The new ‘business as un-usual’ for the jewellery trade

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the jewellery industry has been rocked (like every industry) by this pandemic. It has caused businesses to collapse, unemployment to rise and left us all thinking about what sort of new normal we will return to. With the Government easing lockdown rules and non-essential stores reopening after the 15th June, we will see retailer jewellers (who have managed to get past this point) re-open their doors. 

However, it won’t be business as usual as these last weeks have shown us that now, more than ever before, we need to adapt to new ways of working and living. High street stores have lagged behind for years unable to compete with online stores. This pandemic has essentially sped up the evolution towards digital ways of working. With online sales to online staff meetings, digital tools and apps have been vital for helping us to stay connected and keep us in business.

Most retailer jewellers focus the majority of their efforts and sales channels on their physical outlet stores as consumers still prefer to buy high-value jewellery in person. But this is no longer sufficient if you are forced to close your store. It’s now more important than ever to embrace an omnichannel approach to sales. This pandemic has asked us, if your only channel of sales is abruptly cut off how can you survive?

So how can jewellery retailers who have survived up to this point, ensure they keep growing and thriving during these uncertain times? This pandemic has sped up the need to go digital which is why retailers must now embrace new ways of reaching out to their customers. Here are some tips on how the trade can come out of this pandemic stronger than ever, by embracing digital technology-driven new trends. 

Omnichannel sales

Most retailer jewellers focus the majority of their efforts and sales channels on their physical outlet stores but this is no longer sufficient if you are forced to close your store. It’s now more important than ever to embrace an omnichannel approach to sales. This means having multiples ways to connect with your customers not just in-store but online. Retailers need to ensure that they have a user-friendly website that engages customers and operates effectively to drive online sales. Keep your website updated with relevant content and engaging photos of your products. Above all, ensure you have good security on your site to encourage online sales of high-value items such as jewellery.

Customer engagement via social media

With everyone in lockdown, social media use has increased exponentially. This means you already have an abundance of potential new customers online just waiting to discover you! Reach out to them by posting regular content showcasing your business and your latest products. Many fashion businesses, such as, make an incredible amount of sales by posting photos of their products on social media where, customers can buy the items directly by clicking on images. It’s no longer enough to expect the customer to come to your digital or physical store, retailers now need to go to where their customers are hanging out.

Concierge services – the rise of personalisation

With the world shifting to ‘on-demand’ services such as Netflix, offering what you want to watch when you want to watch it, the American sensation of Peloton bikes streaming live and on-demand workouts from the comfort of your own home, we may see a shift towards ‘on-demand’ concierge-like services where customers can request a jeweller to visit them at home and showcase various items. Appointments can be taken online with a small deposit and an initial consultation chat or email can be sent beforehand to capture what the customer would like to see. This personalised service could be popular in a world where many customers may still not be able to go outside either due to health reasons or because they don’t feel comfortable being in public spaces.

Rethinking the supply chain

Supply chains can be complex, and this pandemic should have shone a light on how strong or weak your supply chains are. Are you overly dependent on one supplier? Are there other ways to source the goods you need if your supplier went out of business? Can you use a local supplier rather than one oversees? If so, now is the time to think about building a decentralised supply chain that is not overly dependent on one key player.

Digital reskilling of your staff

As we move to new digital ways of engaging with customers, ask yourself if your staff have the necessary tools and skills required to keep pace with new digital trends. If not, then now could be a great time to upskill and train your staff. Make the most of free tools such as Pinterest, Instagram and other social platforms that allow you to engage with customers in new ways. Post content such as videos, books and photos of your business and your products. This could include blog posts or short videos interviewing your staff or showcasing their favourite items. Tell the stories behind the products and host online competitions. There are many online courses available right now to help you get the skills you need. Check out Coursera and Udemy, as well as Google Digital Garage who are offering some free online courses.

Conferences and trade shows go virtual

It can be expensive to visit and travel to trade shows, but we will now see many conferences offering ‘online attendance’ tickets to those who can’t (or prefer not to) attend in person. This is a great opportunity to be a part of the latest innovations and trends happening in the industry without the burden of travel costs or diary clashes. We will see more jewellery trade shows embracing online showcases where retailers can have an ‘online stand’ to showcase their wares and network digitally with attendees. Perhaps retailers can even think about hosting their own online conferences with their customers to keep them engaged.

New digital offerings and products

Consumer demands are changing rapidly and it’s no longer enough to just provide a product. Customers want an engaging experience that they can talk about and more crucially share online! How ‘Instagrammble’ is your store? Can you get in-store customers to take advantage of your beautiful shop and post pictures online of their visit? In addition, think about the post-care service. Do you have a regular newsletter you send to your customers telling them about the latest news they may be interested in? Or how about online chat services to deal with customer queries effectively? The focus in a post COVID-19 world will shift to how best you can communicate with and serve your customers.

Crises such as a pandemic can flag weaknesses in our business models and provide opportunities to open new doors, but we must be open to these new ways of working and, most importantly, ensure we stay connected to and serve our customer’s needs.

By Sukhi Jutla, COO and co-founder of MarketOrders, a B2B marketplace for the gold and diamond jewellery industries 

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