Watch advertising

Definition, insights, personas, and examples

Watch advertising is more than reaching shoppers who want an accessory to wear. It means reaching the shoppers at the right time in their purchase journeys.

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A wristwatch can be many things: a status symbol, a fashionable accessory, a heart-rate monitor, and, of course, a tool to tell time. With so many functions available across analog and smartwatches, brands have many opportunities to connect with customers as they look to buy the watch that will fit their needs.

And as this category continues to expand with new versatility, the watch industry is expected to grow annually by 6.02% through 2026, according to a 2021 Statista report. Meanwhile, a recent Jewelry and Watches report from McKinsey and the Business of Fashion (BoF) predicts that a greater percentage of sales will come from online channels, meaning watch brands may want to consider developing an omnichannel strategy to reach shoppers across their journeys.

What is watch advertising?

Watch advertising is more than just reaching shoppers who want an accessory to wear. Watch advertising means reaching the right shoppers at the right time along their purchase journeys. Understanding shoppers’ unique motivations for buying—such as monitoring one’s health and fitness, or gifting a tech-savvy friend the latest and greatest—can mean the difference in creating a branded message that resonates vs. falling flat.

Watch advertising insights

As the industry grows and evolves, now is an important time for watch brands to consider how best to connect with customers. To help brands better reach shoppers, here are some key insights:

  1. Two-thirds of consumers surveyed by Kantar and Amazon Ads reported that they buy a watch every two years, or less often.1 And, when they do buy a new watch, 95% of shoppers said they are open to trying a new brand.2
  2. Among survey respondents, 74% reported researching online before making a watch purchase.3 Of those consumers who research online, 39% reported making their purchase in person and 61% reported buying online.4
  3. Brand-building solutions—like Streaming TV or Twitch ads—can help brands drive growth. Smartwatch brands who included brand-building solutions within their strategy observed on average a 2.3x higher YoY growth in new-to-brand (NTB) customers, 1.3x higher YoY growth in repeat customers, and 9.6x higher YoY sales growth, compared to brands without brand-building solutions in their strategy.5

Smartwatch advertising insights

Today, 1 in 4 consumers owns a smartwatch (a wearable device in the form of a watch), with almost 1 in 3 consumers expected to own a smartwatch by 2026.6 While smartwatch purchases continue to increase, uncertain economic conditions are driving shoppers to become more conscious of spending: 35% of consumers are cutting back on purchases, and 82% are looking for sales or less expensive ways to shop.7 The key takeaway is that while shoppers may be purchasing more smartwatches over time, they are becoming pickier with how they’re spending.

So how do advertisers navigate tightening purse strings and shifting shopping attitudes? By building trust. According to an MRI-Simmons USA Crosstab study, 77% of watch consumers said, “If a product is made by a company I trust, I will buy it even if it is slightly more expensive.”8 Trust is more important than ever since shoppers are willing to spend a little more even during uncertain economic periods where they may be highly scrutinizing their personal spending.

Advertisers can build trust by leveraging brand-building strategies during periods of economic uncertainty. This means truly understanding unique shopper needs, shopping habits, and “why they buy” to help advertisers understand how to build unique brand-building strategies. In fact, brand-building solutions can benefit smartwatch brands, as we observed that it drove on average 2.3x higher YoY growth in NTB customers, 1.3x higher YoY growth in repeat customers, and 9.6x higher YoY sales growth, compared to brands without brand-building solutions in their strategy.9 To help advertisers build brand trust, loyalty, and delightful brand experiences that keep customers purchasing again and again, we’ve outlined three unique smartwatch personas.

Smartwatch buyer personas

Fitness enthusiasts

They buy smartwatches for health or fitness reasons. Smartwatch ownership is growing and becoming more than just a fashion purchase. A majority (90%) of smartwatch owners use their devices to track fitness and monitor health,10 indicating that advertisers should prioritize this group. A majority (76%) of fitness enthusiasts also exclusively buy smartwatches (and not analog watches), and are 1.8x more likely to purchase their smartwatch for sports or exercise reasons compared to the average smartwatch shopper.11 For fitness enthusiasts, smartwatches are an extension of their everyday fitness and healthy lifestyles, rather than just an aesthetic choice.

How to reach them

Leverage brand trust in messaging. Fitness enthusiasts consider brand name an important factor during their purchase decisions. In fact, the No. 1 reason why fitness enthusiasts purchased from a brand is because they trust it.12 Additionally, according to a Harris and Amazon Ads watches path-to-purchase (P2P) study, 66% of fitness enthusiasts surveyed have decided on a brand at the start of their shopping journey, and 84% consider brand name an important factor in the purchase decision.13 With fitness enthusiasts prioritizing brand name during a purchase decision due to trust, advertisers should keep in mind the importance of putting brands front and center in messaging.

First-time smartwatch shoppers

Open to brands, they’re adult Gen Z analog watch buyers about to buy their first smartwatch. First impressions count—especially among new audiences who might not be introduced to a brand or product yet. The first-time shopper persona makes up 55% of the smartwatch audience,14 suggesting a significant opportunity for advertisers to reach new shoppers, and to introduce them to a brand. First-time shoppers are also open to brand discovery: They’re 1.2x more likely to be open to discovering new brands at the start of their shopping journey, compared to the average smartwatch shopper.15 While first-timers are 1.2x more likely to be adult Gen Z (18 to 25) compared to the average smartwatch shopper,16 this persona may also already have a collection they’re looking to expand. This persona is 1.4x more likely to already own an analog watch, and more likely to have also purchased an analog watch in the last three months compared to the average repeat smartwatch shopper.17

How to reach them

Reach first-timers early, and online. According to the Harris and Amazon Ads watches P2P study, 74% of first-time shoppers surveyed make a purchase within one week of starting their research online,18 and 93% did online research before making a purchase decision.19 The No. 1 activity they found most useful in their purchase decision was reading online reviews.20 Since first-timers have a short research-to-purchase window, advertisers have a limited period in which to provide helpful information about their brand or product.

Leverage the Amazon store, particularly for holidays. A majority (73%) of first-time smartwatch shoppers visit the Amazon store along their path to purchase, regardless of their end purchase,21 with 86% of smartwatch shoppers in the Amazon store new to the category.22 As first-time shoppers are likely to be engaging with the Amazon store to gather information or discover brands and products, sponsored ads can help increase the visibility of brands and products for in-market shoppers as they look to find the right product for their needs.

First-time shoppers are likely to make their first purchase in the Amazon store around the holidays in November and December.23 Beyond these months, March, April, and July have stronger opportunities to reach new-to-category shoppers. Since first-timers are more likely to be adult Gen Z (18-24) audiences, these peak moments appear to align with spring break, travel seasons, or back-to-school seasons as popular moments for first-time shoppers to make their first smartwatch purchase.24 Advertisers may want to consider building brand messaging around these tentpole moments—in addition to the holiday peak period—to drive awareness of brands or products among this persona.

Gadget gifters

They like shopping from the same brand. Gadget gifters are likely to be repeat shoppers who place an importance on brand name when deciding to buy. According to the Harris and Amazon Ads watches P2P study, 64% of gadget gifters surveyed previously purchased a smartwatch, 78% highly value brand name when making a purchase decision, and 71% consider one to two brands before buying. 25 Leveraging brand-building strategies with this persona can help advertisers foster loyalty as they continue to make smartwatch purchases for themselves and others. Incorporating brand-building strategies can help advertisers stay top of mind with gadget gifters where they are already engaged, with rich content that helps tell your brand story in a memorable way.

How to reach them

Prioritize year-round gifting occasions. The top gifting occasions were holidays such as Christmas or Hanukkah, birthdays, congratulatory or thank-you moments, and Valentine’s Day.26 To reach gadget gifters year-round, advertisers can also consider always-on gifting messaging to stay top of mind for shoppers for holidays and the moments in between.

Reengage gadget gifters along their shopping journeys. Smartwatch shoppers spend more time when shopping for a gift for someone else than when they’re shopping for themselves. In fact, while the average smartwatch shopper makes a purchase decision within one week while shopping for themselves, gadget gifters are 2x more likely to spend a few weeks looking for “that perfect gift” for someone else before they make a decision.27 Since this persona considers one to two brands before buying, make your brand and its story the centerpiece content visible to be part of their consideration set.

Keep this in mind

If there’s one thing smartwatch brands should keep in mind, it’s that advertisers should continue prioritizing long-term growth with brand-building strategies. Despite economic uncertainty, advertisers can and should continue to reach smartwatch shoppers. The key to long-term success is not to pull back during these periods of economic uncertainty. Instead, advertisers should seek to understand, adjust to, and support audiences’ shopping preferences as they react to real-time economic changes. Advertisers can prioritize brand building to help foster trust, establish relationships with new shoppers, and keep current shoppers coming back.

1-4 Kantar and Amazon Ads watches study, US, July 2021
5 Amazon internal data, US, Nov 2021–Oct 2022
6 eMarketer, Smart Wearable Users 2022–2026, US, Oct 2022
7 eMarketer How Economic Stress and Inflation Are Changing Consumer Behaviors, Sep 2022, US
8 MRI-Simmons USA Crosstab, Fall 2022, US
9 Amazon internal data, US, Nov 2021–Oct 2022
10 eMarketer, Smart Wearable Users 2022–2026, Oct 2022, US
11-13 Harris and Amazon Ads watches P2P study (n=147), US, Dec 2022
14-20 Harris and Amazon Ads watches P2P study (n=186), US, Dec 2022
21 Harris and Amazon Ads watches path to purchase study (n=186), US, Dec 2022
22-24 Amazon internal data, US, Nov 2021–Oct 2022
25-27 Harris and Amazon Ads watches P2P study (n=60), US, Dec 2022