Snapchat and Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen have partnered to create a first-of-its-kind virtual shopping experience using Bitmoji, Snap’s customisable avatar. It comes as luxury brands are seeing more opportunity in digital fashion through Snap and Meta.
Through the partnership, as of Monday, Snap users can use the platform’s augmented reality Lens to try on IWC’s Oceana watch, which retails for $11,700, and the Steel Chrono watch, retailing for $8,500. Along with accessing the 3D model of the watches, users access an animated Bitmoji lookalike that acts as their personal shopping assistant when using the Lens. The Bitmoji poses alongside the watch, encouraging users to try on the watch in AR.
“Snapchat enables us to reach a younger demographic,” said Franziska Gsell Etterlin, CMO at IWC Schaffhausen. “For many users, trying on an IWC Pilot’s Watch with the Snapchat lens or putting it on the wrist of their Bitmoji may be their first ‘contact’ with a mechanical watch. It is a personal experience, which is something we really value.” The brand is the first Swiss luxury watch manufacturer to bring its watches onto the wrists of Snapchat users’ Bitmojis.
Richemont, IWC’s parent company, does not break out revenue amounts by brand. But the New York Times reported in April that the company’s 2022 revenues were estimated to be 908 million Swiss francs ($987.3 million), an increase of 13.2% over the previous year. The company reported a slower pace of growth in November. It declined to share current figures.
IWC has been undergoing a reinvention. As one of the few specialist watch companies, along with companies like Vacheron Constantin, it has typically focused on maintaining its Swiss prestige image through exclusivity and higher price tags. However, with the appointment of CEO Mr. Grainger-Herr in 2006, that focus has somewhat shifted.
IWC built out an eco-manufacturing plant in 2018, becoming one of the few watch brands to focus on sustainability. At last year’s Watches & Wonders exhibition in spring, it announced a web3 token-based membership club called the Diamond Hands Club, and it promoted its watches at the Las Vegas F1 Grand Prix over this past weekend. Now, it is focusing on its digital presence among a younger user base.
“Although it is an unusual approach, compared to most of our other activities and campaigns, it stands out creatively and still feels very ‘IWC,’” said Etterlin, talking about the Bitmoji campaign. “So far, we are happy with the engagement of Snapchat users and cannot wait to see how they play around with our Lenses.” IWC, which already has four other Lenses on Snap, declined to disclose engagement numbers.
For brands looking to liven up their image, a Bitmoji Lens could be the way to go. “If you look at the luxury space, some brands are taking their digital and social presence very seriously – sometimes, probably too seriously,” said Geoffrey Perez, global luxury lead at Snap. “But with IWC, they are using the playfulness of the character.”
It is no surprise then that IWC is aiming to reach younger watch enthusiasts through Snapchat. According to data from Snap, 85% of the Gen-Z population in the U.S. have a Bitmoji avatar, and over 250 million people use Bitmoji every day. More importantly, 74% of Snapchatters dress their Bitmoji in the same brands they wear in real life.
For Snap, targeting the Bitmoji rather than just going for the AR opportunity is an untapped field. Snap closed its enterprise AR division in September and has been downsizing its teams significantly. Although Snap has focused mostly on AR up until now, it currently sees potential in mixed reality, where augmented reality mixes with digital avatars and the real world.
“Pre-Covid, there were a lot of very creative uses for augmented reality that were not necessarily focused on productization, because brands were discovering that tool as a new creative outlet,” said Perez. According to him, during Covid, AR use transitioned to focusing on products because stores were closed. Now that stores have reopened, brands are more interested in working with Snap in ways that mix the augmented and real worlds.
“The latest hardware devices from Android and Apple are allowing for a richer internet experience, allowing for more mixed reality,” said Perez. “You can shoot a spatial video with an iPhone 15. Brands are now looking a bit further than just the product and thinking about how they can leverage augmented reality to tell better stories differently.”
“We’ve only had a few luxury brands leverage the Bitmoji opportunity, because it is a commitment for brands to merge the two worlds,” said Perez. “Bitmoji has such a unique aesthetic that it also didn’t fit in with all of the brands. But at the same time, the brands who want to move the needle with their consumers, they want to make that step forward.”
Fashion is a natural extension of the avatar, and so is luxury. That is why brands like Valentino, DressX and Diesel have taken to Meta’s avatar store, all launching on the platform in the last 12 months. For its part, Valentino launched on Snap through Bitmoji last week, after first establishing a digital fashion presence on Meta’s avatar store. While the brand does not disclose its engagement numbers, the expansion suggests an interest in digital Valentino items.
In April, Meta shared that more than 1 billion avatars had been created across Meta’s platforms since their introduction in 2019. And in the last four years, Meta has upgraded its avatars to be more realistic and customizable. The strategy is part of a broader move by Meta to onboard brands onto Horizon Worlds, Meta’s metaverse platform that has seen much success thus far.