For every product, there is a niche to reach. Those who love to fish are more likely to reach out to a business that specializes in what they want over something much more generic. For those interesting in buying or selling watches, Watch Choice has given them the ultimate luxury watch marketplace. With a free membership, people are able to buy within the marketplace and even sell a watch if they’d like. Those interested in becoming merchants can also do so. Merchant accounts allow bulk listings and currently offer the first three months selling, free.
When looking at the big picture, sometimes people forget to see those smaller opportunities just waiting to be used. Glenn Palmer saw that potential within the watch market and he was able to turn that into a running business.
What inspired you to launch Watch Choice?
My own online search for a specific make and model of luxury watch inspired me to launch Watch Choice. I discovered it took a lot of time to search many different watch dealer sites to first locate the brand I was interested in and then even more sites to find just one example of the particular model I wanted. Once I had found the watch I was after, I wanted to make sure that the price was reasonable so I had to keep looking further to try to find other examples of the same watch. This gave me the rather grand idea to put all luxury watches for sale in the world in one place so that buyers and watch enthusiasts can easily browse and compare.
How long did it take for you to go from idea to business?
18 months from idea, research and feasibility, website designer selection, website development and testing, securing foundation clients (dealers) then launch.
Why watches? Did you consider specializing in any other products before making your decision?
I have a passion for luxury watches so watches were a logical product choice for me. During my feasibility work however I did consider other products but believed that the luxury watch market was a growing market and that my product idea had merit. I have also been struck by what I have read and heard many successful business people say that starting a business in an area that they have a personal interest in helped them to maintain their enthusiasm and drive, particularly in the difficult early years of the business.
What is it about Watch Choice that attracts watch sellers over using other websites, such as ebay?
Like all sellers, exposure to potential customers is very important. It is no different for luxury watch sellers. What Watch Choice offers is for the watch seller’s inventory to be viewed by more potential customers. And it’s not just any customers, Watch Choice is marketed and targeted to luxury watch buyers and enthusiasts which increases the quality of traffic to the site and then through to the dealer (all sales are handled by the watch seller, not Watch Choice). Some watch sellers submit their inventory to shopping websites however these sites attract a less specific customer.
Ebay is used by some watch sellers, sometimes as their sole sales channel and sometimes as one aspect of their sales strategy. For example, some watch sellers using Watch Choice also have a bricks and mortar store, online sales through their own website as well as selling selected watches through ebay. Some sellers have commented to me that they use ebay for exposure purposes only and that they don’t sell many watches through ebay and treat the ebay listing fees as simply an advertising cost. You can see this strategy in action if you track some watches and see how many times they are re-listed. They also say that ebay attracts bargain buyers who are only interested in buying a watch at the lowest price. Watch Choice seeks to appeal to price sensitive buyers by allowing them to compare prices due to the large amount of stock on the site and the variety of dealers (which we are of course still working to grow) as well as seeking to attract luxury watch enthusiasts/collectors who are more interested in the watch itself.
Do you have any previous experience that you’ve been able to apply while starting or running your business?
Not really although as I have said, I am a luxury watch enthusiast and I have bought luxury watches online (including through ebay) from overseas sellers. I am also a long time and frequent internet user and was an early adopter to online shopping, often searching for and buying items that were not available in the local Australian market so I believe I have some experience in good website design.
What has Watch Choice taught you about business?
I had read the scary statistics about the majority of small businesses failing in the first 3 years so I did what I felt was sufficient research before I started Watch Choice. What I’ve learnt is that unless you have already worked in the exact industry you are starting your business in, because you have to make some assumptions, there are things that happen or you learn in the course of running the business that are unexpected and that will challenge the success of your business. For example, my competitor research told me how many customers my competitor had and what their advertised cost to use the listing service was, which allowed me to calculate my competitor’s revenues. When I started approaching their customers, I found out that some of them had never been charged which of course throws out the revenue estimates.
Do you have any goals that you’d like to reach with your business before your 1 year anniversary?
We had 6 month growth targets to 31 December for the number of listings and the number of registered watch sellers which we exceeded and we have similar growth targets for our first anniversary.
What was the hardest thing about starting Watch Choice?
The hardest parts were some of the decisions I needed to make during the website design and functionality stages for Watch Choice. Some of the functionality decisions that had to be made had long-term and expensive implications and needed to be made without experience or knowledge.
For example, as Watch Choice is a site for sellers and buyers from around the world, should the site have language translation? Sites with multiple translations need to be developed with this in mind from the start. To implement translations retrospectively usually means effectively redesigning the site from scratch with the associated costs. But I was advised that developing the site with translation would double the cost of the initial build. However, would only writing the site for English seriously limit the number of sellers (and buyers) we could attract and I also knew my main competitor provided rudimentary translation. By the way, I don’t have translations and it hasn’t been a problem to my knowledge.
Do you have any advice that you’d like to share with those that might be considering an online business of their own?
Any online business needs traffic and even better, good quality traffic. In any business segment, competitive or niche, you can not just build a great website and people will come. Marketing costs for online businesses should not be underestimated and they need to be ongoing, even when the business is established and no matter how successful the business is (see how much ebay still advertises).
Most online businesses will benefit from an ongoing Pay Per Click campaign and this needs to be factored in to any feasibility work undertaken before starting the business. The cost of acquiring a new customer through the PPC campaign needs to be factored in to profitability calculations and the cost will differ depending on the bid price of keywords in your market. The cost of PPC and Search Engine Optimization strategies could be the cause of your business being unprofitable and failing. They are now essential for any online business and they are not cheap! Watch Choice has spent more on PPC and SEO than the total cost of launching the site.