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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.

The James Allen retail store knocks down threshold barriers and invites exploration. PHOTO PROVIDED BY JAMES ALLEN.

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.

Photos provided by windowfrance.com

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Photos provided by windowfrance.com

Photos provided by windowfrance.com

Photos provided by windowfrance.com

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.

View from back to front of store-communal cases. PHOTO PROVIDED BY JAMES ALLEN

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

Photo provided by James Allen.

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.

Pam Levine, president of Levine Luxury Branding, is an expert at harnessing the senses and the emotionally complex — often silent — drivers of purchase decisions in stores and online. Contact her at Pam@levineluxurybranding.com

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Gene the Jeweler

Gene the Jeweler Gets Kicked Out of the Studio

In the latest episode (#42) of Gene the Jeweler, Gene is going about his business, recording a new episode. But that doesn’t last long. Four-time NFL Pro Bowl leading rusher Ahman Green walks in, and Gene finds that his time in the studio is over — whether he likes it or not. (See more Gene the Jeweler episodes at instoremag.com/gene.)

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Columns

How Jewelers Can Defy Amazon with the “Best Buy” Strategy

This is one that jewelers should pay attention to.

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AMAZON HAS RETAILERS everywhere scared.” That’s the first line in a recent YouTube video by CNBC. In it, they talk about the fall of retail giants like Circuit City and Toys R Us. Five years ago, if someone had said that Best Buy was closing its doors because of online competition from Amazon, no one would have been shocked. But today, CNBC presents a different story for Best Buy. And this is one that jewelers should pay attention to.

Best Buy Did What Amazon Couldn’t

It’s hard to imagine anything that Amazon can’t do. But Amazon doesn’t have physical stores and in-person expertise. This is what Best Buy leveraged in order to prosper in the age of Amazon. According to CNBC, Best Buy was able to turn things around by focusing on in-store service, stocking key products, and leveraging their network of stores.

The Jewelry Store Advantage

Like Best Buy, jewelers have advantages over Amazon. Here are just a few.

Physical location – Jewelers have beautiful physical spaces that are pleasant to visit.

Luxury brand – While Amazon can sell an engagement ring, people usually think of it as a place to get cheap stuff fast. Jewelers, however, are seen as upscale.

Better customer service – This is better in several ways:

  • In-store service – Your sales staff can provide a buying experience that Amazon can’t match.
  • Real people on calls and email – Calling or emailing Amazon for help is very different than calling or emailing a local jeweler who will talk to you like a human, not a robot.
  • Personalized suggestions – Most suggestions we get from Amazon are done by a computer. Very different from a jeweler who takes the time to get to know your story and find the perfect piece for you.
  • Community involvement – Every local jeweler is seen as a part of their community, and many are active in organizations and charities. That’s a relationship worth reciprocating.
  • In-Store Events – As much fun as “Prime Day” is, it doesn’t hold a candle to a ladies night or a trunk show. We see jewelers with a strong focus on events flourish.

The “Best Buy” Strategy for Jewelers

Best Buy’s strategy wasn’t to do anything terribly new or innovative. It was to better focus their energy on things they had already been doing. Things that made them different from Amazon that people appreciated.

Jewelers can replicate this success in much the same way. The digital phenomenon has left a physical experience void in the lives of shoppers. Best Buy has proven that retailers can use that to their advantage without reinventing the wheel. And as we saw above, jewelers are well suited to do just that.

The Jewelry Store’s Online Advantage

Customers today are still going to see you online first. This is the one major point that’s different from the pre-internet days. But this is actually not a weakness. It’s an extension of your advantage.

Local jewelers won’t compete with the Amazons of the world with sophisticated tech and fancy ecommerce options. Instead, use the internet as a megaphone for your brick and mortar appeal. A “call now” button on a jeweler’s website carries more weight than on Amazon. Online ads for jewelers can proudly encourage people to stop in and experience their expert level service.

Customers are looking online for a reason to choose you, and everything that happens from clicking on an ad to calling the number on the site can be used to highlight the experience that jewelry stores offer. An experience that has become far too uncommon in today’s age.

So, the next time you hear that “Amazon has retailers everywhere scared,” remember that Best Buy has successfully defied that phrase, and you can, too.

Want to work with an agency that knows how to promote the advantages of jewelers like nobody else? Contact suits@fruchtman.com.

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Columns

NASA to Explore Asteroid Containing Precious Metals Worth $10,000 Quadrillion

Its resources include gold, platinum, iron and nickel.

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NASA IS GEARING UP for a 2022 mission to “Psyche 16,” an asteroid containing enough precious metal to make everyone on Earth a billionaire. Located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, Psyche 16’s natural resources, which include gold, platinum, iron and nickel, are estimated to be worth $10,000 quadrillion. Written out, that number is $10,000 followed by 15 zeros.

Before you start wondering what you might do with your billion-dollar bounty, consider the fact that NASA’s mission to Psyche 16 is strictly scientific. The space agency has no immediate plans to do any mining and the asteroid is way too large to tow back to Earth.

The traditional earth-bound mining community is wondering out loud what would happen to commodity prices if a huge influx of space gold and platinum suddenly hit the market?

It’s also hard to imagine how $10,000 quadrillion in new wealth would merge into a world economy that’s estimated to be worth a mere $75.5 trillion.

The space agency and its university partners are excited to explore Psyche 16 because it appears to be stripped to its core — a core made of solid metal. Scientists wonder whether Psyche could be the exposed core of an early planet, perhaps the size of Mars, that lost its rocky outer layers due to violent collisions that occurred while the solar system was forming.

Measuring about 140 miles (226 km) in diameter, Psyche 16 is named after the nymph Psyche, who, according to Roman mythology, married Cupid but was put to death by Venus. At Cupid’s request, Jupiter — the king of the Gods — made Psyche immortal. The unique metal asteroid was discovered in 1852 by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis.

The space agency is set to launch the Psyche spacecraft in 2022 from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. It will arrive at the asteroid in 2026.

While NASA is not looking to capitalize on the precious metal bounty that Psyche 16 could yield, two space mining companies — Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources — are both looking at smaller, nearby asteroids that could be rich in precious metals.

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Commentary: The Business

Building Something Cool Means Having No Regrets, Says Stephen Webster

The designer pulled out all the stops to stand out with his Beverly Hills boutique.

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PRIOR TO PENNING this column, I looked back at some of the columns written by previous winners of the INSTORE Small Cool and Big Cool jewelry stores in America. Each is a story of passion, dedication and determination (or blood, sweat and tears) to build and maintain stores that never stop compelling and engaging with their clients and communities.

As we all know, building a successful or indeed a “cool” store, no matter what the size, has never been about doing just one thing well. It may start with great product, but that is only the beginning. As jewelers, we have to build trust, offer not only outstanding service but develop almost telepathic relationships with clients, create unique and welcoming environments, and as if that weren’t enough, a brick-and-mortar store owner also has to be as tech-savvy as a 14 year-old, able to navigate the plethora of digital platforms and social channels, apparently without which no one any longer crosses your threshold.

Podcast: Hear Secrets of Cool From the Only Full-Time Employee of America’s Coolest Small Jewelry Store
America's Coolest 2019 Entries

Podcast: Hear Secrets of Cool From the Only Full-Time Employee of America’s Coolest Small Jewelry Store

Podcast: A Flash of Cash and Other Meditations on the Value of Jewelry
Over the Counter

Podcast: A Flash of Cash and Other Meditations on the Value of Jewelry

Podcast: Craig Husar Discusses His Career, and His Spectacular New Store, on ‘The Barb Wire’
The Barb Wire

Podcast: Craig Husar Discusses His Career, and His Spectacular New Store, on ‘The Barb Wire’

Despite all the above, we love it and continue to strive to be the best and the coolest.

My home is not America; I have, though, traveled across the pond on average every month for the past 25 years, growing not only millions of air miles but also my brand through an incredible network of independent and larger groups of retail jewelers across the USA, witnessing firsthand what it takes to stand out as a store.

When it finally became time to open my own boutique, I wasn’t attached to any one community, so I did what most domestic brands do and blindfolded, stuck a pin in a map of North America, at least I think that’s what other brands do, I might be wrong. My pin landed as far away from my home as it’s possible to get, the “City of Angels”: LA, right bang on the set of Pretty Woman, opposite the Beverly Wiltshire hotel on Rodeo Drive.

I believe there were 25-plus jewelers already on that famous drive, and unlike them, this was my first Rodeo. To stand a chance, the Stephen Webster store had to be different. Our jewelry was already different, so we wanted the environment to look as though the product belonged there.

I’m proud to say that if it was anything, it was different. The etched concrete floor, the crocodile skin (effect) leather covered showcases, graffiti artwork and neons by famous street artists, and up the sweeping staircase on the second floor, the now-legendary NoRegrets lounge, where we showcased everything that makes up the extended world of Webster: chefs, sculptures, conventional and graffiti artists, photographers, a milliner, too many DJs and even a classical trumpet player. The NoRegrets lounge has earned its title.

Just like every neighborhood store, we earned every one of our clients. Due to the nature of local employment, we never knew who was going to walk through the door, and even though our policy is that everyone gets treated the same, I’m sure one can imagine that some of those Hollywood types do demand that extra mile and a half. Living exactly 6,000 miles away, we like to think we give it. It would be fun to know if any other store owners have such a ridiculous commute; I hope not, for their sakes.

Having our flagship store recognized as “cool” by peers from an industry I love and feel very much part of in a country I really should call home has been such an honor. You have no idea how cool it feels for my team in the US and also back in London, where to say we were voted the coolest big jewelry store in America is massive.

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