When Signet Jewelers, owner of H Samuel and Ernest Jones in the UK, introduced its Live Advice service in Q2 last year it would not have been unreasonable to assume that the addition would not outlast the pandemic given its focus: recreating the in-store experience online.

More than 12 months later, however, and the company insists that both Live Advice and the Go Instore service are here to stay, along with the shift in customers buying habits.

Elizabeth Galton, marketing director at Signet, sat down with Professional Jeweller to explain why.

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What is Signet’s Live Advice service?
Signet Live Advice is a live video service that empowers our store staff to connect to online customers and guide them through their buying journey as they look to make considered purchasing decisions from home.

Through the service, our local jewellery consultants can recreate the personalised, luxury experiences that customers associate with the Signet brand portfolio.

The Live Advice service works by using a one-way HD video feed, so that customers can see high-quality footage of our items and ask questions in real-time, before making a purchase.

Why is now the perfect time for this feature?
The pandemic forced customers online, but this was just an acceleration of a trend we have been seeing for many years. In fact, 44.3% of internet users reporting shopping online in 2014, this grew to 77% in 2020.

The incorporation of the Live Advice service into our digital strategy means we can accommodate the customers who prefer to shop online, as well as the shoppers who are comfortable returning to stores.

The live advice service allows us to bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds and continue to deliver a high-quality experience to customers across all sales channels.

Is this something you see remaining popular post-pandemic?
Absolutely. The service has been well received by our customers and online sales increased by 80.6% year-on-year.

Even since customers started returning to the stores, the service is just as popular.

Now that physical stores have reopened, we expect to see many customers using our Live Advice service as a research tool where they can ask questions about products before coming into stores and completing their purchases. This will reduce the time spent in-stores to ensure safe social distancing.

Our Live Advice service has played a fundamental role in building relationships with customers and empowering them to feel comfortable and confident in making considered purchases online.

It has allowed us to expand our digital offering and increase our conversion rates across our brand catalogue.

Our customers’ purchasing journey can be one filled with emotion, whether it is a birthday present, an anniversary gift, or a life milestone; each purchase has a story behind it.

The live video solution adds a human element to the otherwise impersonal experience and allows the customer to express the stories and emotions behind each purchase to ensure they are making the right choice.

Do you think as online shopping experiences like this become more immersive that they will become more popular than the in-store experience, even in a luxury sector like jewellery?
This is only the start of the digital age of retail as we are now seeing increasing integration of technologies such as live video, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and live streaming across the globe.

The in-store experience will become more immersive, in line with the online space and customer expectations, and result in a deeper integration of these technologies in stores.

As we start to return to some form of normality, we will see more retailers making strides in the digital space.

In the luxury market, it’s important to remember that consumers are making considered purchases, so ensuring that shoppers are receiving the same expert support as they would in-store is crucial to maintaining strong customer relationships.

Through live video, customers can utilise both channels. They start their shopping journey online, with support from store experts, before choosing whether to complete the purchase online or in-store.

Go Instore has forever changed the way our employees work, with associates helping customers make meaningful jewellery purchases both in-store and online.

Are there any other online features you are working on for Signet?
As part of our Inspiring Brilliance transformation plan, we have integrated a virtual appointments service into our sites to allow customers to book one-to-one appointments at a time that suits them.

We have also implemented a live-video streaming service to reach more customers across the world, as well as live chat capabilities.

We have totally transformed our digital channels to ensure that customers feel comfortable making considered purchases online.

Our focus for this year and beyond is to improve the customer experience across every channel and create a truly omnichannel business through digital transformation.

Digital transformation has allowed us to build a stronger relationship between the digital and retail teams by finding a common cause for them to rally behind.

We want every interaction our customers to have with us be a positive one, whether they are shopping in-store, online, via live video or even social media.

What is Signet doing to enhance the in-store experience now that shops are open once more?
Now that shops have reopened both in the US and UK, we are making sure that every customer feels comfortable shopping with us, with the help of our expert consultants.

We have updated our social distancing measures so that each customer has enough space to explore and enjoy our products, as well as cleaning our products regularly to allow customers to try pieces on.

We want to inspire love, something that our products encapsulate, so allowing our customers to browse safely with the people they love is very important to us.

Signet showed that the proof is in the pudding last week, revealing Q1 financial figures which show that e-commerce more than propped up the business during the latest lockdown. Read more below:

Signet reports strong online sales for Q1 ‘reinforcing company’s financial strength’