Eighty percent of today’s marrying couples are millennials. And, millennial couples are opting to make their engagement a highly shared experience in person and online, finds the Newlywed Report 2019 by WeddingWire.com, largest study of over 18,000 newlyweds married in the U.S. in 2018.
Millennials are getting engaged around the holidays when family is coming together, or inviting loved ones to witness the actual proposal, or party with them after the ask.
Christmas Day remains the most popular day to get engaged. In fact, seven out of the 10 most popular days of the year to get engaged are in December, equating to 19 percent of proposals happening that month. One in two purchase the ring less than two months before proposing.
Even if the moment is private, with nearly one in three engagements taking place at home, the reality is a picture, story, view of the ring, or all of the above are shared. Nearly 65 percent share their engagement on social media within a few hours, finds the study. More than half send a photo of their ring to loved ones after getting engaged.
Jewelers need to use social media, particularly Pinterest and Instagram, and make it as interactive as possible, says Theresa Namie, merchandise manager for the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Ostbye. She advocates retailers take advantage of social media content that companies like Ostbye provide.
The Newlywed Report finds that two out of three millennials take at least one wedding planning action prior to getting engaged, with nearly a third creating a Pinterest board for inspiration. Ensure your marketing is linkable and sharable to help build confidence, and make it easy for customers to learn from and solicit input from their communities. Choose communication mediums that allow you to have conversations, deepening engagement over time.
Part of that engagement must convey what millennials care about — sourcing, self-expression, and wanting an experience, says Namie. “Let them know where you source your diamonds and gemstones, and that you care about it. Let your customers know how unique and special each design is. Be open to their questions, but don’t be afraid to direct them.”
In just a few short years, the role technology has played in the planning process has greatly evolved, finds the study, citing as an example that three in four couples create a wedding website to share information with family and friends. Nearly 65 percent use Pinterest, and 66 percent use a planning app. This generation is driven to get things done with a digital-first mindset and much of their recon involves tools that help them to be efficient in their planning.
Neil Shah of the New York City-based Shah Luxury says the launch of 3D hologram technology allows jewelers to show custom designs before they are produced, further personalizing the experience. A CAD hologram touch screen display lets customers see the piece in 3D. There’s also a mobile version.
“Jewelers are excited to have tools like this as part of the sales experience,” says Shah, who notes that since its launch last year the conversion percentage is anecdotally up. He says a high percentage of couples want to customize their rings in some way, to have the ability to alter elements of a piece in a collection, like a different metal color/combination, stone sizes and shapes, color stones instead of diamonds, even different details like miligrain, this shank, that head.
Namie believes jewelers who keep a good inventory of styles that allow a variety of different shapes to be set into the designs will help make it easier to please today’s engagement ring customers.
Unique is Key
The Newlywed Report finds that half of all couples buy their rings from a brick-and-mortar jeweler. It cites reviews, photos, availability, and responsiveness as important to millennial couples searching for a vendor. The use of the search term “near me” on mobile is a big trend, proving the importance of shopping local to create that personal experience.
Namie adds that it’s vital for jewelers to hire millennials who can help them cultivate an environment that will feel comfortable for millennial couples, as well as traditional customers.
The study cites 20 percent of millennial couples pick out the engagement ring together. “Statistics show and retailers confirm they’re seeing more women involved in the engagement ring purchase,” says Shah. “That has been a huge change, and another reason why customization in the category is on the rise.”
Having a ring that is unique is important to millennials, concurs Valerie Fletcher, vice president of design and product development for the NYC-based Original Designs Inc. (ODI). “While classics always sell, our customers lean towards designs that have a combination of traditional and unexpected styling.”
Among ODI’s most popular picks are round centers with elongated halos and delicate shanks. “This type of styling appeals to both men and women purchasers because there is a blend of traditional round centers and classic shanks, with the more fashion-forward emerald or oval-shaped halo.”
Namie also cites unique style halos a top trend and, while round centers are still No. 1, there’s an uptick in pear shapes and oval cuts. She says marquise and oval cuts are popular set east to west, and baguette accents are in style. White gold prevails as the metal of choice, followed by rose gold, but there are more requests for yellow gold. She says enhancers such as wraps and ring guards in the crown or princess styling are popular as an easy way for an engagement ring to be bought as a solitaire, with the flair added later.
The average cost of an engagement ring last year was $5,000, finds the Newlywed Report, with 71 percent of the rings set with a diamond as the main stone. The average cost of wedding rings was $1,900. Moreover, couples spend on average $300 on jewelry related to their nuptials, and $600 on wedding party gifts that jewelers can help millennials plan for.