Three big news topics that concern the UK jewellery industry have recently been debated in both mainstream and industry media: Brexit, a shifting economy and the challenge of marketing luxury goods to millennials. As a consequence, many UK jewellers feel that they now have to make strategic business decisions in order to survive future political, social and economic change. But is there a game plan that is sure to work? Are jewellery retailers thinking flexibly enough to cover all the bases? Gary Ingram, CEO of the online retailer TheDiamondStore.co.uk, talks through three useful strategies guaranteed to help us push through the uncertainty.
- Excellent customer service on multiple channels
Joanna Causon, chief executive of the UK Institute of Customer Service, says in the July 2017 UKCSI report The state of customer satisfaction in the UK, “This is a pivotal moment; it is a time for organisations to be brave and drive the customer experience agenda harder, and in a more sustained manner, in order to ensure long-term survival.”
The challenge for UK jewellery retailers is two-fold right now. We have to satisfy customer demands quickly, and through the right channels. On the one hand, today’s customer has little time and patience. On the other, we have more communication methods to choose from than ever before – face to face, telephone, social media, live chat, email. Where should we concentrate our efforts?
“It’s vital to identify who your customers are to know where they are most likely to reach out,” said Ingram. “All of our customers are web savvy, but our biggest spenders, male customers aged 65+, prefer to phone us for inquiries. Our biggest growth group, aged 18-35, are most comfortable with live chat and social media support. So when designing our customer service systems we have to constantly ask ourselves what age, gender or income group do our customers belong to? Are they glued to their smartphones or do they prefer the traditional channels? There’s no easy answer. You have to study and cover all the bases and, it goes without saying, offer the best possible customer service in the process.”
- Targeted social marketing
Much of the recent economic media coverage has focused on the millennials’ spending habits. But generational consumer behaviour is much more nuanced than that.
“We know that baby boomers are our smallest customer base but they have the highest income and are by far our biggest spenders. Generation X are the second-smallest group but are earning more and more, so they will potentially be big consumers in 5-10 years. Millennials are trend-based buyers with a low £353 average purchase but they may change as they age,” said Ingram.
This is a complex audience to market to. Luckily, we have a solution in social media marketing. No other channel offers consumer data as refined as this, allowing jewellery retailers to target customers by age, gender, socio-economic background, spending habits, behaviours and interests.
As more and more businesses harness its potential, it is crucial not to be left behind. The Q1 2017 Sprout Social Index stated, “Regardless of industry, social provides your brand with the opportunity to stand out from competitors. All you need to do is invest an extra few minutes of thought and effort per interaction to make an exponential business impact.”
- Regularly renewed product lines
With Generation X still spending big on classic heirloom jewellery, all the while millennials look for trend pieces with a shorter lifespan, regular expansion of product lines has never been more important. Well-curated collections attract new buyers, keep loyal customers coming back and invigorate a brand.
“You don’t always need to start from scratch,” Ingram explained. “If you have well-performing products then variations in metal type, gem colour and details can help keep them current. For example, if you already sell gold and platinum, sterling silver can position you in an entirely different retail bracket.”
Whether introducing brand new lines or refreshing current products it is important to base decisions on what you know about your target market, as well as customer feedback. “We always weigh up customer requests against what we believe is a great product and reflects the core values of our brand,” Ingram added.
Even if the future seems uncertain, there are practical steps you can take to ensure your business stays ahead of competition. Investing in social media and regular product updates, offering enduring brand values and exceeding customer expectations through multiple communication channels will ensure you are nurturing both old and new customers and building a future business on a solid foundation. The RBS report Retail 2023: Trends affecting retail strategy over the next decade concluded that “Consumers will continue to become all powerful, retailers must respond to that.”
Taking definitive action has another benefit, of course. It helps keep morale high – a crucial ingredient for success in times of change.