Millennials. Focused on quality, value and the theatre of shopping, they seek more than just a smile at the till. So what can the UK’s jewellers do to capture the attention and spend of this ever-more present set of customers? Retail experts and industry insiders share their top tips with Kathryn Bishop.

Earlier this summer the Diamond Producers of America (DPA) announced a fresh campaign and slogan in ‘Rare is Real’. The aim? To capture the imagination of 18 to 34-year-olds, aka millennials — today’s discerning and influential jewellery customers.

But why, with diamonds universally recognised as precious and rare, was there a need create this new marketing campaign? The answer lies in the shifting attitude, spend and desire for individuality the millennial generation is heralding. No more is it about generic diamond product purchased at bland, over-branded jewellery shops. Millennials are more considered with what they buy, seeking stories, experiences and meaning – especially from jewellery – and Rare is Real seeks to capture this, linking the creation of memories and the feeling of a real, personal connection with another, with the giving of a diamond.


The DPA’s interim marketing manager, Michael Pace, says: “Millennials face a challenge that is unique to their generation. Paradoxically, today’s hyper-connected world leaves them floating in a vast sea of superficial contacts and fleeting moments and with a hunger for connections that are real and meaningful. When these rare moments come along, a diamond is a perfect way to celebrate them as a symbol of what is precious, real and genuine.”

Creating Value

Efforts to capture millennials more locally involves creating experiences that while ‘real’ are also sharable. In stores, we have seen Liberty in London create a pop-up piercing bar with cult US brand Venus by Maria Tash — an initiative that was so successful a permanent space has been added to the store. At Topshop, shoppers can have their fashion purchases embroidered with personal messages while they wait, while jeweller Irene Neuwirth has added a kitchen to her New York store to encourage shoppers to have a cup of tea, chat and relax, rather than feel rushed to make a purchase. The overarching theme is friendliness, service and a personal touch.

“Depending on the product they’re purchasing, millennials are either focused on convenience or on an experience; they are less interested in owning stuff and more interested in having an experience that they can tell their friends about or share on social media,” states Petah Marian, senior editor of retail intelligence at WGSN. “For retailers this either means making the path to purchase very easy, or doing something that will make the customer feel very special. This can be through an engaging and vibrant in-store environment that lends itself to Instagram, or through service and packaging.”

Retail concept boutique.Goldsmiths launched five years ago, purposely catering to a younger demographic of jewellery shopper, utilising social media, its website and its mall and high-street stores to inspire purchasing.
While it offers widely-available brands such as Olivia Burton, Swarovski, Thomas Sabo and Michael Kors, boutique.Goldsmiths’ recently-revamped stores, casual staff uniforms, and playful blog add to the experience of shopping somewhere contemporary, with little by way of pretension.

The retailer has also invested in a 360 digital strategy, looking at its social channels and website to investigate ways of working with influencers, with the aim of informing, educating and inspiring young shoppers.

“Focusing on influencers and online faces ensures we tap into the millennial market — a core customer for us,” explains boutique.Goldsmiths executive director Craig Bolton. “In-store events with named DJs, plus influencer appearances are definitely important — plus it demonstrates the modern approach to our customer.”

Focusing on individuality in place of big-name brands, London’s Wolf & Badger promotes independent designers online and at its two stores, among them Astrid & Miyu, Starrs London and Tessa Metcalfe. Like the DPA seeks to make the experience of buying a diamond more meaningful for millennials, Wolf & Badger creative director Henry Graham feels that shoppers’ ‘offline’ experiences are highly valuable.

“Millennials crave experiences that are not digital and cannot be recreated online. If you can find a hook to drive traffic to your store, which gives people a reason to visit beyond your core offer, you will win many more customers,” states Graham.

Graham also feels jewellery retailers should stock only those collections that uphold their store’s personality, with collections that are as distinctive and representative of your own retail brand as possible. “Millennial consumers are individualists and more interested in having their own style than previous generations who were influenced by generic ad campaigns and not by a variety of social media,” he notes. “Customisable, bespoke and charm jewellery is proving so popular because of this shift in consumer behaviour.”

Shaking up Stores

Indeed, store design is also important, and creating a space that not only inspires the shopper – see Dover Street Market for a much-cited example – but also encourages social sharing and interactivity.

This could be through an in-store photo booth that links straight to social media or seasonal store events that are promoted widely on social platforms to drum up anticipation and attendees.

Placing hashtags and your store’s social media handles prominently on countertops or as vinyl decals on mirrors will encourage shoppers to take selfies when trying jewellery on (something sales staff can also encourage). And don’t forget collaborations with local bloggers, fashion stores or local events — perfect for transforming your windows with magical and eye-catching displays.

At its most basic? Give millennials a little more added value with exclusive products and birthday discount codes. In store, little treats such as perfume samples or sweets in their carrier bag will leave a lasting positive impression once the customer is home and admiring their new purchase.

Change your Language

At their core, jewellery purchases are educational. Sales staff imbue their conversation with phrases, information and facts designed to both inform and woo customers. Yet the tried-and-tested methods of selling are becoming transparent and old fashion to millennials, who can easily access a world of jewellery information, prices and reviews thanks to the internet. Many of them will have done research before they land on your site or walk into your store, so use the opportunity to be open and friendly when selling, but also clear and informative.

Unity Marketing’s Pam Danzinger, the author of Marketing Jewelry to Millennials: How to Sell Luxury Jewelry to the Next Generation of Affluents, notes that as millennials are fixated by meaning and experience, that in turn becomes more valuable than the literal price of a product. Nevertheless, millennials need to understand why the metal and stones in their hand translate into the price tag attached.
“There are three objections we have heard in research with millennials,” Danziger states. “These include the suggestion that the jewellery business is a ‘racket’ – too high priced, too little value; that the value of fine jewellery must be discernible – today the fakes are as good as the real thing; and the difficulty in determining quality in jewellery, diamonds, and metals.”

Her advice? Jewellery retailers need to take a closer look at the messages they are imparting to younger shoppers, and in particular the language and nomenclature they use to talk about precious metals and stones.

Interestingly, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is already responding to this changing customer base, and has launched a number of free modules for sales staff – including its training module Using GIA Retailer Tools – alongside apps and Facebook pages dedicated to the ‘Four Cs’. “Many customers today go online to learn about gemstones and jewellery prior to visiting a retailer, hence the need for these types of tools,” explains Tali Nay, manager of GIA’s Retailer Support Program. “This module takes into consideration online educational platforms – such as GIA’s 4Cs Facebook tab, 4Cs app and 4Cs interactive tools – that would appeal to millennial customers. These interactive online resources help retailers reach potential millennial customers with the most accurate and up-to-date information directly from GIA prior to entering their store.”

And with wider social movements in mind, the NAJ’s JET courses are poised to introduce training modules focused on Fairtrade precious metals to encourage, educate and inspire jewellery staff and ensure they are confident when talking about Fairtrade options with customers. Timely, and potentially hugely important to the millennial age group, many of whom have grown up with Fairtrade products.

Here are six top tips from retail and marketing experts:

  1. “There are lots of small things that retailers can do that will engage this demographic – like offering to clean their jewellery when they’re instore, hosting events or turning engagement ring buying into a full experience – with champagne and sitting down to educate the buyer on the product they’re purchasing.” – Petah Marian, senior editor of retail intelligence, WGSN
  1. “Jewellers should encourage their customers to give a diamonds as a gift to celebrate any important moment that brings them closer to their partner on their shared journey. It’s about opening up the range of gifting occasions and allowing millennials to imbue diamonds with their own personal meaning rather than being prescriptive.” – Michael Page, the DPA
  1. “The digital approach is key; it is an essential area that all millennials now focus on – they shop, browse and live on their phones. You must invest in this to ensure customers are able to access your brand no matter where they are.” – Craig Bolton, boutique.Goldsmiths
  1. “The Four Cs fail to deliver value messages to millennials.Instead, create a new way to talk to young people about jewellery and its quality. Brilliance, and the fire and sparkle of the stone, will inspire the consumer, inspire sales staff and inspire design staff. A customer can see ‘brilliance’ but the Four Cs?Not so much.” – Pam Danzinger, Unity Marketing
  1. “Communicate the authenticity of a diamond throughout the purchase experience.This means avoiding crowded cabinets, predictable images of couples proposing and discounted sales tactics in favour of creating a much more personalised experience. One that presents each diamond as uniquely special, helps the buyer to create their own meaningful story around it and builds on its rarity and natural beauty.” – Michael Page, the DPA
  1. “Think about making your designs wearable or usable for regular occasions or events. Millennial consumers are looking for items that they can use and enjoy rather than saving up for investment pieces that they may only wear rarely,” – Henry Graham, Wolf & Badger

This feature first appeared in the September issue of Professional Jeweller. Read it here.

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