The jewellery industry is continuously evolving and one of the biggest components of its evolution in the last decade is online, writes Ellie Clark, marketing manager at jeweller Joshua James.

It has been identified by industry experts worldwide that there has been a strong emergence of online-only players in the jewellery market; and that the consumer focus on exclusively physical stores is dwindling.

Therefore one of the best competitive moves that a company can make in 2020 is to concentrate on building and maintaining a strong online retail platform.


At Joshua James, we have been investing in and honing our online offering for years now, and we found early on that this was the key to success, with our past web developments having us featured on the Hot 100 list.

Therefore we have always considered online at the forefront of our planning as a business. During that time, we have seen many businesses fail because of their heavy reliance on their in-store offering.

The businesses typically followed the common misconception that because jewellery is an inherently personal experience, consumers will always want to browse and learn more about the products in store. However, this belief has been shifting over the past few years, with more consumers opting to browse online for three key reasons:

  1. Consumers can look for the cheapest deal and options such as promotional codes and sign-up discounts that may not be available in store
  2. Consumers can read reviews about the products and find valuable information they would not have discovered in store – e.g. the quality of the jewellery is perceived to have a more authentic review through unaffiliated public opinions vs a sales assistant
  3. Consumers can enjoy the ease of online shopping but still experience a consistent level of customer service and support through functions such as live chats

The prevalence of online shopping on jewellery store websites has been accelerated during the pandemic because consumers were physically unable to visit stores, and therefore had to quickly get to grips with the online platforms of their preferred brands.

Everything we want to introduce to the Joshua James brand, whether that be a new partnership or offering for our customers, we first think about how it’ll work as both an in-store and online experience, therefore we did not need to adjust our strategic mindset in March.

We already recognised that jewellery customers by nature are investing high sums in our products, and for this they would expect a personal and thoughtful service regardless of the method that they choose to shop with us.

Yet, the personal touch is something that retailers can often lose when shifting to an online focus for the first time; producing websites that facilitate a poor user experience and a lack of brand consistency.

One specific category, where the importance of the buying experience increases significantly is high involvement purchases such as wedding and engagement rings; which is why we have spent time creating a beautiful in-store experience, with a luxurious seating & bar area for our wedding customers to enjoy.

The seating area allows the customers to take their time in browsing rings, and utilise our expertise for any questions they may have. Although we cannot replicate the experience of the seating area online, we can make the online buying process sleek and as simple as possible.

Over the past year, we have spent time developing a brand new online platform, allowing our customers to create a ring uniquely tailored to suit them, in a step-by-step process. To ensure our online customers have access to the same expertise that they would have had in-store whilst building their ring, we have introduced an extensive online chat system, providing our customers with the knowledge they require.

Additionally, it allows them to book an online or in-store consultation for any further advice. We spent time on creating and improving this feature because we believe that it is a strategic must to ensure that your customers can enjoy their shopping experience with you online, to remain competitive in the jewellery landscape.

When looking to the future, we believe that online shopping will still be the preferred option for our customers, especially entering the final few months of the year as we see a spike in gift purchasing.

Brands will need to be prepared for a busy end to the year through their online platforms rather than their physical stores, as many consumers are reluctant or worried to visit the high streets. The key moves for brands should be:

  1. Developing their sites to accommodate any unique selling points, such as personalisation or loyalty schemes
  2. Ensuring their systems and teams can handle spikes in traffic and customer service queries

These developments will help to prepare the business for the shift in the source of their demand, and remain agile as the industry continues its evolution.

Joshua James is an independent, award-winning jewellery store based in Hessle, East Yorkshire, its flagship store opened in 2009 by Shaun Bell, who named the business after his son.