Citizen Watch America accelerates change into digital-first company

Jeffrey Cohen, president of Citizen North America.

Citizen Watch America is accelerating a corporate restructuring strategy designed to address the rapidly changing face of watch retail in the United States.

The plan includes increasing the number of executives with multi-brand positions who will provide account management with retailers for the whole portfolio of CWA brands comprising of Citizen, Alpina, Frederique Constant and Bulova.

The business will also be smarter, with the introduction of a company-wide Business Intelligence & Analytics Center of Excellence that will crunch data from retail partners and customers to speed up and improve decision-making across design, sales, service and marketing.


Citizen Watch America President, Jeffrey Cohen (pictured top), says the current Covid-19 lock down has allowed the business to push forward with the business transformation, but the process had begun late last year because the retail landscape and consumer behavior had been changing so fast.

“Even before Coronavirus there were changes happening at retail. We were seeing the aftereffects that store closures were having on our business as more consumers were shopping online and realized we needed to make some changes,” Mr Cohen describes.

The headline shift in strategy is to become a “digital-first company” that masters ecommerce through its brands’ own dotcom sites and those of its retail partners, all the while processing transactional and behavioral data to improve decision-making.

“The current crisis has proven over and over how we cannot be solely reliant on brick and mortar retail and that we need to find ways digitally to re-create the in-store experience online. We had seen a significant increase on our own and on our retailer partner’s dotcom businesses and realized that we needed to make changes to our organizational structure to react to those changes. Our organization was originally built to only support a wholesale brick and mortar business model. The resources and requirements needed to support growing online sales regardless if it is our own site or our retailers requires a different skill set than what we had in place,” describes Mr Cohen.

“For a company to truly be digital-first they need to have in place the right corporate structure and the right teams. For us to make the changes necessary we needed to restructure,” he adds.

Another fundamental element of the restructuring is to give retailers a far smaller number of people they need to speak to at CWA offices for sales, service and marketing support. National accounts sales and the support teams are becoming be multi-branded so one account director will represent Citizen, Bulova, Frederique Constant and Alpina. “This will benefit us as well as the retailer to optimize the business across our brand portfolio without overlapping and competing amongst ourselves. There will also be some cost savings to retailers by bundling orders and consolidating shipments,”

Mr Cohen believes. “Marketing and the creative will remain mono-branded as to not lose the unique DNA of each brand,” he clarifies.

Many of CWA’s retail partners have either closed doors or gone bust altogether as the volume end of the market is transformed by the shift to shopping online by consumers and the rising market share of smartwatches from tech giants. Ecommerce has accelerated during the Covid crisis, and nobody can say with any certainty whether that trend will stabilize or reverse as lock downs ease. “When brick and mortar is closed consumers naturally turn to e-commerce. The question remains how much of this will continue once brick and mortar is up and opened and will it remain for all product categories. Will the consumer want to go back into a store? Will they feel safe trying on a watch? These are questions I do not have the answers to,” Mr Cohen admits.

What CWA can be more certain of is that a far more extensive and sophisticated data capture project will give it better oversight of the entire business ecosystem, and help it make quicker and better decisions. “The key to future growth is the combination of data and digital,” Mr Cohen suggests.

“We have many sources of data  through our website, social channels, online sales, watch registration and watch repairs and will be working with our data architect to locate all these plus additional data sources in order for us to build more precise audience profiles as to who our watch brand consumers are. We will then use these profiles to build targeted digital marketing campaigns,” he explains.

Retailers may fear this will give Citizen and its partner brands a huge competitive advantage, but CWA wants the benefits of its Analytics Center of Excellence to be shared. “We will share customer profiles with our retailers, and we will require them to execute more data driven digital marketing campaigns with defined and measurable KPIs. It all about using data to drive precision marketing — using our funds smarter — resulting in more effective buys,” Mr Cohen concludes.


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