By Brecken Branstrator
brecken.branstrator@nationaljeweler.com
New York—When governments nationwide enacted stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders across the country, businesses everywhere were quickly forced to take a hard look at their digital strategies.

Their ability to create a space for easy online shopping, or enhance what they already had, was vital.

Now, quite a few states across the United States have started to open back up, and so have jewelry businesses.

But even as in-store traffic slowly starts to normalize, combining the in-store experience with the digital will be even more important.

National Jeweler reached out to designers, retailers, industry experts and others about what they learned during quarantine about e-commerce and the power of virtual communication.

Know People Are Buying Jewelry Online, Especially Now

Numerous articles and feedback from the industry show it: Shoppers aren’t afraid to make that big jewelry purchase online.

“From my vantage point, the biggest lesson for jewelers is the willingness of clients to consider a complicated, expensive purchase like jewelry or watches in a digital environment,” said Timothy Claire, chief operating officer at London Jewelers.


He said though many stores had e-commerce capability before, they didn’t necessarily make major investments in further services to expand and enhance the digital opportunity.

“The COVID crisis has demonstrated the value of a true omnichannel approach, allowing us to use digital tools and e-commerce convenience to build a closer and deeper relationship with our customers. We are also able to clearly demonstrate how to expand our business in the digital realm at a lower cost than brick-and-mortar.”

With occasions and celebrations continuing to happen, Third Coast Gems’ Benjamin Guttery reiterated the idea that people are still buying.

Now, “It’s on you to meet them where they are at and connect with them in a meaningful way.”

And while you’re at it, make buying easier. Jewelry industry veteran and luxury marketing expert Dawn Moore, of Moore About, recommends removing barriers to purchase.

“Review, and then relax your policies and rules as appropriate.”

Consider the following: relaxing or altering return policies since jewelry can be cleaned easily; a program offering jewelry on memo to trusted clients; a payment plan; or offering special pricing on select items.

Don’t Be Afraid to Appear Virtually

“At this point, retail and livestreaming have merged, and digital visits will undoubtedly be an integrated part of the brick-and-mortar experience going forward,” said Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts.

“People who never shopped online before 2020 have learned how easy it is—for everything from groceries to puppies—though most will still place high value on the ‘in-person’ experience as the last step in the process.”

This is “laying out the next direction” for the ideal blend of online shopping and brick-and-mortar connections, she said—pre-visit shopping that is interactive, experiential and in real time.

Her recommendation? Training in-store sales associates to become “livestream show hosts;” think QVC or HSN, only “more personal, interactive and better.”

Work with them on describing details and handling pieces to optimize their features and advantages.

“Everyone should be comfortable with using Zoom, Facetime or the livestream platform of your choice to connect with customers and should practice regularly so they are confident showing everything from small earrings to loose diamonds.”

Third Coast Gems’ Guttery emphasized the same: “Get out from behind the camera and in front of it! People want to see the person(s) behind the brand more than ever before. Make the most of that.”

Moore even suggested investing in an acting coach or public speaking tutor if necessary.

“Your on-camera abilities will be a game-changer. Selling by video or live social media is the new wave.”

Consider those clients who might not feel comfortable coming into the store at all this year; you might not see them during the holidays or for any other regular visits.

“By not having virtual appointments … in your wheelhouse, you might actually lose that business and they might go somewhere else,” said Kathleen Cutler, a sales expert who consults with jewelers.

Thinking through a virtual appointment strategy that’s as similar as possible to the in-store experience is important, from lighting to how your clients feel during the conversation to how you deal with objections.

Consider a Physical Follow-Up to the Virtual

After a virtual call with a client, she or he might still want to see a piece in person.

But consider, again, those customers who might not feel comfortable visiting the store or simply can’t make it to the physical location. You should still find a way to get the jewelry to them.

After all, “everyone knows that your closing ratio goes up if you can get the piece into the client’s hand,” Cutler said.

Consider a “memo box” of jewelry for them to look at and send it to them directly.

“When you send it to their house, especially if it’s a range of pieces and if it’s a little selection picked just for them, they’re going to find something that they love. And it's going to be really hard for them to return it at that point.”

Take Advantage of the Customers You’ve Already Got

Turn to your regular clients now more than ever, especially as so many people continue to shop from the comfort of their homes while stores stay closed.

“Mastering the art of clienteling is so important in any economy and especially right now. Know that the money and the referrals are in the list of your top 20 percent of your clients,” she said.

Cutler suggests associates write down their names and keep a list by the desk. Reach out to them and check in on them without any need for a sale attached to the message.

At London Jewelers, Scott Udell said a lesson the retailer is taking from quarantine is that “data is king.”

“The more client info we have, the more effective outreach and communication we can have with our clients.”

Communicate Often, and Consider Your Messaging

Getting into an inbox is one thing; getting the opening click is another. This is especially true now that email is a primary way to reach people.

Moore’s advice: Make your communication matter. Give customers valuable content and avoid stating the obvious.

Many jewelers, for example, offer guides on how to clean jewelry. Right now, this is of utmost importance, so rather than sending the same information you normally would, craft a newsletter with a step-by-step outline that includes a link to CDC guidelines, giving it relevance.

Moore added that finding a genuine voice and tone for messaging that “shows concern but (also) spirit” is important right now.

She’s a fan of retailer I. Gorman Jeweler’s email campaigns (not a client of hers), which she called clever and upbeat without sounding frivolous.

The subject line of one email was “What to Wear on Your Next Video Conference,” and the preview text read, “P.S. You can still wear sweats!”

The body of the email went on to state: “Dressing down for work these days? Don’t forget how fabulous you are! After all, your colleagues now see you only from the neck up; leave them wondering how you’re always able to look so pulled together.”

But a store’s communication extends beyond email marketing to include its website, physical store and social media. Honing messaging and tone should apply to all of these.

Keeping messaging clear across all those channels is even more important now that such pertinent information as opening hours, services and protocols related to cleaning and social distancing must be shared with consumers, Cutler said.

Use This as a Chance to Re-Evaluate Your Business POV

Going digital as physical stores closed has made everyone take a second look at their digital strategies.

For some, it also came as an opportunity to re-evaluate their business purpose and brand overall.

Jewelry designer Dana Bronfman said one positive side effect of a terrible situation has been the opportunity to “slow down and connect more with my values and why I do what I do, and go back to that foundation.”

She has particularly enjoyed the Instagram Live series she started, “What Does Responsible Jewelry Mean?” in which she interviewed experts in the field.

“It’s been great to have the space to share this back story with customers, followers, other industry members, many of whom don't know that responsible jewelry is about more than ‘blood’ diamonds.”

For Susan Eisen of Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches in El Paso, Texas, she has loved being able to spend more time taking care of online customers, showing them what the store could do and giving them more personal service that she’d like to carry into the future.

Be in It for the Long Haul

“Know that the changes you’ve made since early March should be looked at as a new opportunity, not a Band-Aid!” marketer Moore said.

Look at which measures enacted during quarantine can become the new standard operating procedure, she added, like FaceTime consultations and virtual tours of the studio or store.

“These digital strategies should be front and center on your website’s homepage. Let your clients know you are looking ahead,” she concluded.


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