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Digital Corner: Why Smart Jewelry Isn’t Transforming the Jewelry Industry (And What Is)

Millennials want fine jewelry on their terms.

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WHEN THE APPLE WATCH was unveiled, any retail jeweler selling watches took notice. Did this mean something or nothing?

However, it was easy to overlook how this new frontier would affect the rest of their jewelry business. Smart jewelry is here and its presence is growing.

Smart Jewelry Is Here to Stay

Smartwatches are just one type of wearable technology in an ever-expanding category. As technology continues to become smaller and more ubiquitous, jewelry will continually be seen as a platform for tech.

Companies like Ringly and Oura are already making smart jewelry. Ringly’s rings and bracelets can let you know when notifications come to your phone and track your activity throughout the day. This is helpful, but it might not be a game changer.

The true breakthrough for wearable technology could be in measuring our vital signs. The Apple watch has already broken ground with this. If we get to a point where doctors are recommending wearable technology as a matter of health, the market for varieties and styles could explode. Women, especially, would be looking for the sleekest and least intrusive way to adopt the new technology. Jewelry is a great answer.

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What Smart Jewelry Can’t Do

Smart jewelry still isn’t practical for fashion and longevity — two things fine jewelry excels at. Every year, technology improves and people are encouraged to get the latest version. Also, people rarely have multiples of any one type of tech device. It’s typically unnecessary. In fashion, however, it important to have options.

For that reason, smart jewelry probably won’t ever replace fine jewelry. But it most certainly will live alongside it. It’s also more likely that the design of fine jewelry will influence the design of smart jewelry, rather than the other way around. Wearable technology, after all, is simply trying to insert tech into the types of things we already wear.

What Is Transforming the Jewelry Industry Now

Just because smart jewelry isn’t replacing fine jewelry any time soon doesn’t mean that things aren’t shaken up. While Blue Nile, lab-grown diamonds, and Amazon have all changed the landscape, they are all old news at this point. The fresher faces are companies like Mejuri, which just raised $23 million in a series B round of funding.

Mejuri is:

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  • Direct to consumer
  • Inexpensive
  • Popular on social media
  • In tune with the millennial zeitgeist

All the things that traditional retailers are not. And Mejuri still has most of the other pros that fine jewelry has over new tech like smart jewelry. The success of Mejuri proves that millennials aren’t “uninterested” in fine jewelry. They simply want it on their terms.

How to Compete

Of the advantages that companies like Mejuri have, the most important one is their understanding of their customer. This is the bedrock of their brand and certainly at the core of important business decisions that they make.

However, that type of knowledge and understanding isn’t reserved for tech startups and media darlings. It’s at the heart of good business. It drives differentiation and adaptation. Social media, brand positioning, and inventory decisions are all tools that retail jewelers can use today and can base on their knowledge of their customers. Retail jewelers who understand this are having success despite changes in the jewelry industry’s landscape.

Charles Pobee-Mensah is the director of digital marketing for Fruchtman Marketing. Contact suits@fruchtman.com.

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Gene the Jeweler

It Was Hawaii Day at Gene the Jeweler’s Store … Or Was It?

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s satirical Gene the Jeweler series, Gene learns that it was Hawaii Day at his store. At least that’s what his employee, Jeremy, says. But Jeremy’s answers aren’t quite adding up. It’s hard to say what this “Hawaii Day” was really all about.

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Commentary: The Business

To Stand Out From the Crowd, Build a Real Marketing Plan

A scattershot approach won’t work.

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WHO CARES ABOUT fine wine and nice cars? We should all be drinking two-buck-Chuck and driving a practical car, right? It would be cheaper, and cloth seats are the new leather. And while we’re at it, forget about the Jimmy Choo stilettos. You can match a sensible pair of shoes from Payless with that skirt … think of the money you’ll save. So, why don’t we? Because you would never bring two-buck-Chuck to a dinner party. Nice cars are reliable and fun to drive. And Jimmy Choo stilettos … come on. What do all these things have in common? Image, reliability and brand recognition.

It wasn’t that long ago that people were adamant about being different, building their brand and separating themselves from everyone else. But now a dark shadow of complacency has settled upon us, fueled by cheap services. Most of this comes from the fast growth of digital media and the slew of small companies that have popped up offering services from social media to paid search and email marketing. With most jewelers still not fully understanding this “new media,” it all comes down to cost.

There are a couple of reasons for this; first is a lack of buy-in. Many retailers don’t really believe in social or digital media. They just know everyone else seems to be getting involved, so they probably should, too. As a result, they seek out resources who will do the work cheaply and with minimal marketing dollars behind those efforts. That’s also the No. 1 reason their efforts fail. The second reason is believing these services are all the same. They’re not. Posting on Facebook or managing paid search in and of itself is not marketing. Without a sound strategy with objectives, you could actually be doing more harm than good. You don’t really think you get that for a couple hundred dollars a month, do you?

It’s sad but true: you get what you pay for. Most of the time, it’s templates, spitball marketing, below average results and a lot of time on the hamster wheel. What does that say about your store and your brand? When we all get over the cheap services, cheap websites, cheap everything, we’ll realize that there is something about being different, building the brand and separating ourselves from everyone else. That’s the day we’ll look back on the Age of the Cookie Cutters, open a bottle of Chateau Margaux and say, “Let’s build a marketing plan.”

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How Independent Jewelers Can Build a Strong Brand in a High-Tech World

Here are five ways to build a powerful brand while utilizing the latest tech in visual merchandising.

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RESPONDING TO THE pressures and opportunities of technology is a challenge for any jewelry retailer. Here are insights for using brand and visual merchandising to get the high tech and traditional balance right.

1. Start with the brand experience. How we shop and communicate is changing, but human nature remains the same. Traditional branding and visual merchandising still work in jewelry retailing. The latest tech trend can be just a distraction if you haven’t got the basics right.

2. Understand your story and your shopper’s journey before thinking about technology. Appeal to the senses, delighting shoppers through texture, color, lighting, sound, even scent. Focus on creating a mood and setting a scene to make an emotional connection with impact, with or without technology.

3. Use new props and displays to freshen up your shopping experience. Innovation is at work in areas like signage, props, forms, and fixtures. Here are a few low tech ideas with modern appeal:

  • Sparkling 3-foot-wide lips bring fashion, fun and smiles to a store.
  • Floating stone shapes hanging like clouds juxtapose lightness with weight to showcase jewelry with drama.
  • Multi-handed sprays of arms present bracelets, watches and rings in a way that is far beyond the staid vitrine.

4. Remember that physical retail will never go away. Online retailers are turning to physical stores because online-only is relationship- and experience-limiting. Retailers from Amazon to James Allen are opening actual retail doors.

JamesAllen.com, an online diamond retailer, recently opened a store in Washington, DC. It is a physical manifestation of the online brand. Intimidating aspects of the traditional jewelry store are gone. Here is a welcoming, comfortable environment that invites exploration. Video images of jewelry greet shoppers as they engage with 3-D CAM/CAD design, virtual inventory and visualization tools. They can touch, feel and try on cubic zirconia ring models free of locked cases. The store is a test bed for virtual reality, consumer co-creation, shopping gamification, and product customization.

In-store technology goes beyond experience. By capturing shopper behavioral data, we can understand how customers interact and adjust stores accordingly.

5. Make sure your store stands out in a blurred, borderless retail landscape. The customer experience isn’t confined to a specific channel. A clear brand delivered with continuity across the physical, online, mobile and virtual is what wins. Don’t ask “what technology?” Begin with the brand, the customer journey and the experience. Regardless of technology, jewelry retailers that deliver continuity, clarity and relevance across channels will have an indelible and profitable impact.

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Shane Decker

What Not To Do During the First 30 Seconds of Any Sale

Huddling at the back is a big no-no.

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HAVE YOU EVER walked into what appeared to be a nice store, only to spin and leave faster than you came in? Or, have you ever walked into a nice place of business and watched two salespeople look at each other, then you, then each other again, like they’re seeing which one of them is going to wait on you?

You’re not alone — we’ve all had this experience, and jewelry stores are no exception. At too many stores, you’re not greeted at all, and sometimes, you can’t even find anyone to take care of your needs. This is one reason the Internet is doing so well.

People today are time-starved, and they will decide within the first 30 seconds of entering your store whether or not they’re going to give you their money.

Let’s begin with the first five seconds: every customer must be greeted — ideally, from the “sweet spot” in your store (15 feet inside your door to the customer’s right as they walk in). When you’re a client and you’re acknowledged, you feel important. It’s a relief subconsciously to realize that the sales associates know you’re there.

Never allow your sales floor to be vacant when clients come in. Many say they are just looking, but that’s an opportunity for you to use your first close by saying, “I always do that before I buy; let’s get started!” or “I’m glad you came in to take care of that today.”

“I’m just looking” means “I’m just spending.” It means “I’m on a mission, and when I find what I’m looking for, I’m gonna buy it.” It does not mean, “Leave me alone.” Like I said before, we are a time-starved nation, and nobody is just looking.

Do not come from the back of the store to the front; you should be there already. When you come from the back, your mind is focused on the busy work you were doing or the donut you were eating.

Never greet a customer from a group huddle. It’s good to laugh in your store, but if you’re all laughing about something when the client walks in, they may think you’re laughing at them.

Do not use canned openings like “Hi how are you?” or “What can I help you with?” Clients don’t need “help”; they want professional assistance to make a purchase or information about a service needed. Likewise, don’t say, “Good morning, welcome to Smith Jewelers.” That gets old, fast. What if they come in three or four times a year and hear you say the same thing? Keep your greetings creative and make sure they’re welcoming. Your greeting should be professional and make your client feel glad they came into your place of business.

Be present for the start of the sale, and keep it professional. Starting strong allows you to make it to the end (and hopefully close the sale). By doing so, you’ll keep your client from wanting to go to the Internet — after all, we do want to talk to real people, especially when it comes to jewelry.

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