REVEALED: How has business been this year for the jewellery industry’s online retail giants?

When it comes to traditional jewellery retail, the majority of businesses trading on today’s high street now have an online presence —whether an e-shop, brand boosting website, and/or social media accounts.

Really, omnichannel is the norm now, and it’s what consumers expect from retail business in the UK.

Like it or lump it, the customer journey involves multiple steps, on multiple platforms, and it’s not just the physical jewellery retailers that have had to adapt to this way of shopping.

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The truth is, most online jewellers are now capitalising on the strengths of physical retail too.
77 Diamonds, for example, opened a second showroom in Manchester this year, with bricks and clicks increasingly working together to bolster business.

Whilst the majority of 77 Diamonds’ sales still come through the website, the showroom plays an important part in the consumer journey.

Elsewhere, Instagram-based jeweller Say It With Diamonds opened its first bricks and mortar store this year, while Serendipity Diamonds relocated, revamped, and expanded its showroom on the Isle of Wight, and Shining Diamonds opened its doors to a boutique in Hatton Garden this spring, with plans to open at least three more in different locations around the UK over the next five years.

Shining Diamonds managing director, Harshit Jain, said at the time of opening that by being online-only, the business was missing the opportunity to serve customers who wanted to view the finer details of complex or bespoke designs in person, alongside shoppers looking for a luxury service whilst buying expensive items.

The 2018 Professional Jeweller Awards Omnichannel Jewellery Retailer of the Year winner, Diamond Heaven, also expanded its physical presence this year — opening a fourth store in the UK, this time in Glasgow to capture the Scottish consumer market.

“Customers spending large amounts of money really want to be able to see and touch what they’re buying, now more than ever,” shares Diamond Heaven head of retail and development, Nicholas Carter. “We are always on the lookout for new locations. We currently have a few in the pipeline, hopefully to be announced early 2019.”

One online giant that has not dipped into physical retail though is The Diamond Store, and the chief executive officer, Gary Ingram, informs us that this is how business is likely to stay.

He tells Professional Jeweller: “At the moment we can cover the whole of the UK and Europe with our online presence. One shop in a single location doesn’t really improve our reach or even make a dent in accessibility for our existing customers.”

2018 has been a ‘year of change’ for the online giant, and it seems those changes have paid off with sales figures for The Diamond Store showing substantial growth in the last six months, compared to the same period last year.

At the moment we can cover the whole of the UK and Europe with our online presence. One shop in a single location doesn’t really improve our reach or even make a dent in accessibility for our existing customers.”

The chief executive officer explains: “It’s been a year of huge changes. We’ve redesigned our entire website with some major changes to our systems. Part of this was making everything GDPR compliant. We’re currently rolling out Hubspot to integrate all aspects of our business so our customers can benefit from a high level of attention and service wherever they are. We’re now selling on Facebook and Instagram, continuing to perfect our Google Shopping and Amazon channels, and our online magazine site provides online chat and follow up for customers in the research stage of their purchase journey.”

2018 has also been great for online jeweller Taylor & Hart, which rebranded from Rare Pink last year.

So far this year Taylor & Hart has doubled the size of its sales team and stayed on target to achieve over 100% year-on-year revenue growth.
International sales have been a big part of this, with 31% of revenue coming from outside of the UK, and 26% from the US alone. The retailer also attributes this year’s success to adapting to consumer trends and offering a strong bespoke service.

Chief executive officer, Nikolay Piriankov, shares: “It’s been important to adapt to consumer trends. We’ve seen a significant increase in demand for gemstone engagement rings so we’ve invested time to develop a strong supply of gems that has allowed us to make some spectacular custom pieces. There has also been a clear ‘Royal Wedding effect’ with trilogy’s being a lot more popular following Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry.”

He continues: “It’s not just customer tastes that we’ve had to adjust to but also their wallets. Compared to last year we’re seeing 10% less customers pay using finance options, choosing instead to buy outright. This seems to support the current consensus that UK consumers are becoming a little more cautious about how they spend their money. Regardless, we continue to see more and more customers choosing to personalise their engagement ring in some way (now over 60%).”

This year, innovation at Taylor & Hart has been focused on bridging the gap between consumers researching online, and being comfortable enough to shop on the jeweller’s e-store. This process has involved improving the customer experience and testing out artificial intelligence.
The chief executive officer explains: “There is quite a big gap between the number of visitors we have coming to our website and the number of sales at the end of the funnel. We don’t think this is unique to our business alone, we think it’s a chronic issue for online jewellery retailers, especially at the higher price points.

Compared to last year we’re seeing 10% less customers pay using finance options, choosing instead to buy outright.”

“The reason for this is because many people are only researching online. A much smaller number of people consider being comfortable making that final purchasing decision with an online company. Most of our innovation is focusing on bridging the gap between those early researchers and us. We try to help them see the value in purchasing from a company like ours. Not only from a price perspective but also from a comfort perspective. It’s a more enjoyable experience if you are able to do almost the entire process from the comfort of your home.

The classical jewellery shopping requires several trips to a jeweller and for modern, busy millennials this is quite an inconvenience. So, it’s all about improving this online experience to make it as close to that authentic jewellery shopping experience from the past while taking in mind the time sensitive, busy demographic group.

“Recently we’ve been testing out the IMB Watson artificial intelligence engine to try and make diamond recommendations to our customers, so they don’t need to be experts. We want to use the Watson AI to improve that filtering experience by understanding what the customer needs.”

For Diamond Heaven business has been strong, despite 2018 being quite a challenging year.

Notably, the business has been finding, due to the current economic climate, customers are taking longer to proceed with purchases to ensure they spend their money wisely.

A strength in Diamond Heaven’s business is that the customer experience remains consistent online and in-store — something which builds consumer trust during more difficult times.

“We’re quite lucky that our web office is directly above our Birmingham store,” shares Carter. “This has meant a close working relationship between both and it helps us translate the experience in store. This has carried on while opening our other stores as each team will speak on a daily basis.

“Should something not be communicated correctly we pick this up as quick as we can and implement the changes. Nothing is perfect and we can always make both our online and in store experience better.”

Looking ahead, the industry’s online giants believe jewellers need to be more accessible both online, in store and ever increasingly on social media.

As consumers get more demanding, and other retail power players provide them with what they need at the click of the button, jewellery retailers need to ensure all the channels they are present on are quick, friendly, easy to use, and efficient.

The Diamond Store chief executive explains: “To do true omnichannel retail is not easy. You can have multiple sale and marketing channels, but unless they work seamlessly together, you can’t really call them ‘omni’. Omni-channel retail means giving customers a harmonious shopping experience, whether on Instagram, by telephone, through a smartphone app or in a physical store. For example, Starbucks does this really well with their loyalty app. A customer can add credit via their smartphone while standing in a queue, and the updates happen in real time before they reach the cashier to pay for their coffee.

“If we look at our industry, jewellery is not necessarily a product people buy every day. So it’s often tricky for retailers to know when and where a customer is going to make a purchase. That’s why being ‘omni present’ is so important. In the next five years, I think we’ll see more and more retailers putting themselves in front of customers at multiple (real and virtual) locations. Plus integrating their services and systems to get those sales, wherever they happen.”

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