Don’t confuse ‘data’ with just another industry buzzword, as it could lead to more informed buying decisions, sales growth and a better relationship with your customers. Professional Jeweller tracks down the industry experts and ‘big data’ champions to find out more.
Spending an afternoon analysing facts, figures and numbers on a spreadsheet might not sound like your idea of a good time, but if we were to tell you it could improve your business, would you reconsider?
If you’re nodding along, you’re in agreement with some of the jewellery industry’s most prominent voices, who are calling on retailers, brands and suppliers to begin analysing the data that’s right at their fingertips. Data may appear to be light years away from the arts, crafts, gems and diamonds of the jewellery sector, but in terms of its power to boost profits and enhance customer relationships it’s something not to be sniffed at.
But where to start? Storing your till receipts and logging sales manually is an option, but retailers with EPoS (electronic point of sale) systems are likely to have all they need – stock management stools, accounting systems, sales records – at their disposal.
In its basic form, business data is sales and stock information and the relationship between the two. It is being used relentlessly by the big supermarket chains to find out everything about you; from the cereal you buy to the time you buy it. Your whole shopping experience is the result of careful analysis, ensuring you’re likely to spend as much money on certain products as possible.
You may not have the desire to become the next Tesco-style data-crunching machine, but even the basics could ensure your customers find what they want and keep buying. National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) chief executive, Michael Rawlinson, has been harbouring an interest in data for years, and is now seeking to encourage change within the jewellery industry.
He explains to Professional Jeweller: “There are two types of data; the core data that we are trying to work with at the moment is retail sales data. I wouldn’t call this ‘big data’ even though it may be happening on a national level. It is more a case of bringing store level data together so we can analyse it regionally, by individual retailer or by product group.”
He continues: “The next phase is what I would call ‘big data’, which is more focused
This focus on data may seem new to the jewellery industry, and in many ways it is, but it’s not without solid foundations. Social media and the rise of ecommerce has had a lot to do with pushing the issue to the forefront, with many retailers enjoying the instant feedback social comments and website analytics can give them at the touch of a button.
Across the internet, data is what makes websites like Google, eBay, Facebook and Youtube free at the point-ofuse. Elsewhere, internet ‘cookies’ help to target specific advertisements to specific users, ensuring less money is wasted on ineffectual campaigns.
Willie Hamilton, chief executive officer of the Company of Master Jewellers (CMJ), saw the impact of data first hand while working in the food industry, and he’s determined to see it used on a wider scale across the CMJ’s membership. At the Group’s buying meeting in February, Hamilton outlined his plans to make data and IT systems more relevant and meaningful to the trade by 2020.
He explains: “Data has been a passion of mine since I joined the industry because in my previous job we relied on on trends, marketing information and who’s shopping and in what way. It is less about specific sales and product but more about what is happening in the marketplace.”
Rawlinson’s comments highlight the important difference between data on a local, national and international level, but that’s not to say all three can’t be utilised by the average UK retailer. For example, if a specific watch brand is trending on an international scale and it only offers designs in a palette of red and black, this could influence buying decisions on a national scale and sales at a local level.
Rawlinson adds: “What we’re looking at to start with is data that tracks what’s happened and how this can be used to suggest what might happen. Big data is very much looking to inform future purchases from current trends rather than past performance.” data all the time. There’s so much data available, but it is important to turn it into something meaningful. I don’t believe anybody has done that even though there are lots of facilities available.”
Rawlinson agrees that data is currently being under-used by the industry, adding: “I recognise that perhaps historically the jewellery industry has not had the data at its fingertips and that other industries have. Now we are working with Bransom and many of the other EPoS system people to look at ways in which we can both structure data, in terms of how it is entered onto systems, and also how to collect data as product is sold and moved through to the consumer.”
EPoS systems like those produced by Pursuit and Bransom, among others, offer reporting facilities, whereby information is conveniently collated at the click of a button. But once data is accessed it needs to be filtered, manipulated and, most importantly, understood — something that can begin to instil a sense of dread in the average retailer.
With this in mind, Hamilton suggests the CMJ could take on this number-crunching role for its members; essentially taking raw data and delivering it back to the retailer with a number of useful insights extracted; either on a retailer-by-retailer basis or across a spectrum of businesses.
He explains: “Within the independent market, which is the real backbone of the industry, I don’t know of anybody who uses hard, meaningful data in their store. Nobody has taught retailers how to use data. Buying in systems to operate tills is great, but when a training session has finished the business owner is probably off serving a customer, or interviewing for a new member of staff, or seeing a rep, so there isn’t that priority.”
Across the jewellery industry data regularly comes from the old-fashioned (and still hugely important) act of asking questions. At buying events and trade shows, industry colleagues ask each other about the brands that are selling well, but can a style hitting it off on Kensington High Street have the same impact in York or Glasgow? This is where data can cut through the uncertainty.
Hamilton continues: “I believe that if you’re a half decent jewellery business you’re going to have to start analysing data sometime soon.”
TAKING THE TECH ROUTE
As previously mentioned, one way to mine for data is to manually compile sales and stock records and input this into an Excel-style spreadsheet. However, this is likely to become a full-time job and completely impractical for an independent business. The logical answer is to invest in suitable computer software that produces reports that conform to user-selected criteria, like the number of items from a certain brand sold, or a certain price category.
According to software experts, a lack of computer dexterity and the time required to master the necessary skills for sorting data can often lead to ‘under utilisation’, meaning retailers have the necessary information but aren’t using it to full effect. To tackle this, Pursuit introduced its analytics management reporting tool last year, which it claims sets the benchmark for speed of access to hard information and streamlined, timesaving convenience.
This type of system removes the need for preliminary data sifting and can present useful insights in simple tabular or pie chart graphic form in seconds. Pursuit managing director Mike Burns comments: “Retail buyers and decision makers know there is a wealth of information buried somewhere in their records but nobody may have the time to produce it. With Pursuit Analytics, it can be generated in seconds.”
LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS
Picture the scene. You’re trying to find out which products have sold best in the past three months. The computer system will do that for you, but a product has been inputted into your stock management system as AW345-2 red. What does this even mean? What is this product and do you have time to seek it out?
Bransom managing director Chris Garland is trying to tackle this issue head on with bsmart-links, which encourages brands and suppliers to share practical product data, including big brands like Pandora and Swarovski.
This can start from a very “low-level”, such as simple product descriptions and reference numbers, up to more sophisticated data such as the brand’s barcode, images and product attributes, like metals used, carat weights, colours and size. In simple terms, bsmart-links streamlines the flow of information to the retail jeweller to eliminate the need to manually update prices, images or the input of new product lines, removing the margin for error and preserving brand integrity.
Garland comments: “We gather or collect that sort of information from brands and suppliers and pass that on. We are currently doing this with a top-end diamond supplier; so he provides all the cuts, clarities, colours and the descriptions of the stones, like how they are cut and the settings. This can help with a retailer’s web information too by providing the detailed descriptions and Google searches information.”
He continues: “Brands might come out with a new range and it includes 50 or 100 items, but a retailer might be dealing with 10 or 15 brands and they’ve got thousands of new items to set up on their computers. Information coming through on invoices or delivery notes isn’t always clear, so having that information automatically put onto their systems means time and effort is taken away, spelling mistakes are taken away, misdescribing things is taken away and accidentally putting the wrong price on things is taken away.”
When it comes to analysing regional, or even national data, this type of consistent and accurate nomenclature is essential for making sense of data — even if retailers use their own language for their own data analysis. It is even more essential in non-branded product , where two retailers might assign completely different descriptions to the exact same diamond bracelet, for example.
Garland adds: “We are working withthe NAG and BJA (British Jewellers’ Association) to try and categorise products more clearly and in a more useful manner. At the moment retailers will set their computer systems up, either ours or somebody else’s to suit themselves, which is great, but their business changes over the years and they will change and tweak how they analyse their business to suit. This is fine, but because they all do it individually there’s no easy way of analysing that centrally.”
At the NAG, Michael Rawlinson is working with Bransom to tackle the same concerns, explaining that the aim isn’t to create a single system that every product will be entered into, but a consistent framework for existing and future product descriptions. Rawlinson hopes to “find a way of encoding data so that it comes together much more simply,” and therefore making data analysis across retailers much more plausible.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE LOOKING FOR?
Okay, so you’ve got your data. What should you be looking out for? In its perfect form, data should provide a factual basis for well-informed buying decisions and tactics that help generate more business, while aiding sales, sell-through and marketing initiatives. Sales performance and stock movement are good places to start, both for individual stores and multiples. For example, if data shows you have 10 rings in a £3,000-£5,000 price bracket sitting in the windows unsold, but a healthy turnover of items in the £1,000-£2,000 bracket over the past 12 months, especially in items with coloured gemstones, this could influence future decisions.
An analysis of sales of particular brands, collections and product categories is another good place to start, as is sales over a defined period — giving you a better sense of the ups-and-downs in an average year. Drilling down, data can help to detect emerging and declining best-sellers in defined price bands, product categories and brands.
The differences between in-store and online sales trends can also help to direct window displays — an item trending overnight online, for example, might warrant window and cabinet prominence in-store for the next week. Pursuit’s Mike Burns comments: “The question is, how well do you really know your business? Whilst jewellery professionals have an instinctive sense of, and gut feeling for, such aspects of their business, to have it generated automatically in accurate detail – and presented as daily, weekly or monthly reviews – obviously elevates knowledge to another level.”
Analysing price points of items purchased by existing customers can help to inform promotions targeted to your most loyal consumers. Putting this into context, do you know how many customers have a typical spend of less than £100, or up to £500, or more than £1,000? This type of information is invaluable for planning seasonal buying as well as carefully targeted marketing strategies.
Burns adds: “Decisions are usually only as good as the information they are based on. Data is the source of actionable information. Spearheaded by the likes of Google and Amazon, this is the ‘Age of Consumer Data’. Winners will be retailers who make full use of data to maintain and increase competitive advantage.”
Bransom’s Chris Garland is also of the opinion that retailers need guidance on how to use the data they have effectively. He remarks: “I conduct masterclass workshops for business owners to come in and see data demonstrations. We go through some of the reporting and analysis options available, like brand performance, category performance, best-sellers and stock holding against sales. “99% of people who come to one of my masterclasses are absolutely astounded about how little they know about their own businesses. People who are buying are not always privy to the systems that are there in front of them to analyse.”
In essence, data allows you to make better decisions and take fewer chances on stock that may not sell.
WHAT IS BEING DONE NOW?
“Our plan is first to talk to software providers and find out what they’ve got, because I’m pretty sure if we went to any of them they would say ‘we can do that’,” muses Hamilton. He also suggests there may be some trepidation among retailers, with many concerned about asking questions and cautious about the inevitable cost of a sophisticated system.
He continues: “What the CMJ wants to do is talk to retailers and talk to suppliers and see if we can move some data into the centre so we can analyse it. This would be a massive advantage of being in the CMJ even if it starts out in a small way, where we say 9ct is selling better than 18ct. [At the moment] the only way that we can analyse the market is by what’s going in, we don’t know what’s sold out.”
Hamilton raises an important point, that hallmarking figures can give a sense of what’s entering the market but give no indication of the items laying dormant in stock rooms or flying off the shelves. Here, he highlights Pandora as a shining example of the power of data because of the way it compiles information and uses it to craft future collections.
If data from a number of different retailers could be analysed on mass to create regional or national insights, could there be any issue with sharing this information to the benefit of competitors? Hamilton doesn’t seem to think so, arguing data would become an anonymous part of a whole that helps all to excel. Insights could also be fed back to specific business peer groups, from fashion jewellery stores to fine jewellery boutiques, giving each sector more specific, focused advice.
Hamilton explains: “I don’t anticipate that we will get 150 retailers signing up [to shared data schemes] tomorrow, but if we get 20 that is 20 sets of data that nobody else has got and nobody else is analysing. If we feed that data back to those 20 businesses and they prosper, this will just promote the benefits of a data pool to others.”
The majority of this feature has discussed the importance of local, regional and national data, but big data offers another facet. Although in-store data is a good place to start, big data is a useful for highlighting upcoming trends that could filter down, like the boom in rose gold.
Chris Garland comments: “Big data is analysing warehouse-type data, so from lots of different sources. For Pandora, we send live data back to their UK centre, to show what’s selling in particular stores, what members of staff are selling the most, what’s the best selling item in a particular hour etcetera. This information is then fed through to its head office in Denmark. This is big data, but just for that specific brand.”
Garland highlights the work of Michael Rawlinson, who is aiming to collect data from a variety of different channels to analyse across the board what’s selling. For example, is gold selling better than platinum or what carat size is working well in engagement rings? He also points to GfK’s watch reports as a great example of big data in action.
ARE THINGS IMPROVING?
“Jewellers by trade are creative and they are not necessarily analytics people,” Garland remarks as we discuss whether the use of data in the jewellery industry is improving. “Some have grown into very astute business people who use our systems to analyse data every day, hour-by-hour. The majority of retail jewellers are not like that and are heavily involved with customers. They believe their time is most profitable and best-spent in front of the counter with the consumer.”
Despite this, retailers are stepping back for afternoons, days or weeks at a time to consider analytics, but the emphasis will need to be on training and systems that provide accessible, readable information. A culture shift may also be needed to encourage buyers to be just as astute at monitoring analytics as the business manager.
What is abundantly clear is that data is here to stay, so will you get on board now, or will your competitors leave you by the wayside?
This feature originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Professional Jeweller. Read more here.