at forthcoming collections, sample sales, care and restoration pieces and invitations to galleries when the watchmakers are present,” he said.

“Photos are always popular, so why not have some contests such as the most exotic places that the brand has been seen and have consumers send in their pictures of exotic, remote and obscure locations and award prizes.”

Another way of upping the mobile app strategy of these brands could be to have a section of the app dedicated to service so that a watch or ring owner can bring the pieces in for a battery change, resizing and cleaning.

Meanwhile, the idea behind bridal focused apps – to create a lifestyle-driven strategy  – is a good start. Brands that use this strategy should be sure to treat the app as a magazine, offering new lifestyle content on regular basis.

“Brands have realized that a more subtle and sophisticated lifestyle approach to marketing and advertising creates desire on the part of the consumer to become part of the luxurious lifestyle portrayed and become themselves players in the theatrically of the brand lifestyle experience,” Acquity Group’s Mr. Forshay said.

“As with any other seasonally-specific marketing strategy employed, brands must develop an app editorial calendar of sorts, varying product mix and campaign messaging specific to the season and proactively communicate updates to their subscriber base,” he said.

An additional way for brands to add app content is to focus on how the jewelry and watches are being used and perceived by others.

“Longevity in an app can be cultivated by leveraging editorial content from print and online magazines, showing the latest print ad campaign, updating celebrity and stylemaker sightings and building the cache of an item and brand,” Nellymoser’s Mr. Puterbaugh said.

“The app strategy should tie into the overall marketing or campaign strategy,” he said. “Is the goal to develop a new brand, create  deeper relationship with an existing brand loyalist or expose the brand to a new segment of potential consumers?”

Also, wedding apps offer tailored service for luxury consumers during a stressful time and could contain a few more features to appeal to not just the bride, but her family members and guests.

“Weddings are both a challenge to plan and everyone wants to have something unique and special to make their wedding memorable,” Appitalism’s Mr. Buckingham said. “Therefore, wedding planners and organizers as well as ideas for wedding favors and unique touches to make a wedding stand out could be good features to get consumers interacting with the apps on a regular basis.”

Furthermore, once a bride and her friends and family are no longer in need of wedding-related information, the app may become irrelevant.

Tiffany seems to have got it right in its app strategy with the What Makes Love True campaign, which includes a mobile app released in 2011.

Obviously hinging on its reputation for engagement rings, the brand is pushing itself as a company that inspires true love beyond just the wedding. Tiffany has tried a few efforts to keep the app relevant including an updated image gallery and adding more true love stories.

Tiffany true love stories app 

In addition, the ring-sizing function in Tiffany & Co.’s other app, the Engagement Ring Finder, is a good example of providing utility to shoppers by eliminating the sizing guesswork from an anxiety-ridden shopping experience, per Acquity Group’s Mr. Forshay.

Van Cleef & Arpels’ app also has a size guide.

“Brands must shift focus to account for targets that are often in motion and provide increased inefficiencies to engage with them on their own terms,” Mr. Forshay said. “Simplistic functions like store locator with click-to-call capabilities is an excellent rudimentary example of a mobile-specific, value-added function.

“We have seen brands use augmented reality functionality to allow consumers to virtually try on a piece during the research process, which has also proven somewhat effective if executed properly,” he said.

“The luxury consumer desires greater degrees of intimacy with the brands they most covet, so unrequited attempts to engage with brands is potentially very harming to the relationship.”

Writer Tricia Carr, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York