Looking through the watch industry with Google Trends
Part one: how the coronavirus has changed the scenario, and watch-related trending topics according to Google.
There's no doubt the coronavirus outbreak has radically affected our lives and forced us to change our habits. While we keep monitoring how the Covid-19 pandemic evolves, let's take this lockdown as a chance to slow down and keep an eye on to the watch industry, since we're spending most of our day home. We're all aware that, from an economic and business standpoint, this is going to be a down year for the entire watchmaking community. Many watch brands have shut down their facilities for a full month or so (Rolex, Hublot, Audemars Piguet, for instance) to protect their employees from the coronavirus and help reduce the pandemic as much as possible.
How is the coronavirus affecting the watch industry? Here is a report.
The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry has recently disclosed the data regarding Swiss Made watches exports in February. The report confirms a 9,2 pp loss, month on month. The same report showcases sales were down to 1,3 million pieces and 1,6 billion Swiss Francs turnover, respectively.
Steel watches sales accounted for two-thirds of the total loss, in value, and 90%, in volume. This report outlines an old scenario, considering the coronavirus pandemic has quickly changed in March. According to this report, the Italian market, not yet affected by full lockdown in February, has grown.
Let's try and change our approach, keeping B2B sales aside for a while, and focusing on consumers' behavior instead (across Italy): here is where Google Trends kicks in.
During the first days of March, the coronavirus-related scenario worsened. The Italian government enforced a global lockdown throughout the country, and we were all "suggested" to stay home to prevent any further increase of contagion; all the watch-related events were suddenly and inevitably canceled. Rather than just looking at business-driven data, I believe that we can take a look at the current situation from a different perspective: by looking at what's trending. Most e-commerce websites have seen their organic reach plummet all of a sudden, for example, losing sales from Italy. As a digital editor, I use Google Trends to identify what's trending; no other tool is better in tracing people's behavior and search intent, daily.
How can Google Trends help identify people's behavior, right now?
In such a shocking scenario, Google Trends becomes an even more valuable asset, since it collects tons of data in real-time, including those search intents related to the watch business. I started to check trends more frequently than I have ever done before. You're barely using Google Trends when preparing a business plan, still helps you understand what people are searching, in your business sector. How does it combine with a situation where the Internet is the sole available channel, currently, and we're spending most of our time looking for medical masks, sanitizers, pharmacy, etc.? Please see below how the Italian keyword for "Watches" (Orologi) performed a year ago, between January 1st and March 20th:
The chart shows that such a keyword had a stable trend in the first quarter, showing peaks across the board (SIHH? Baselworld?). The result pictured above aggregates all the available Google search sources (pictures, web search, Google News, etc.) and includes all the listed market categories (Shopping rather than News, for example). If you filter the "Shopping" category, for example, the chart won't change that much:
In the bottom end, Google Trends provides insights like the "associated queries":
Let's stop to the first page, and let's now run the same exercise, concerning the first quarter of 2020, year-to-date. Today's scenario is pretty different from the prior year:
The chart states the search term "Orologi" has plummeted this year. That keyword is not trending any longer, in Italy, and is well below the 50-threshold, whereas that same chart displayed a 75 or more back in 2019. What if we filter this chart by the "Shopping" category?
The Covid-19 pandemic has jeopardized the trending topics; this query proves people are intensively looking for different products and brands, and their search intent is addressed to cheaper watch brands, not usually available across traditional channels. Here is where successful companies like Amazon might help understand what's going on. Amazon is capitalizing on the coronavirus outbreak (and helping a lot our community too), thanks to an advanced business model, whose Amazon Prime Service has long outperformed the competition and ensures on-time (and guaranteed) delivery, a rare bird these days.
Is perhaps Amazon also increasing sales to products other than just Covid-19 infection prevention ones? It might be, still no proof watch sales are increasing. However, Amazon is the greatest, most recognized online platform, if not the only one fully up and running now, for buying both products and services. Also, it has an unrivaled portfolio (I bought my Seiko Baby Tuna SRP639K1 on Amazon a few years ago).
Again, if we go back to Google Trends, we discover the keyword "Amazon" generates a long list of associated queries (with remarkable growths), whereas, in comparison, the same list was pretty scarce, one year ago:
Pairing this query with the previous ones, we can further understand why are these brands ranking high among the most searched watch brands up for online purchase:
- Seizmont orologi
These brands have a strong presence on Amazon, and very competitive prices. My reasoning is the following: the quarantine forced most people to look for any stuff in one single place, even those who used to source those things elsewhere. Amazon is the favorite channel where to buy everything right now. Most of these products pop-up while purchasing pharmaceuticals, detergents, home bicycles, and everything you're looking to protect yourself from the coronavirus, as well as making the most out of the quarantine. The chart also shows most Italians have lost interest in looking at Watches through Google News (again, in Italy). The D-Day of search intent change was March 8th, where rumors came up that Italy would have been locked down anytime soon.
Starting March 8th, the keyword "Orologi" dropped all of a sudden while standing above the "50" threshold, and the panel of queries and topics associated showed a changing scenario. Is this analysis consistent enough to explain how the coronavirus outbreak has hit the search for watches? It is not but offers thought-provoking information about where we are now. With the media news popping up from your desktop computer or smartphone unstoppably, there's no room for other topics, for the time being. That's the main take-out. Next, who are those brands that are facing their hardest time from a coverage point of view, during such a hard time? Stay tuned, as we're going to find them out in the next episode.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Google Trends, FHS)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®