GUEST COLUMN: What’s a digital inventory and how can it transform jewellery retail businesses?

Words by Cadfolio founder and the author of The Digital Jeweller, Ryan Edkins

At this year’s International Jewellery London I launched my book ‘The Digital Jeweller’, which describes a four step method to building a thriving jewellery retail business in the digital economy.

The launch was a great success, with over 1,000 copies taken on the very first day of the show. It was clear that there is a huge interest in what jewellers must do to modernise their business and to ensure its longevity in years to come.

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I believe jewellers of all sizes are having a tough time trying to grasp the digital revolution that is upon us, and as a result are struggling to understand why their business is not what it once was.

Websites seem to be the biggest stumbling block for jewellery retailers.

Many jewellers have spent thousands of pounds with digital design agencies, only to result in very limited sales online, if any at all. This poor experience with the online world has given many jewellers conflicting thoughts. Firstly, everywhere they look, the advice is telling them that selling online is the secret to their future success, but in action, their attempt at selling online has mostly been a failure.

So why are so many jewellers struggling with their website?
Simply put, the jewellery industry is not like others, in that the products we sell are usually custom made to the customer’s specification of metal and diamond quality. This means that 99% of all website platforms that exist are not suitable for jewellers wishing to sell fine jewellery online. They are designed for fixed priced products, with a few small variables. If you are a jeweller that only sells branded jewellery, at lower price points and fixed prices, then these platforms will suffice. But if you intend to sell bridal jewellery and other fine pieces online, then committing to a fixed price website platform will result in a bottomless pit of expense, trying to hack the fixed priced platform to cater for customised product.

If this sounds like an experience you have had, or are attempting right now, then I urge you to put an end to that and stop wasting your money.

No matter how much money you spend trying to change a fixed price platform, it will never suffice, and will only end in wasted time and money.

To succeed online with customised product, it is important to choose a platform that can cater for custom-made product, and that is industry specific. Digital products are the secret to selling fine jewellery online, a product which is created using the latest 3D modelling CAD software, and that is fully dynamic with fluid pricing.

So what is a digital product?
Unlike products that you stock, that have a physical presence in your store, digital products do not physically exist, and therefore have no tangible value on your balance sheet. Instead, digital products are manufactured only when an order is placed, giving the customer full control over the specification of their purchase.

By offering products which are digitally created using CAD design, and allowing those products to then be priced and visualised in different metals and stone colours, you are then able to cater for the consumer demand for customisation and selection of unique products without the expense of having to stock every variable

The consumer fully expects to wait a couple of weeks to get something custom made just for them, and is used to waiting when purchasing rings which are not usually stocked in their size anyhow. In the same time it takes to resize a ring and for the customer to return, a custom-made product can be made exact to the customer’s specification and finger size. Digital products are usually complemented by silver and CZ examples which are held in store, to allow the consumer to try on the ring design when visiting your boutique. An iPad or computer is all that is required to then price and customise the digital product in front of your customer, confident that your staff are meeting your margin with every variable shown.

If you have the budget, you could even stock live diamond set examples, swapping out any large stones with CZ, to help reduce the cost of the stock sitting in your window. The method can be embraced in many different ways to help transform the way that you sell fine jewellery, by offering more choice, with less stock.

It is time for jewellery retailers to embrace a digital inventory
We are now in a world where your website must now become your new digital shop window. Consumers will now do all the required research on products they wish to buy and from where, before even setting foot into your store. This is a fact.

A consumer’s buying decision usually starts with a Google search, followed by a look at multiple companies and the different products they have available, ending with a price comparison. That’s not to say that price is the number one factor, a fair price combined with a local presence, an offline location, and good selection of products is usually the deciding factor.

It’s is more important than ever to embrace a digital inventory of products, and make your website the centre of your business through which all transactions result from, whether online or offline. This is the true essence of what I call a digital jeweller.

By increasing the number of products and variables you offer, and allowing visitors to your website to browse, customise and visit you offline if required, you will be well set-up to navigate the ongoing revolution that is upon us.

There has never been a better time to become a digital jeweller, and I urge you to secure your online presence filled with digital product as soon as you can. Only then will you see the results you have been seeking.

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