The pandemic has seen a fundamental shift in consumer spending patterns and how people shop. Jewellery is one of the retail sectors that has had to adapt to these changes, and the pace and scale of change can be tough. But every challenge is an opportunity, and adopting an online model for jewellery sales could bring lasting benefits to specialist retailers.
Increase in online demand for jewellery
Despite lockdown’s devastating impact on physical retailers, jewellery has weathered this well.
One well-known watch retailer has seen a big growth in online sales, with sales doubling in 2020. This was at a time when all non-essential shops were closed under the rules of the national lockdown.
Similarly, online men’s retailer Matches Fashion has reported an increase in customer demand for jewellery during the pandemic. What’s more, the biggest leap in sales took place during the first six weeks of lockdown.
This was in sharp contrast with the rest of UK retail, which dropped by more than 18% in the same period.
There are various theories for why this increase in online jewellery sales has occurred.
One is that people make a decision based on a form of rational indulgence. They know jewellery is a luxury purchase, but it's also an investment. In uncertain times, it is something that preserves its value. You're buying an heirloom that's built to last.
Another explanation, related to men's jewellery, is that the seclusion of lockdown has given men more of a licence to experiment with their appearance. Men who have not accessorised with jewellery previously now feel more free to do so.
And like many trends and changes during lockdown, this was something the pandemic accelerated rather than started. The founder of the UK Tateossian jewellery brand has observed that the interest in men’s jewellery has been growing for around two years.
Jewellery enables buyers to combine experimentation with investment pieces. Consequently, they’re also buying something they can wear far beyond the current fashion season.
However, an important question needs to be asked: will the end of restriction mean a shift back to physical retail? Not necessarily. British Retail Consortium (BRC data) reveals a disappointing recovery for high street retail sales.
Changes in shopping habits may be here to stay. Many sectors that previously focused mainly on physical stores will need to build their online presence.
But if it’s now vital for jewellery brands to embrace ecommerce, what must they consider when designing and building an online store?
Position your brand correctly
You need to identify and understand your target market. We’ve mentioned things like watches and men’s jewellery, but there will be other niche audiences for jewellery products.
Your jewellery brand needs to connect with your target audience and attract them. The overall look of your ecommerce site should follow this principle.
This applies to your site content, imagery and marketing. If you’re selling luxury items, for example, your site design should reflect this. If your jewellery is contemporary, then the overall design of the site must reinforce this. The same applies if you're selling classic or vintage designs, or quirky, artisan pieces.
Refine the online shopping experience
There are aspects of the physical shopping experience that online retailers can’t replicate easily. There's a real sense of theatre in the experience of walking into a jewellery store to select a piece.
As an online jewellery retailer, you can’t easily match this, but you can ensure that your store displays its items to the best possible effect and creates its own unique shopping experience.
Photography is critical here. Make sure you capture the pieces you sell to their best effect. And consider the aspirational nature of your items, in terms of models and settings.
However, even selling jewellery, the whole online process also depends on your site's responsiveness and functionality.
Your prospective customers are looking for specialist, luxury items but they’ll soon look elsewhere if your website’s pages are slow to load, or difficult to navigate through.
How to satisfy and reassure your customers
When people buy luxury items online, they need reassurance that their payments will be secure and that delivery will be timely and efficient.
They must have confidence in the whole checkout process.
Make sure this process is crystal clear if you want to minimise the chance of shopping cart abandonment. Abandonment rates in fashion retail are high. If you give any reason for customers to question whether they're making the right choice, they may well bail out early.
Also, consider your returns policy and make it clear. When people buy luxury goods, they want to know they can return them if they decide they don't want them after all.
Creating the right shopping experience for buying jewellery online requires a focus on marketing, but also the mechanics of your site. Start with a platform that will give you the freedom to create a unique store and the functionality to support it.
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