What will Stop the Dip in Retail Sales During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Even fast-food is not selling like it used to in the Pre-COVID days — that’s the kind of challenge we are witnessing in retail sales.
It’s been an extraordinarily daunting year for the retail industry so far. With global consumers switching to online commerce platforms, retailers already had a tight noose around their existence. With COVID-19, things have only become much clearer as to where the future of retail actually lies. With every retailer scrambling to adapt to the daily changes in the pandemic conditions forcing consumers to stick to “shop from home” or the traditional local mom-n-pop outlets, there are fears that can put the entire retail commerce off-balance in the coming months, if we analyze the signs already. Almost every retail business unit is in the ‘red zone’ except for the obvious ones such as those that provide emergency supplies such as medicines / pharma, and groceries. The red zone retailers are on the verge of either shutting down their shops or switch to “sabbatical” for lack of cash reserves and human workforce to manage inventories.
While there have been countless reports and updates on how retailers should adapt to the new norms of retail business, the outcome have been futile so far. Dwindling sales and consumer panic are real issues. The effect is evident on most retail and CPG groups, but the worst affected is the fashion and accessories industry that also includes Luxury Jewelers. Luxury jewellery is one area hit hard with the move to go online, particularly whereby consumers are looking for a ‘speciality’ or ‘milestone’ item.
Delta Global’s CEO, Robert Lockyer, an industry expert and luxury packaging provider to the likes of Beaverbrooks, Tom Ford and Net-a-Porter said that the need for an omnichannel offering is paramount to forging new and longer-lasting relationships with customers.
Robert recommends it’s time for luxury jewellery brands to transform the way they showcase in-store experiences and match mobile experiences with credible technology investments and marketing tactics.
Robert explains, although buying jewellery has traditionally been a physical experience, modern consumer behaviour requires that jewellers strengthen their online sales efforts in line with their in-store activity.
Jewellery purchases are often driven by emotion and feeling, so it’s only natural that many jewellers still place greater emphasis on the physical ‘bricks and mortar’ experience than on their e-commerce provision.
But, with online shopping more accessible and more popular than ever, growing annually from 1.66 billion online shoppers in 2016 to a projected 2.14 billion by 2021, luxury jewellers can no longer afford to ignore online, if they want to stay relevant.
Instead, brands would be well-served by embracing their digital presence’s ability to feed physical stores. And, in the process, they can boost brand awareness and seed repeat custom.
That, of course, calls for a little creativity but there are plenty of recent examples of brands coming up with novel ways of forging an online relationship with potential buyers that pay real-world dividends.
E-commerce to Drive the Self-Gifting Trend and Boost Retail Sales
There has been a surge in women buying their own luxury jewellery recently, as they establish financial independence in ever greater numbers, so this is an audience worth courting online.
Chanel, for one, has taken on the challenge, recently introducing its Coco Crush jewellery design, with an inspirational quilted motif referencing the free-spiritedness of the equestrian world.
The brand produced a short online film connecting the range to the concepts of ‘impulse’ and ‘freedom’ and telling potential buyers they would own an ‘attitude’.
The ring is only available to buy instore, but the brand uses its website as an effective advertising platform to associate its brand with liberation, empowerment and decisiveness in the minds of female consumers.
What’s more, while jewellery like an engagement ring is still seen as a ‘once in a lifetime purchase’, would-be brides are increasingly picking their own rings. And where might they begin their search for inspiration? That’s right, the internet.
Beaverbrooks understand this and have added an ‘inspiration’ section to its website, offering advice on getting engaged and buying diamonds. So detailed is their approach they even offer guidance on ‘how to take the perfect engagement ring selfie’.
It’s about getting into the mindset of the modern, social consumer and understanding the behaviours they now display.
Personalization and Packaging Are Powerful Enablers in Retail Sales
We wear jewellery to make a statement. Whether it denotes our relationship status, reminds us of a special memory or person or simply showcases our individuality, jewellery is always saying something.
So, the more customisation retailers offer, the better they enable individual consumers to say what they want. Personalisation could be applied to the product itself, with inner-band engravings or bespoke settings, or work really well through personalised packaging and customer interaction.
Brands need to provide information online which gives customers the education they need to buy. You can inform your audiences through guided videos or blogs, discussing the color, clarity, cut or carat of a particular diamond, even before they’ve searched through your product range.
Using social media to promote its brand, online jewellery specialists, Missoma, cleverly ensure their packaging and personalization is as shareable as the products they protect.
They have created beautiful boxes that, when opened, reveal a crystalised stone design and contain a postcard telling you Missoma’s brand story and inviting you to share your purchase via the hashtag ‘#MyMissoma’.
It’s about communicating a sense of exclusivity through all your packaging, interactions and services. If your customers think you’ve made a special effort on their behalf, they will return to your brand.
Engage With Influencers and Social Media
Now tagged in over 2.3 million posts on Instagram, the brand has stuck to an influencer marketing strategy that has made it stand out against the #ad saturation on the platform.
The idea was straightforward and rested on the assumption that a multitude of micro-influencers would generate more buzz than one mega influencer.
Daniel Wellington uses shoppable posts tagged by influencers to feed reams of its website content, offering discount codes to be redeemed online and stimulating a mass of shareable social media content.
And it has worked. Simply embracing the online, understanding the kind of media its audiences now connect with and meeting them there has delivered global brand awareness.
The Rise of Non-Jewellery Players and Luxury Groups
As digitization has grown, so has the competition, with brands traditionally not involved in jewellery now trying to muscle in. Fashion giants, for example, are increasingly adding accessories to their collections.
With Prada unveiling a new fine jewellery collection already this year and Net-a-Porter gifting bracelets from designer Suzanne Kalan to its highest spenders at Christmas, it’s crucial that traditional jewellers innovate to stay ahead of the game.
Then, there are hugely influential groups, such as LVMH, who have recently acquired heritage jewellers Tiffany & Co and even purchased the second largest diamond in the world, estimated to be worth $50 million.
Since then, Tiffanys has opened The Blue Box café in London, in addition to up new stores with personalization counters, where customers can have their jewellery engraved with initials, dates, symbols or names while they wait.
Adding this tailored experiential element to the buying process is creating word of mouth marketing at a global scale and means these players are securing new market share.
It all points to the need to provide customers with a journey that is consistent online and off. And, Matt Hayes, managing director of multi-channel brand agency, Champions (UK) plc, explained this very dynamic saying: “In an age where the internet is King, brands must ensure seamless website and app services. At the end of the day, the customers are the real royalty. You need to provide them with an experience that delivers your expertise whenever and to wherever they want it.”
Nowadays, it’s about offering more than just a high-quality, beautiful product. It’s about giving your customers that emotional experience at every opportunity.