While online retail has gained traction in recent years, jewellery stores are still very much in the game. Enhanced customer service and personalised shopping experiences are but some of the measures that will enable brick-and-mortar jewellers to survive and thrive in an era of increasing online retail.
Brick-and-mortar retail may be struggling, but the market still buys much more offline than online. That said, online sales are not just ever on the rise, fine jewellery is also increasingly being sold online. Given this scenario, what are the challenges and, more importantly, the opportunities for jewellery stores today?
The online advantage
According to Euromonitor, while online retail sales are increasing in many countries, 88 percent of shopping globally is still done in-store. Online players however do provide certain conveniences over their brick-and-mortar counterparts: Shop when you want and wherever you are, and easy return policies, to name a few.
Several successful online retailers also stand out for their excellent customer service. They offer easy access to the company through chatbots, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, among others; they help customers return a product quickly and smoothly; or they solve problems and answer questions. Try that in a brick-and-mortar environment and the differences become immediately evident.
Online retail also supplies an extensive range of products no offline retailer can ever match. A case in point is Amazon, which, according to McKinsey, has 372 million products. The product selection available online is indeed staggering.
In short, online retail offers a pleasant and convenient shopping experience with a wide selection of products, excellent service, shopping at one’s own pace and on one’s own terms, and easy-to-return options. How can bricks and mortar even start to compete?
There is a bright future still for in-store retail though, with many exciting opportunities for growth.
Buyers all want their shopping experience to be comfortable and enjoyable. Buying jewellery is an experience, often an emotional one. Customers may experience this less with fashion silver jewellery, where prices compete online and a brick-and-mortar store might be just the place for people to view and try products then buy these online later at lower prices. But still, no online retailer has been able to recreate the emotional touch that comes with seeing, feeling and trying on jewellery in a physical store.
Jewellery retailers likewise do not deny the tremendous significance of personalised jewellery to their sales. Pandora and Nomination are among the old hands at this, but even luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co is now taking this route. Tiffany’s new flagship offers customers more interaction and an active role in their purchases with the #MakeItTiffany personalisation bar and a Tiffany fragrance “vending machine.” Personalisation has become extremely important in every aspect of the customer’s journey. This is an area where jewellery stores can definitely compete with online retail.
Today’s era of Me-commerce is also providing new opportunities. Trying to get as personal as possible through data is costly and complicated, but achievable for online retailers.
Creating a personal in-store experience is likewise worth the energy, resources and time. A simple way to start is by collecting names and data through newsletter subscriptions and gathering email addresses. Small retailers may not be able to use options like geospatial technologies nor follow Sephora’s lead of giving advice and personalised offers while the client moves through the store. They can however keep abreast of their options by researching on possibilities and training to meet the requirements of today’s shopper.
Letting customers know and feel that they are seen, heard and valued, while actively listening and responding to their needs in multiple ways, helps retailers provide and improve personalised service, even on a small budget.
Measures for success
Several avenues are available to retail stores in order for them to compete, stand out and even win against online players.
First of all, they must realise that they can never compete with the broad product assortment of major online retailers hence they must differentiate themselves from the rest. Offer products that are not available everywhere, carry more niche brands or specialise in a specific category. Focus on getting to know the customer better and their needs. For instance, Nike builds apps for its focus group: Runners.
Touch and try –
Stores are where customers can touch and try jewellery. As this is a significant advantage in-store retailers have over their online counterparts, make it a focal point and encourage staff and consumers to experience the product this way. Touching builds connection and emotion.
Authority, consultation, advice –
A jewellery store has the opportunity to offer excellent advice and consultation and show authority through in-depth knowledge about the product. Stores should take it even further by training their staff better so they can dispense specific guidance for clients in terms of styling and fashion. Explore taking personalisation to the next level by customising jewellery in-store for clients. Select which stone, setting, clasp and length of necklace or bracelet would match the customer’s personality, looks or circumstances and create it especially for her.
Community and entertainment –
Retail can also be viewed as theatre or entertainment. Consider holding events or a book presentation. Host the next gathering of the local gemmologist club or a workshop on beauty and jewellery.
Data collection and partnerships –
Collect and mine data for a better idea of what type of shopping experience drives conversion. Embrace innovation, be much more agile, collaborate with other businesses to expand markets or reach more consumers. These partners could even be online retailers.
Invest in training and staff retention –
Investing in staff training should become a priority. Employees might very well be the key to making all the store’s initiatives a success.
Euromonitor expects that even in 2025, 75 to 85 percent of consumer goods will still be purchased in stores. With Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2014) becoming an even bigger consumer group than millennials, it's a must for every retailer to keep investing and innovating to adapt to all the changes new generations, their expectations – as well as technology – bring.
By 2020, Gen Z will account for one-third of the population in the US. Not only will this be a vast and exciting market segment that retail must cater to, they are likely to be the employees of tomorrow. According to Huffington Post, Gen Z expects brands to be loyal and personal to them. Paying attention to the buying experience and striving to meet customers' demands might be a wise investment.
While challenges definitely exist for jewellery stores and all brick-and-mortar retail, these still have plenty of options, opportunities and even advantages over online retail. The smart store will use these to turn the tide in its favour.
Adding value to bricks and mortar
• Double as an experiential showroom where a new product can be tried out and experienced
• Serve as a fulfillment centre for online orders and perhaps a return point for online purchases
• Become a place where people can hang out. Be a venue where they can take selfies and post those online
About the author
Founder of jewellery blog Bizzita.com, Esther Ligthart has 25 years of international sales and marketing experience in the jewellery industry. She now enjoys contributing to trade and luxury magazines and working as a business consultant.