A new year, and a new decade, is a perfect time to stop and reflect, take stock and consider new options. The 2019 economy closed with record stock market highs and low unemployment. Yet substantial numbers of retail jewelry stores shuttered their doors during the year. What’s the disconnect? What’s the true state of industry? And how does this relate to you?
Traditional brick and mortar retailers across all industries are being assaulted by the growth of online shopping, which increasingly makes shopping easy, fast and effective. No longer a novelty, shopping online is becoming more and more the “go to” way to shop, from food (“Uber Eats”) and staples (drug store items, office supplies) to the latest fashions or even cars. Who can compete with Amazon, where you can instantly research any item you want, find the best price (or the recommended brand from Amazon), order with the click of a button and have it very often arrive the next morning at your door with free shipping? It’s habit forming.
Traditional retailers that cannot adapt and compete are closing. Stores should now assume that customers have done preliminary research for major purchases online. Often at Trunk Shows, clients will ask if they can take pictures of pieces they’re interested in (I always say yes!) and text the picture to family members or friends for their instant feedback. (I tell them to take a picture of themselves wearing the piece). Customers will also “comparison shop” in real time on their phones while browsing in stores for similar items or better prices in other competing stores. Shopping is becoming a “blended” experience of online and direct physical in-store, combining the best of both worlds.
It’s a brave new world, and we’re all a part of it. And the pace of change accelerates each year. The first iPhone came out a little more than a decade ago. Today there are 4 billion users of cell phones world-wide. And it’s suggested that within 5 years the physical cell phone will become obsolete. We will have direct access to information in the form of projected holographs or augmented reality technology without the need for carrying around a physical device. Access to unlimited information will be ubiquitous.
To compete in the 2020s, we have to keep on top of the latest technology and incorporate it into our business. Just because virtually unlimited information is available instantaneously, it doesn’t mean customers don’t want to visit retail stores and experience products directly. In fact the importance of having a meaningful experience, especially for Millennial and Gen Z customers, is paramount, more important than the product itself.
After all, Amazon itself has acquired the brick and mortar retail chain Whole Foods and is poised to acquire other brick and mortars. Shopping brick and mortar or online is not an either/or choice. Shoppers will choose a blended experience that is easiest, most efficient, and most rewarding.
Jewelry retailers with physical stores have many advantages. Customers want to try on and experience jewelry directly, to see how it feels, and how it looks on them. It’s not a commodity, like books or electronics, that’s standardized, the same everywhere. Jewelry is also highly personal and lends itself to being romanced with a story, presented by a real person, leading to a meaningful experience. Many jewelry customers are repeat, coming back to knowledgeable salespersons to guide them to additional purchases. Stores may have loyal customers spanning generations because of the trust gained throughout years. This is not an experience that can be duplicated by clicking on a website.
Immediate access to virtually unlimited information is here to stay, and is being incorporated more and more into the daily lives of customers. To be successful in the new decade, keep alert to the new ways customers are shopping and how you can incorporate these new options with the most unique and meaningful experiences only your store can provide.