Tucson, Ariz.-- Consumers today are more informed than ever. With the Internet at their fingertips, they can do research on products before heading out to any stores.

Because the online world makes a wealth of knowledge available to them, consumers have shifted from being single decision-makers to being influenced by their community. They also want to know that their expectations will be met for the life of a product or service.

This has changed the selling landscape for jewelers, said Kate Peterson, owner of Performance Concepts and a member of the board of directors of the Diamond Council of America. Retailers need to emphasize the value of a product to the consumer before they begin selling, which requires recognizing what the consumer is looking for and catering to their evolving desires.

On Wednesday, Peterson spoke at a seminar at the American Gem Trade Association’s GemFair called “The Color of Money: Turning Consumers Trends into Profit,” where she highlighted consumer trends for the coming year and how they can be translated into revenue for retailers.

Trend watch for 2014
The consumer trends that Peterson outlined that will be important in 2014 are as follows.

1. Guilt-free status. Consumers are back to wanting to spend money, but they don’t want to feel guilty about what they’re spending money on, and they’re looking for retailers to deliver that fix, Peterson said. Products and services that provide this to shoppers must be known by all--iconic brands that are instantly recognizable symbols of sustainability--products that are visibly guilt-free, or a storied product that, if it isn’t known or visible, has a guilt-free story to tell. Stocking these kinds of products can give a jeweler a leg up, she said.

2. Crowd-shaped. This year, even more consumers will pool their preferences to create new goods and services. This means that the technologies that facilitate the sharing of such information and data, such as Google Glass, will be more prevalent. Consumer expectations will also rise again due to that increasing presence. Peterson noted that, at the jewelry level, consumer surveys would be a great way for retailers to find out what their customers like. “They expect stores to know preferences, so take the time to find out,” she said.

3. Being eco-conscious. A product that takes previously used items and recycles them responsibly and innovatively really speaks to consumers these days. While they likely won’t make a decision based solely on this, carrying such items could give jewelers a competitive edge.

4. Personal enhancement. Consumer interests in self-enhancement products will continue to grow this year. While they’re still focusing on physical health, they’re also looking more at total lifestyle assistance, including products that help improve mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, which is where colored stones could play a big part. With all the information out there about what colored gemstones could offer in health terms, jewelers should research this and be able to talk about it with their clients.

5. Celebrating heritage. Emerging markets are now proudly celebrating their national and cultural heritage, where symbols, lifestyles and traditions that were previously downplayed are being brought up-to-date. Consumers have a much bigger global view these days, and will respond to products that explore culture and backgrounds or tell a story, Peterson said.

6. Made in America. Demand for products made in the United States has seen a resurgence, which has been made possible by the spread of local manufacturing technologies.

7. Being human. Today’s consumers respond better to brands show their flaws and admit when a mistake has been made. For jewelers, this could mean reinventing themselves and the way they’re doing business, Peterson said.

8. Real-time reviews. With technology at their fingertips and as many review websites as they could wish for, consumers today are giving instant feedback. It will happen no matter what, Peterson said, so jewelers should pay attention and keep track of what’s being said about their business online. Additionally, retailers “can’t be afraid to ask for this kind of referral business,” Peterson said. Positive reviews are picked up quickly by consumers online.

In providing these eight trends, Peterson noted that not all of them will be relevant. Jewelers should decide on which trends to focus and apply them to their business.

Translating trends to sales
So, what do these trends mean for jewelers?

In order to stand out in today’s competitive market, retailers must be agile and innovative, anticipating customers’ needs and wants, Peterson said. She suggested focusing on teaching selling skills rather than just the sales process, as well as justifying the customer’s expectation of value of a product rather than simply closing the deal.

It’s also important to understand the personal value of the piece to the customer and to look for the value trigger, selling what the jewelry “does” and not what it “is,” a technique that can be learned through sales training classes. A focus on how the piece connects with the client--instead of just a list of product information and a price--is key in today’s retail environment, she said.

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