By Brecken Branstrator
Dan Thurmon, a motivational speaker, gave a speech called “Off Balance On Purpose: How to Evolve During Changing Times,” at the WJA In the Know conference. New York--As the digital world continues to change consumer habits, brands that want to survive have to constantly adapt and reinvent themselves to stay relevant in the space, and find innovative ways to attract new shoppers without losing the existing ones.

At the Women’s Jewelry Association’s In The Know conference on Wednesday, five retailers gave advice on how to do so during a panel called “Close to the Consumer: How Retailers are Reinventing Themselves.”

Moderated by Orit (who doesn’t use a last name) of graphic design firm The O Group, the discussion had five panelists: Cathy Fischer of Sterling Jewelers, Jennifer Gandia of Greenwich Jewelers, PJ Lynch of the Gem Shopping Network, Annelise Peterson of Net-A-Porter, and Daniella Yacobovsky of BaubleBar.

When asked how customers are evolving and what trends they’re noticing, Fischer noted that the digital age has permanently changed all consumers--they’re dating online, engaging in social media, and shopping on their mobile phones at levels never seen before.

Additionally, in the past few years, Generation Y surpassed the Baby Boomer generation in population. As this younger age group has increasing spending power, it’s a consumer group that decision-makers in the industry need to consider.

“Experience is starting to be valued more than material possessions,” Fischer added, noting that the jewelry industry should find ways to remind consumers that it is offering them an experience of celebrating love and special occasions.

Gandia of Greenwich Jewelers was asked how the store innovates when it comes to the customer experience and keeps things fresh. She said one of the benefits of being a small business is that they can be very nimble.

Gandia, along with her sister Christina Gandia Gambale, decided to implement changes across the store, which was started by their parents, to take it in their own direction. This primarily consisted of emphasizing designer jewelry options.

“I think that the consumer experience is about making (them) feel like you’re on their side,” she said. 

Gandia added that while the store does have enhanced offerings like an area for drinks and a gifting budget for employees, who can use it to show appreciation to customers or make up for something that goes wrong, it boils down to developing a personal relationship with clients and focusing on the customer experience.

The Gem Shopping Network, a multimedia retailer that sells colored gemstones and jewelry 24 hours a day, focuses on differentiating that customer experience to set it apart from other similar sellers such as HSN and QVC.

Lynch said quality is really important for the multimedia retailer. Of all the gems that GSN has, about 90 percent of them are one-of-a-kind, which offers exclusivity to shoppers. They have also invested in representatives to appear on the channel that can “make it a special experience,” he said.

“We enjoy it and have fun with it, and that transmits,” through to the customer who is watching and shopping,” she said.

When asked how Net-a-Porter was keeping itself fresh as a brand while also growing the product base, Annelise Peterson reiterated that for the company, it’s all about the experience for the customer.

About 1 percent of the registered customers on the site drive the business, she said, so it’s up to Net-a-Porter to cater to them and find a way to offer them that brand experience even when they’re gone. 

“You can never forget about that customer for one second, because when you do, someone else will pick her up,” she said.

One way the company did this was by offering same-day delivery to customers in the Hamptons last summer by airlifting the deliveries through a partnership with The Standard hotel’s seaplane.

The brand also brings the experience to customers in person through events, and Net-a-Porter even launched its own magazine earlier this year.

When considering which fine jewelry brands they will curate on the site, Peterson noted that it’s not only about the look and quality of the jewelry, but also if the brand is part of a community that they want to tap into.

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BaubleBar, which sells costume jewelry online at accessible price points, has evolved greatly in the few years since its launch.

“It’s important that you be very nimble, listen to the customer and look at the data every day,” Yacobovsky said.

The BaubleBar team looks at the data analytics frequently to understand how customers are responding to the site and what needs to be changed. They have added tools that interact with the customer as well, helping gather ideas of which pieces are most popular.

One way the site is reaching out to users in spaces where they already are is by including a widget that pulls in pictures customers are posting to their social media networks to the BaubleBar site, allowing other users to see the pieces styled by their peers. Yacobovsky notes that the conversion rate of sales is much higher in these users who are interacting with the site than those who are not.

“Web 3.0 is now about having a conversation with the customer,” she said. 

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