How One Watch Store’s Ecommerce Presence Engages Locals and Long Distance Consumers Alike

Josh Ellner comes from a bloodline of jewelers—his father was a trading goldsmith and so was his grandfather—so joining the family business, Halifax Watch, was basically a right of passage.

Perhaps one of the areas where Josh has made the greatest impact, though, has been setting up Halifax Watch with an ecommerce presence, which has not only expanded the brand’s reach across Canada, but has also improved the customer experience for locals who continue to shop in-store.

I recently chatted with Josh and he told me about some of the ways he’s using email marketing to enhance Halifax Watch’s online store, what marketing automations have been most impactful, and how having a digital storefront is helping him improve his brand’s retail experience throughout the pandemic and into Cyber Weekend.

Watch the interview below or keep reading to find out what I learned.


Alex McPeak: When did you start building out Halifax Watch’s ecommerce site?

Josh Ellner: We’ve been online since 2011. We sold seven things that year for $1,000 total. Every year since then, it’s been growing. 

In 2016, we really started seeing the sales come through. We went from $2,700 the year before to almost $10,000 in online sales. This year, we’re at over $400,000 with almost a thousand orders. And we haven’t even hit the busiest season yet. Online has been doubling, tripling, and then quadrupling our in-store revenue.

We’re actually doing better online than we used to do with our second brick-and-mortar location we closed last year. Not to mention, it costs less to subscribe to Shopify and Klaviyo than it costs to pay $10,000 a month in rent plus employees. 


Alex: Why do you think you’ve seen such an increase in online sales?

Josh: Our industry is very behind. It’s very old school. A lot of jewelry stores are family businesses. 

We got started online in 2011 and then I really started pushing to invest in ecommerce in 2016 and 2017. Meanwhile, a lot of our competition is still at that stage where they’re not interested in online, so their websites focus on the brands they sell. Then if you click those brand logos, it takes you to the brand’s website. We sell directly to the consumer. 

We were very lucky that we were ahead of the game when the coronavirus hit in March. We closed the store on March 20th and re-opened May 25th, but during the first week of April, I relaunched the website.

Combined with Klaviyo, the website really took off because our industry is so behind that there wasn’t a lot of online competition in Canada. There are maybe half a dozen websites that offer what we do for the watch industry, but there are a lot more than half a dozen watch stores in Canada. 

We were very well-positioned. We didn’t have to invest and start from scratch.


Alex: How would you say that your direct-to-consumer website has supported your brick-and-mortar business?

Josh: When we were closed, we actually got to sleep at night because we still had orders coming in and were shipping every two days. Our bills were still getting paid. People were finding us online because their local stores were closed. 

We were getting a lot more customers through the digital door. We were discovered a lot more due to our presence online.


Alex: How have you used marketing automation to enhance your online experience?  

Josh: The back-in-stock flows are one of the most impactful automations we use. In the last 90 days, our back-in-stock flow has done $16,000 in revenue, and that’s all automated. 

With watches, we sell a lot of niche products. For example, one brand we sell is Seiko and there are typically a lot of collectors for that brand. We don’t usually keep doubles in stock. Someone could be looking at an $800 watch, but if it’s a new release or super popular, it’ll sell out. But, if they hit the notify button and then I put it back in stock, they instantly receive an email saying that the watch is available and then they can buy it.

I also use these automations for products that are coming soon. We had a limited edition Street Fighter series selling for around $600 apiece. I found out about it two weeks before it was released. Over seven days, I set up notification buttons, collected emails, and built up the hype. When the product launched, we sold out in four hours.


Alex: Since the onset of the coronavirus, have you had any issues with your supply chain or shipping that has affected your business?

Josh: Some suppliers are still behind. With Seiko, for example, there was a pre-order that was supposed to come in two weeks ago, but it’s not coming until November now. 

So I built a segment for people who bought that product and can send out an update email saying, “Thanks for waiting. It’s a little delayed, but we’ll include something special,” to those specific customers. 

It took me two minutes to build the segment. Any of the issues we’re having getting product, Klaviyo allows me to update them without having to send out an entire email to everybody.


Alex: Are you investing more in marketing acquisition or just focusing on serving current customers?

Josh: We’re spending more on marketing, which is nice because online sales are doing so well, we can afford to. I’m trying to do more Facebook lead generation campaigns to get more people on our email lists. 

We also switched to Shopify Point-of-Sale (POS) from our old system, which is also easier because it’ll connect our customers to Klaviyo. 

We had one customer come in and he bought a watch. He bought something from us online, so his entire customer profile was there. I could see that I sent out an email that was completely unrelated to his purchase, but he opened that email.

The next day he came in and bought a $1,000 watch. That proved to me that email marketing really makes an impact, since he bought a watch after he opened this email, even though it was in store. 

We can collect a wide range of customer data from the integration between Klaviyo and Shopify POS, so it’s easy to see the emails are working if they come in the store after engaging with us online. Now I can actually see that they got the email, they’re opening it up, and then they come in and shop. Even if it’s unrelated, it may have reminded them of something they were looking at or it makes them go and look at something else at the same time. 


Alex: What about your Cyber Weekend strategy? What did you do for Black Friday Cyber Monday and what were the results this year?

Josh: I ran a two-week-long email promotion for our subscribers that offered exclusive access to the Black Friday sale before it went public. I sent out an email featuring different brands every two days up until the sale started publicly. This gave us a great boost to our online sales with our subscribers and, even if they didn’t purchase, it brought them to our website, which then added them to our retargeting ads.

 People are trying to support small businesses right now—we noticed a difference in the amount we sold on our own website over our Amazon listings. This year our Amazon listings we sold were mostly products less than $150. On our direct-to-consumer (DTC) website, the average sale value was over $500. 

Our Amazon sales were down six percent from last year, but our website sales were up 194 percent over last year for the same two-week period that I ran our Black Friday Cyber Monday promotions.


Alex: Do you plan to continue investing in ecommerce?

Josh: Absolutely. 

We get a lot of customers that come in and buy because they looked at a watch online. Then they want to try it in person. It’s taking part of the in-person sales funnel and putting it online. Then they come in. They already know what they want to look at. They have a list of things they’re looking for and they have questions, but they’re already 90 percent set to buying.

The more I focus on the website, the more people, even local, will look at the website and then come into the store to look at the product in person.

Want to learn more about moving from brick-and-mortar to ecommerce? Find out how Porto’s Bakery moved their business online.

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