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   Changing face of retail
Changing face of retail

Changing face of retail

We are at the beginning of a radical change to the way we do everything, which includes shopping for jewellery. COLEBY NICHOLSON says Australian retailing has changed forever and asks: Are you changing too?
You know about Facebook, but have you heard of Pinterest? You probably know about Google+ but what do you know about Tumblr? Ever seen Plukka? No? Then you’ve seen the success of e-commerce, right, but do you think f-commerce will ever take off? 

I’ll come back to these questions, but first let me tell you a story. It was at another time in history where the way people interacted was about to forever change, the only thing was I didn’t realise it. 

It was around 1992 and my business partner, Mike, had come back from a trip all excited. We published a number of magazines including two computer titles; MacNews and Desktop. Mike was the editor and often got very excited about new ‘gizmos’. He plonked a software box on my desk and said, “Take a look at this.” I looked the box over and said, “What is it?” 

“Quickmail,” he replied. “Yeah, I can see that,” I retorted, “It says that on the box. But what does it do?”

“It’s a new email program,” he explained. I must have looked confused so he explained that it was an inter-office email system and we could install it on the office server and email each other. 

I still remember my next question. It was one of those questions that, in hindsight, was not at all prophetic: “Why do we need to email someone in the office? Can’t we just talk to them?”

Back then our small company was one of the most advanced publishing houses in Australia, in part because we were inundated with requests to test new software and hardware. We were seen as a test bed for technological advances. So Quickmail was installed and within two weeks it had revolutionised our company.

While ‘email’ already existed at that point in time, it was generally confined to the academic world, along with the internet, as crude as it was in the late 80s and early 90s. The point is that the way we communicated changed overnight and our company became even more efficient than we already were, thanks to office email.

Along with becoming more efficient it also positioned us well ahead of the pack as by the time the ability to send external emails quickly came around, our company had completely adjusted to the new technology. Soon after Quickmail, we were given this new ‘thing’ called Photoshop 1.0 and boy, did we have some fun with that! 

The world had changed. Business had evolved. Everything had shifted but not everyone saw the movement, they stood still. 

From the day Mike handed me that Quickmail software box, I vowed never again to question major economic and social change; although sometimes skeptical, I embraced it. 

So that brings me back to my opening questions. The way business is being done, the way consumers act, the way people learn and the way we communicate are all changing, fast! 

Too often we don’t know how useful change can be until we have experienced it, just like my first interaction with Quickmail. I couldn’t comprehend how something could be better because I hadn’t experienced it. After all, no one thought they needed a mobile phone until they were invented! 

What, when and how we buy has been affected by the digital age, but perhaps the most important change has been where we buy! 

It’s up to retailers to determine whether this is good news or bad news. Quite simply, it boils down to whether you are moving with the times or standing still. It’s not enough that retailers are just keeping up with change. They must embrace it. 

Yes, Australia is experiencing the affects of a confluence of many atypical events (global financial crisis, two speed economy, increased personal savings, high Aussie dollar) all of which demand a rethink of our business strategy. 

This time the changes are happening faster than anything in history because customers, and not businesses propel them. Consumers are leading the march, and social media is at the forefront. Move forward or stand still.

I believe that social media has passed the fad stage, it’s now a trend. Whilst it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, nor a quick fix to a business’ woes, social media should not be ignored. There’s a lot of ‘noise’ around and there’s no sense in hoping that social media will go away – the noise will just get louder, and if you’re left too far behind you will lose your voice. 

I won’t pretend to have all the answers. I won’t even pretend to understand everything that's happening. However, what I do know is that we are at the beginning of a radical change to the way we do everything, and that definitely includes shopping for jewellery.

Perhaps this video will convince you why social media is becoming a vital ingredient to all retail businesses and why technology is changing the way consumers behave. 

More importantly, I hope Jeweller’s June issue shows you how you can benefit from this seismic shift. 

Remember, I laughed all those years ago when Mike told me Quickmail would allow us to email each other. How stupid was I?

Click here to view all of June's Digital & Social Media articles online. 


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Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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