There is a lot of data surrounding millennial consumers and how they are shopping so much differently to the generation before them.
In some ways for Generation Y their expectations are a lot higher. Due to the power of social media and their favourite device – the mobile phone – millennial consumers are well-informed and often will do a vast amount of research on a brand and/or product before even setting foot in a store.
On the other hand though, their aspirations have shifted. Life is harder for the millennial shopper — there are more students going to university, then jobs available in the fields they are studying in, house prices have rocketed, and they are getting married and starting a family a lot later in life.
The economy has had a major impact on their realities, yet they are still a generation of dreamers who often know what they want.
While many try to put Generation Y in a box in a bid to analyse them and find out how to secure their pound, we decided to get in touch with millennials from the industry to find out what people from this age category, who also have knowledge of the trade, really think about luxury.
‘You can’t put a price on luxury’
Like the generations who have gone before them, for the millennial consumer a luxury item is something they could live without, but they don’t want to.
Luxury is something they desire to have — whether that be a product, an experience, or something that provides them with both.
“To me, luxury is something that is a treat rather than a necessity,” explains National Association of Jewellers social media and e-communications assistant, Maddy Richards, with Kings Hill Jewellery general manager, Max Newlan, adding: “Luxury to me means something that goes beyond what is the bare essential and gives even the mundane a sense of occasion.”
When it comes to millennials, luxury does not have a price. Instead, the focus is on an item in its own right and whether it is something they aspire to buy.
Aspiration lies in the quality of an item, and often the experience surrounding it. For the tech-savvy consumer to make a luxury purchase, they want to buy something they believe is worth its price — whether it’s a £50 sterling silver pair of earrings, or a £2,000 diamond cocktail ring.
“I’d struggle to assign a specific price range to luxury because it is fully dependent on what is luxury to you,” shares Forevermark marketing assistant, Ben Umbers. “There are absolute values, such as quality of craftsmanship, artistry and aesthetic pleasure that create a luxurious product. There are also qualities such as comfort, friendliness and attentiveness that make an experience luxurious.”
“Luxury is for me the pursuit of the absolute. It’s not a necessity, but a desire. True luxury is a product or experience that is beautiful and rare. Something where time, artistry, great attention to detail, and care have been put in,” Umbers adds.
When asked, ‘what price range do you describe to be luxury’, responses varied from as low as £25 to a starting point of £1,000. But the most common answer was to state that luxury cannot be defined by price.
“To me, luxury is quality. It’s about the craftsmanship, the materials, the design. Yes, brand name and price come into it, but it’s about the way the product makes you feel,” explains Facets PR account director of fashion brands, Becky Guth.
Guth’s colleague, Facets PR digital communications manager, Rose Swingler, adds: “Luxury, to me is about something having a high-perceived value. This may come from a brand name but for jewellery I think it comes from the story behind the piece, that is what I am more likely buy into.”
She continues: “There are a lot of businesses which would describe themselves as luxury but I don’t think it is something you can call yourself and hope it sticks, it has to be conveyed in everything you do as it is, essentially, about how you make people feel.”
Millennials don’t just want the product themselves to make them feel special, they want the brand and story behind it to inspire them, and the experience of buying it — from research to final purchase — to be as memorable as the piece itself.
“When going to buy a piece of jewellery, I am not looking first at a price tag – I am looking for unique designs, a store to remember, a warm greeting and some degree of rarity around the purchase,” shares Lucy Quartermaine customer account manager, Victoria Louise.
“Luxury purchases aren’t essentials so they’re bought to bring joy to the customer,” elaborates Daisy London head of wholesale, Caitlin Mulford. She continues: “It’s important that the whole experience embodies this. It’s often the experience rather than the product itself that determines our perception of what luxury is.”
‘Creating an experience to remember’
Focused on quality, value and the theatre of shopping, millennials seek more than just a smile at the till no matter what piece of jewellery they are buying. So when it comes to making a luxury purchase, what do they expect?
Primarily, they just want to feel welcome. Millennial consumers want to be treated like other generations shopping luxury, and they want to feel relaxed and comfortable walking around a store.
“A luxury store is somewhere you could quite happily spend hours in perusing the collections and feeling comfortable touching and trying pieces on,” shares Clogau PR and marketing coordinator, Beth Jones. “I think it’s really important to have that balance of high-end, luxury but ensuring the customer is comfortable to stay and find a piece they love.”
“You should never be made to feel uncomfortable and if I did — it’s not the right store for me,” expresses Victoria Louise. “If an in-store experience isn’t a positive one, then I wouldn’t feel happy with my purchase.
She continues: “When going to buy a piece of jewellery, I have usually researched for a while about the brand, the designer and even the material options online. I will also have saved up money for this purchase and would like to be made to feel special and be encouraged to spend time trying different things on. It’s so important to be able to relax into the experience so you feel comfortable and confident in your choices.”
A positive experience for millennials heavily relies on a knowledgeable team, especially, as Victoria Louise mentioned, the majority of shoppers in this age group will do an extensive amount of research online before even entering your store.
In light of this, for some of your millennial consumers they would have already been won over before you meet them. The next step then is to keep them engaged and interested, not by being pushy or patronising, but by understanding their needs — which is for your staff to be helpful, encouraging, and above all, able to answer consumer questions efficiently.
While they may already have the answers to some of their questions, they will feel more confident if you can reassure them as a personal connection is still important to this generation.
“We are quick and knowledgable in our purchases, because we have the entire world at our fingertips in the form of tablets and smartphones,” explains Becky Guth from Facets PR.
“I want to shop in a place that understands what I want and offers advice, but doesn’t try to veer me off course. I hate pushy assistants, but I like confidence in a product.”
Maddy Richards from the NAJ adds: “If I do go to a luxury store, I have already made my mind up on a product, due to my online research and preconception of the brand. I would only feel uncomfortable if the atmosphere was unwelcoming, however it wouldn’t put me off my purchase as my mind is made up. However it would be unlikely for me to return to somewhere where I have had a bad experience.”
Knowledge is king when it comes to millennial consumers. Learning more about a product or a brand than they previously knew excites them and makes them feel special.
As does sharing stories — whether that’s the story of a gemstone, or your store, or the brand. Millennials connect more, when they know more.
When it comes to buying luxury items, for the vast majority of millennials they will work hard and save hard for a piece they truly aspire to own.
However with many female millennials being trend driven, they are also willing to buy something beyond the essential, but at a lower price, on a monthly basis in order to keep their jewellery as updated as their wardrobe.
Wongs Jewellers staff member, Jordan Frackleton, shares: “I love silver fashion jewellery and tend to customise my outfits. I am therefore happy to purchase lower priced items such as this on a monthly basis. However, for my staple diamond jewellery, I save up, and would rather wait as long as it takes to get what I want.”
“I like to invest in a few key pieces each season. These pieces are usually lower price point affordable luxury pieces, studs and small necklaces that help accentuate what I’m wearing that season,” echoes Mulford from fashion brand Daisy London.
She adds: “Sometimes an expensive piece will win my heart and I’ll put most other buying plans on hold and save up for that. I usually tie
these purchases in with big life events, I like my jewellery to remind me of key moments.”
With less disposable income, this generation has a lot of businesses fighting for its pound, from music concerts, to holidays, to sparkling diamonds.
Therefore, saving up for a piece of jewellery is big deal for millennials. They don’t make decisions lightly, and if they’ve departed with a lot of cash for something from your brand or store, they will be spreading the word in their friendship groups and social media.
For this reason, it’s extremely important to treat this age group with respect when they walk into store. Even if they don’t spend anything on the first visit, they could spot something they will spend the next few months saving to buy (after a thorough research session online of course).
“I typically buy pieces which I am really drawn to less frequently,” shares Rose Swingler from Facets, with Beth Jones from Clogau adding: “I will always lean towards a higher priced item of jewellery therefore I don’t purchase jewellery very often! So I will see something, dream about it for a while, save up, then treat myself.”
For some in this age group, their luxury purchases will include engagement rings, wedding bands and other pieces of bridal jewellery, while for others they will be beginning to compile a collection of their very own pieces to eventually become family heirlooms.
When asked what jewellery items do millennials find accessible, the answers were, as expected, mix. Brands mentioned included Monica Vinader, Sif Jakobs and Tiffany & Co’s non-diamond pieces. For many, the new concept of ‘bridge jewellery’ is the perfect term to describe what millennials see as accessible luxury. Others described high-end, diamond-adorned pieces as accessible, but highlighted the need to save for these items. Others, however, did not speak of the ‘d’ word at all.
Ben Umbers from Forevermark comments: “The idea of luxury seems to differ between generations; many of my friends find that diamond jewellery isn’t accessible or relevant. I believe there can be vast improvements to how diamonds are perceived and how you purchase them.”
To conclude, millennials may not be spending money on luxury items every week, but they are loyal, and when they have money to spend they will not head anywhere and everywhere to do it.
They are also more likely to spend money on items that will last than retailers possibly realise. But whether they are spending now, or not, it won’t be long until this consumer group are looking to get married, start a family, and find a loyal jewellers to call their own, so its important to invest in them now.