In the next installment of the Rapaport Diamond Tech Podcast, the discussion moved downstream to cover the latest trends and transformation in jewelry sales and marketing, with episode four, The Reinvention of Retail.
The episode was hosted by Sonia Soltani, editor-in-chief at Rapaport, joined by special guests Andy Brabec, director of marketing and e-commerce at Borsheims, Elle Hill, CEO of Hill & Co consulting, and Paul Schneider of Twist Online, the popular online and offline retailer of designer jewelry brands.
What followed was a fascinating conversation exposing the very latest in digital tech as experienced by these leading professionals in the world of jewelry retail, including an exploration of how COVID-19 has affected the jewelry consumer and the marketplace. The episode was rounded off with an interview with Jade Lee of Chow Tai Fook, hosted by Rapaport reporter Leah Meirovitch.
The recap of the key highlights of the episode:
Unifying the physical and digital experience
The discussion kicked off with the question of how technology is transforming the jewelry shopping experience, and what kind of impact the global pandemic had on the trend towards digital.
Elle Hill got right down to business, explaining that the move to digital was accelerated by the pandemic by about two years! Although the trend was already well underway, COVID drastically sped up the process, and this served to highlight further the main challenge of creating an omnichannel experience: how to integrate physical and digital retail systems in one seamless operation. In other words, how can retailers get all their vital management systems to “talk” to one another? According to Hill, the idea of getting retail systems in sync, such as inventory management, ERP, and POS systems, may seem daunting, but it is not brain surgery. It is a matter of deciding what are the best practices working for retailers in their physical stores and then assessing what steps need to be taken to mirror those in the digital world. It won’t happen overnight or with a snap of the fingers, but rather with a solid gap assessment based on where you stand today and where you want to be in the future, and how consumers want to communicate with you, physically and digitally. Then retailers can create a milestone map of how to get there, step by step, according to budget.
For Andy Brabec of Borsheims, 2020 launched an auspicious occasion for the company, with the brand’s 150-year anniversary. Then the pandemic hit, and the focus shifted. According to Brabec, the company was already on the path to full omnichannel before 2020. During the pandemic, the company found itself well-positioned to pivot quickly to digital channels, such as live chat and email, which were already in use. These channels was ramped up during lockdowns and store closures and the company even added new channels to help support digital communications with clients, such as SMS.
For Twist Online, the pandemic turned an already successful online business into an even more powerful channel. In fact, the company saw its website become the top seller of the business, overtaking its two brick-and-mortar stores. So, the question became, how to adapt the strategy during COVID when it was already largely digital, in order to succeed even more?
“Pre-shopping”: It’s what consumers do
During the podcast discussion, the panel raised the concept of “pre-shopping”, all the online activity that customers do before they enter the actual purchase process. Whether it’s browsing products online, or even checking the store website during a visit to the brick-and-mortar shop to find more information, the pre-shopping stage is ripe for opportunities to connect with customers and enrich the retail experience.
As Elle Hill so succinctly put it, today, retail doesn’t have walls or ceilings. Consumers are browsing and buying everywhere, in their living rooms, on the bus, at work, in bed, even while soaking in the bath! Retailers must look for ways to meet customers where they are.
Trust: A key ingredient
Any retailer knows that gaining the customer’s trust is essential to success in a competitive market. But how exactly can jewelry retailers build trust when they have minimal or even no face-to-face contact with customers?
Andy Brabec of Borsheims says that building trust is all about making customers feel comfortable. How? With lots of reviews and testimonials on the website and other digital marketing channels, communicating directly with customers on live chat, phone calls, texting, and emailing with sales reps, and of course the all-important post-purchase phase to follow up with customers and make them feel they are attended to. In addition, Brabec attributes consumer trust to the company’s 90-day return policy, which powerfully helps communicate the story that Borsheim’s truly stands behind its products.
Twist Online’s Paul Schneider added his own “twist”, pointing out that trust comes not just from a consistent brand voice, but from creating one that is personal to the company. It’s important not to be just another flat, soulless feed, but to inject “humanness” to the brand. Consumers want to know who you are and what you believe, even if they don’t agree with it. So, let them know!
The future of omnichannel?
The discussion ended with a quick look at the future of omnichannel and what the acceleration of digital will mean for jewelry retailers going forward. Elle Hill sums it up by concluding that there is really no separation anymore between how a retailer behaves online and offline – the customer moves freely back and forth between both worlds, and retailers must make sure to show up everywhere for customers and listen to them, so they can be equipped to provide the personalized service that 47% of customers today say they want.
The reinvention of retail means there is no separation between “church and state”: there will be a continued and unstoppable integration between the physical and virtual, between marketing and sales, and jewelry retailers must be prepared.
The podcast concludes with Jade Lee of Chow Tai Fook, the Hong Kong-based jewelry retail group, who gives his take on what customers are looking for to enhance their shopping experience and how technology helps Chow Tai Fook provide it to their clientele throughout Asia.
All that and much more in the important conversation around The Reinvention of Retail, and stay tuned for our recap of the fifth of the Rapaport Diamond Tech podcast series, "The Impact of Technology", featuring case studies of tech success stories in the jewelry industry.