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What’s Next in Retail? Here Are Lessons Learned at This Year’s National Retail Federation’s “Big Show’

Read some insights of particular note to those of us in the jewelry business.




CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND customer relationship building were two intertwined themes of the NRF 2020: Retail’s Big Show & Expo in New York. While the “Big Show” attracts all kinds of store types, I attended with a jewelry retailer’s perspective.

The concepts of customer experience and customer relationship are closely tied because while the experience differentiates your store, opens and maintains relationships, it’s the actual relationship that translates into repeat business, referrals and fosters loyalty.

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So, what do customer experience and customer relationships mean for jewelry retailers in a practical sense? Here are some insights of particular note to those of us in the jewelry business.

Tell a story.

Think of your store as a stage for telling a story instead of a place for laying out rows of product.

Consider some real standouts in the industry. The story that Love Adorned tells in its romantic, hip lifestyle environments is dramatically different than the biker chic interiors of Nightrider stores and the bright open layout at Tallisman Collection Fine Jewelers. Each of these retailers offers a unique experience to shoppers.


Story ideas can come from anywhere. Think about your local community in terms of culture, geography, history, and events. Seasonal or monthly themes are an easy way to keep the experience you deliver new, changing and relevant. Think, too about the product. You might select different gems to feature, for example consider an emerald event that would include color and fashion, show coordinating styles, stone lore, details about sourcing, origin, setting ideas, and more.

Keep an eye out for what is going on with other kinds of retailers outside the jewelry industry. A new trend dubbed “experience-first retail” is exemplified by CAMP, The Family Experience Store, which has transformed the toy store into a daylong interactive journey of discovery, learning and fun activities.

Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of CAMP was interviewed during a daylong discussion series titled “The Human Factor” which explored how retail, technology and consumers intersect now and how this intersection may evolve in the future. His main points were:

  • Make sure what you do brings value to your customers
  • Invest in hiring and training in performance management
  • Be around people and let them be themselves, learn from shoppers and staff
  • Think of visual merchandising as immersive, seamlessly integrated into the retail space
  • Retailers must be more courageous, adapt more risky retail models

Another non-jewelry retailer that is innovating with an “experience-first” approach is Rituals. This store has heightened the idea of skincare retailing by offering an entire well-being experience. Skincare products are supported in an in-store experience that includes makeup and fragrance, home ambience, and a carefully edited clothing and accessories collection. “We are not here to sell you beauty, we are here to make you feel good,” says Marjolein Westerbeek, President of Rituals USA.

Beyond the store, Rituals connects with customers via downloadable relaxation, yoga, and meditation apps and makes shopping on and off-line, simple and easy. It all works together to tell the story of pampering, respectfully infused into the shopping experience itself. Marjolein attributes Rituals’ success to investing in the store entrance, customer and staff relationships and customer relationship management (CRM). She goes on to say: “Our CRM allows us to know our customer better, know what they are buying, get our offerings right and give the customer a sense of being seen.” Upon entering the store each customer is offered a cup of tea to help them step away from the hustle and bustle of the day.

The important take-away from all of this is that the store becomes your stage. The product becomes the actors. Your staff are directors and ushers, helping the customer engage in experiencing the story on their way to buying and forming a lasting relationship, anytime, anywhere, whether in or out of the store.


Offer consistency across channels.

Your customer expects your brand to be consistent wherever they encounter it. Your organization might have separate people and agencies managing the store, advertising, the web site and social media, but to the customer, they are all different ways to experience the same brand.

Make sure everything ties together in terms of visual design from graphics to typography, messaging, tone and manner. The story needs to thread through every place where your customer interacts with your brand. If you’ve done a great job telling a story in your store, but your website is just a bland catalog of product, you’ve missed the opportunity.

Be multi-touch and multi-channel.

You cannot create a relationship with a one-and-done approach to connecting to customers. You have to bring your story to them multiple times through multiple channels. Getting a message across or inviting customers to a special event, might mean sending a physical postcard supported by an email as you connect through paid social media. You may interact with customers in person, at the same time using your online channel to help them shop the store. At each step of the way, collect data to help you come to better know and engage with the customer over time. To do that, you need a customer relationship management (CRM) system that connects store personnel to the database and that links to your website, email, social and other channels.

A word about technology.


Retail is going high-tech and many retail leaders are bombarded by technology of all kinds all the time. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and worry that you might be falling behind or missing something. Consider technology carefully. It is just a tool, not a strategy in itself. Spend your time on the basics of good stories, told consistently across channels, doing whatever you can to stay in touch. Technology can play a great role, but if technology doesn’t fit into your strategies in these areas, it can become just a costly distraction.

Many speakers across all days of the show discussed customer experience and customer relationship from four technology perspectives:

1) Business strategy
• Customer acquisition and retention
• Data capture
• Customer relationship and engagement
• Delivery and Fulfillment
• Service platforms

2) Customer point of view
• Frictionless
• Easy
• Convenient
• Personalized
• Highly Experiential

3) Operations
• Data empowered location, assortment, pricing, promotion, inventory and workforce management
• Omnichannel

4) Financial planning and reporting
• new KPI’s (key performance indicators)
• New revenue models (services, vendors recurrent)
• New financial models

The NRF providers that are most interesting for jewelry retailers were:

Founder CEO, Neha Singh,
Using augmented reality (AR), this technology helps you differentiate from the monotonous grid of most e-commerce sites. Visitors to your website can explore as if they were walking through a 360° virtual tour of your store—even if you don’t have a physical store.

• Obsess captures your retail store or pop-up and transforms it into an interactive 360 virtual store that visitors can actually shop.
• Customers can shop your store from anywhere in the world at any time
• Visitors don’t need special equipment like headsets and don’t need to download an app; they arrive at your site and embark on an AR shopping experience. –
Contact Matt Pettigrew, Director of Sales & Customer Success.
This software helps you create interactive, personalized product stories and experiences on every item in your catalog. It helps shoppers explore your products across platforms, get detailed specifications and descriptions, and make comparisons. Clients include Takori, Hellsberg diamonds

DOR is a battery-operated people counter that is easy to use. Place the peel-and-stick battery-operated sensors at your entrance and anywhere you want to capture traffic data. The systems are easy to set up and use technology that gives you accurate counts without having to calibrate them.

Contact Tanvi Bhardwaj, Cofounder & CTO
This solution makes it easy to take smartphone payments, appealing to young, tech-savvy shoppers and speeding the purchase process.

Contact Nicole Ovrutsky, 3D Strategist
Hexa converts your 2D sketches into 3D models so that you can easily share product designs with your distributors and customers. This lowers the cost and expedites both the design process and pre-commerce sampling process.

Real world applications.

Any retailer can execute on strategies to create experiences that drive customer relationships.

A large retailer with plenty of space and a sizeable budget can create a storewide theme, add activities and ancillary products, hold events, and incorporate the latest technology and data mining to track and understand their customer preferences and assess their merchandise assortment validity.

A small retailer in traditional space with a small budget can create amazing windows, enhance vitrines, and add interest around the store. Stay connected to your customers through social media conversations and engaging visuals. Expand your customer base and your reach and stay connected with your past and current customers. Hosting small events or, working with retailers nearby, can create joint occasions to bring together salons, wellness studios, fashion, beauty, accessories, and more. What you are able to do in store depends on your ingenuity, access to talent, expertise, your physical space, and your budget. If you haven’t got the resources, however, even doing a little bit can yield big dividends. Customer engagement and relationship building isn’t a one-time project, but a way of doing business long term. You can start small and build big!

Every relationship and experience, whether business or personal, begins with a tiny seed of an idea or an impulse—plus a dose of courage.



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