GUEST COLUMN: Marketing jewellery to millenials as a 50+-year-old CEO

Words by Gary Ingram, chief executive officer, The Diamond Store

Marketing to millennials is confusing. A headline in the Guardian in March 2017 proclaimed, Marrying millennials are giving the finger to diamond rings. Through the year, many big publications like The Economist, Huffington Post and Forbes echoed this message. Then last month the Financial Times published a special Watches & Jewellery report article titled, Millennials are buying diamonds, it turns out.

Every article and report you read on millenials seems to tell a different story and with this much conflicting data, it’s understandable that jewellery retailers in their fifties, like me, feel perplexed. Who are these millennials? What do they want? How do we give it to them?

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Here at TheDiamondStore.co.uk, millennials are not our biggest customer segment right now. Nor are they the biggest spenders. They are, however, our future customers, and coming right behind them are their younger siblings, Generation Z. So we know that we need to get a handle on them, fast.

Here’s the crux: Millennials are constantly challenging us. They are tireless.

In our experience, millennial customers are exactly as the media portrays them. They prefer experiences over possessions. They are constantly hungry for new, exciting web and social content.

As for products, our millennials do not want the small, high value items their parents would have chosen. Millennials still demand high quality jewellery, but they want to spend less money per item, and crave bigger and sparklier pieces because that is the trend right now. We are now getting the younger customers who spend £3,000 on a weekend in New York to propose in a helicopter, capture it with their £1,000 iPhoneX, and buy a £350 engagement ring.

Surely, you say, these millennials want to have their cake and eat it? How can jewellery retailers keep up with all of this?

That is one way of looking at it, of course. The other viewpoint is that here is a great opportunity – a huge, growing market segment, eager to interact with those jewellery brands that really take the time to understand their priorities and offer them what they want. It is a huge ask. Because to be successful at it, we need to embrace constant change, innovate new products that offer great quality at lower price points, and come up with constant, fresh content that is highly relevant to our customers.

So how do we make more sense out of  millennial marketing?

Just in the last four years, our marketing department has grown to include a full time social media person and a full time content writer. Personally, I dedicate around 70% of my own time as CEO to marketing-related aspects of the business. Social media is vital for us, not only because of the brand messages it allows us to put out there, but because of the incoming data and analytics tools. We trial marketing programs, we review the results, we set benchmarks, we build a picture of behaviour and trends. ‘Test it’ is our millennial marketing mantra.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve personally learnt is this: There is no universal millennial marketing solution, because this is a constantly changing market, and every brand is different. But millennials do offer us one thing that previous generations of shoppers didn’t: they are open to having a one-to-one conversation with brands. In shops, online, on Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, live chat and more. It’s up to us to strike up the conversation.

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