Jewelers have to up their game by embracing technology to better understand and deliver the experiences consumers want and expect. That was a key takeaway imparted by author and renowned consumer futurist, Doug Stephens, AKA “The Retail Prophet”, to jewelers attending a The Plumb Club symposium at JCK Las Vegas in June.
Stephens shared findings from his latest book, “Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World”, that unpacks what stores are, how consumers shop them, and the core economic model for revenue being reinvented. Among the key findings: customers expect convenience, ease and personalization, and technology that can deliver that will be important to physical store success.
He cited technologies that enable more personalized solution selling, targeted and localized inventory decisions, streamlined checkout processes, mobile-integrated experiences and overall ease of any time, anywhere purchasing. These technologies move retail toward a true omni-channel experience by engaging consumers on multiple levels and providing them with more relevant and targeted information and interaction.
Jay Gerber for the diamond jewelry manufacturer, WR Cobb, East Providence, Rhode Island, emphasizes that consumers today shop, browse, price check in store and online in whatever ways suit their needs at any given time and jewelers must recognize, embrace and encourage that reality to succeed. He suggests jewelers look to companies like Apple, Samsung, Disney and Starbucks as examples of retailers doing a good job of using technology and merging the in store and online experiences in ways that engage, inform and connect.
The store of the future is primarily focused on two things: the customer experience and backend data that drives sales, says Jordan Peck, owner of TracTech Systems in New York, which provides RFID solutions to the jewelry industry. TracTech was initially created 15 years ago specifically for the traveling sales staff of his family’s business, Color Merchants of New York.
Peck says the technology allowed Color Merchants to update the movement of its inventory throughout the year and complete each salesperson’s inventory in just a few hours as opposed to weeks. He said it saved time and money as the company used to call back lines from individual salespeople once a year to do a manual count against the original order that always resulted in discrepancies. It also streamlined billing and shipping during order fulfillment, minimizing returns or exchanges due to human error.
The jewelry industry is fortunate, says Peck, in that people inherently go to jewelry stores to buy something for a special occasion in their life or for someone they love. But while most people are excited and ready to buy even before walking in, there is also a level of anxiety. “The average person doesn’t know what to look for in a diamond or whether the price for a piece is good or bad, which puts them on the defensive.”
It’s important, said Peck, to create an atmosphere and brand experience that makes the client feel at ease and comfortable with you as a retail brand—which is a combination of presentation and personality. “Successful retailers have done a great job to build personal relationships with many of their clients based on trust and integrity. That’s the foundation of the customer experience in the store. But add-on experiences like custom design, private buying rooms, and interactive displays will elevate that experience making the store standout in their mind.”
Enabling customers to easily connect and get information, Amy Fisher, senior vice president of marketing for Citizen Watch, New York, said the brand recently launched a watch finder app to give consumers an enhanced online shopping experience. “This also allows us to engage with our consumers and give us insights into their preferences so we can send them messaging that is more relevant to them.”
Technology is also critical to optimize backend systems that improve store efficiency. “It is the part of the equation that makes the client experience seamless from the time customers walk in until long after they leave,” said Peck, noting that data analytics is needed to help retailers understand the trends of their clients and staff to keep inventory turning. “Having the ability to breakdown inventory by popular products versus items sitting goes a long way. It not only allows retailers to allocate employee time more efficiently, but also provides the information needed to effectively market products and trends to consumers.”
It’s critical for jewelers to make the needed investments in technology to move the needle forward for their business, said Gerber, who encourages retailers to fast the healthy parts of their organization to energize other areas that are rapidly changing with technology.
Gerber also advocates that jewelers set and get the acceptance of their team to adopt the mindset of promoting all channels consumers browse and shop. He said that some jewelers work against their best interest by not merging their advocacy of in store and online platforms. Some give sales associates less commission for sales they close online versus in store. Others have prices on products sold online for less than in store. “These two platforms are not in competition. It shouldn’t matter where your consumers buy. Make the sale!”