The “cheapest most expensive watches in the world”
Imagine this: You’ve just sold your company and you’re lying on a beach. Naturally, you get bored and decide to found a new one. No? Well that’s how it was for Mike France in 2004 when he decided to team up with Chris Ward and Peter Ellis to disrupt the luxury watch market. The idea was simple: Create beautiful high-end watches which would only be sold directly via the website with a cap of 3x on the mark-up price.
So, in 2005, from a converted chicken shed in Berkshire, the world’s first ever online-only watch brand was born.
To learn more about the business, its current strategy, and future plans, we sat down with co-founder and CEO Mike France. Scroll down to read the story or watch the video:
Teeing up the right tech partners
Selling direct to consumers from the get-go, Christopher Ward knew how important it was to get the experience right end-to-end. Functioning as showroom and sales channel, the website has to operate perfectly, creating a beautiful buyer journey from start to finish. So it needed tech partners it could trust to deliver on this promise every time.
"Salesforce and Adyen delivered the best opportunity to take our business forward and scale it.”
“Our objective with our tech partners is to make it as easy as possible for people to move through our site pay easily," said Mike. "We did a very comprehensive piece of research into who we wanted to partner with and concluded that Salesforce and Adyen offered more against the competition by delivering the best opportunity to take our business forward and scale it.”
Boosting international sales
Today, 60% of Christopher Ward’s business is from outside the UK. From a payments perspective, there are two primary challenges with international expansion: Local payment methods and local card authorisation rates. Customers around the world like to pay in different ways, and each payment method offers its own integration and maintenance challenges. So, for Christopher Ward, the ability to support a multitude of payment methods with Adyen was a huge plus as Mike explained:
“Payments play an important role in our growth strategy primarily because we want to be in 150 countries. The beauty of Adyen’s offering is its stack of payment methods. To have a partner that is able to provide the right payment method for our customers, wherever they are in the world, is clearly something that will help us grow."
“Working with Adyen, we've managed to increase the authorisation rates by 15% overall.”
Card authorisation rates can also be tricky to get right, especially when processing cards across several regions. Christopher Ward was keen to improve authorisation rates in the US and turned to Adyen to help.
“It was our judgement that we would have a higher authorisation percentage from working with Adyen,” said Mike. “Our finance team and web team, working with Adyen, have managed to increase the authorisation rates by 15% overall. That’s a really important win for us.”
Ramping up digital wallets
A key focus for Christopher Ward in the coming months is to attract more millennial shoppers. Just as payment preferences differ from country to country, they also vary across age groups. Millennials, for example, are keen users of digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
“As you go down the age range, wallet purchasing is increasingly important,” said Mike. “Not supporting these wallets is another potential barrier to somebody who wants to buy. Whatever payment methods you want should be there in front of you. To do this, you need a big stack of payment methods to start with, which is why we chose Adyen.”
As Christopher Ward looks to scale its business, it becomes increasingly important to team up with tech partners that fit with its own ethos and values. As Mike concluded:
"We’re a customer-focused brand and in Adyen, we have a customer-focused partner.”
“It’s a cultural thing as much as anything. We assume any tech partner will be an expert in what they’re delivering. But more importantly, we’re looking for strategic partners to help deliver improvements for our customers. We’re a completely customer-focused brand, and I’m pleased to report that, in Adyen, we have a completely customer-focused partner.”