Merging the in-store and online experiences to engage, inform, and connect with customers.
The leading challenge luxury and jewelry companies face today is defining a comprehensive and unified omni-channel strategy that works best for their business. The Futurist, global luxury forecasting firm, in research conducted for The Plumb Club, finds that jewelers are struggling to develop an effective omni-channel approach in a market where consumers view the shopping experience through a single lens.
Author and renowned consumer futurist, Doug Stephens, AKA “The Retail Prophet”, explained to jewelers attending The Plumb Club symposium during JCK Las Vegas in June that true omni-channel shopping is a combination of both the online and in-store experience. Omni-channel retailing describes a model in which customers interact with multiple sales and media channels at once, and have their information retained by the retailer as they move between these channels through cloud technology.
Omni-channel retailing allows customers to browse on a desktop, compare prices on a mobile device, and visit the brick-and-mortar location to finalize a purchase. Stephens cites as examples technologies that enable more personalized solution selling, targeted and localized inventory decisions, streamlined checkout processes, and mobile-integrated experiences.
These tools provide customers with more relevant and targeted information, promotions, and the ability to interact with the retailer digitally even while in a physical store. “Customers expect convenience, ease and personalization and technology that can deliver on these expectations will be even more important to physical store success,” said Stephens.
Companies like Apple, Samsung, Disney and Starbucks are examples of retailers doing a good job of using technology and merging the in-store and online experiences to engage, inform, and connect with customers.
Referencing his latest book, “Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World”, Stephens advocated stores create experiences powerful enough to drive sales across all purchase points. He encouraged jewelers to position themselves as any-channel hubs. “Don’t build stores build stories. Think productions not products. Sell experiences that involve your products.”
Eliminate Shopping Restrictions
Despite the obvious demand for a unified experience, only 28% of B2C companies are available to serve customers on every channel, reports Salesforce.com, a customer-relations management platform based in San Francisco. It points out the imbalance in that 73 percent of shoppers use multiple channels during their shopping journey.
Translation: Two-thirds of retailers are failing to effectively cater to the shopping preferences of about two-thirds of their audience. Its research also notes that roughly 75 percent of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage with a brand.
Salesforce.com advises retailers eliminate restrictions on how, when and where consumers can shop, providing freedom and flexibility to customers that create a great experience. Customers buy online and pick up in-store, purchase in-store and have items shipped, change orders after they’ve been placed, choose between multiple pickup and delivery options, and return items to any location without hassle. Retailers should use tools that track and collate this activity as customers move from channel to channel.
The key to a successful omni-channel strategy is to think of these different channels of communication and commerce as complements, not substitutes, finds The Futurist. Each channel is best suited for some specific product, consumer group, or moment in time. The secret is to identify, map and analyze these relationships and build around them in the most efficient way possible.
Online channels offer valuable opportunities for retailers to create more variety and customization for customers. Not only ideal for customer building, the online platform is ideal for client retention, as existing customers prefer browsing online to find new products or re-order favorites from retailers they trust.
While the market is strong, moving luxury jewelry online presents challenges: established retailers must adapt their business to e-commerce and newcomers must earn credibility. For established jewelers, this means they have to adjust their operations for online sales by changing production, inventory and fulfillment processes. For the newcomers, it means they have to establish themselves as reputable jewelry retailers.
Some traditional brands are having success finding their way with online partners. Case in point: the well-known online retailer Net-A-Porter launched in April a flagship jewelry e-store that features couture watch and jewelry brands, many of which have never had digital retail exposure. This dedicated hub for prestigious lifestyle brands offers heightened customer service elements catering to high net-worth shoppers. Tiffany partnered with Net-a-Porter to sell a selection of styles, making it the first retailer to sell Tiffany online outside of the jeweler’s own channels, expanding its reach to a wider, younger audience.
Another interesting business model Moda Operandi allows consumers to pre-order products for the coming season from online trunk shows. The top grossing categories are fine jewelry and eveningwear. In fact, Moda’s Fine Jewelry sector grew over147 percent year-on-year through strategic initiatives like the “live from” collection at The Couture Show and VicenzaOro. It’s another validation that luxury retail is evolving in a technologically savvy way. Mobile commerce is becoming a favorite channel for customers to shop, and social media is evolving as a key driver of sales, especially for Millennials.
Yet brick and mortar stores continue to represent a prime asset and remain a strong channel for customer acquisition. Jewelers who are pulling it all together in this omni-channel world are rethinking their store design to be more interactive, exploratory, fashion forward, and fun (think Instagram-friendly selfie wall). They’re also launching edgier, lower-priced collections that appeal to Millennials and self-purchasing women.
Bottom line: Jewelers who identify and segment their customers, the products they offer them, and how they communicate with them will remain profitable.