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The way we engage with our surroundings – and each other – has fundamentally changed; even the simple act of shaking hands may no longer take place in the future.
The way we engage with our surroundings – and each other – has fundamentally changed; even the simple act of shaking hands may no longer take place in the future.

Retail reality: recalibrating to a new normal

The search for creative solutions to save your business amid the pandemic panic begins with understanding consumers. ANGELA HAN explores business forecasts to help jewellers recalibrate.

The COVID-19 pandemic sent a shockwave around the globe, leading to businesses closing almost overnight. This has left retailers wrestling with how they can keep their doors open and staff employed, amid empty tills and sleeplessness.

These problems are very real.

Meanwhile, economists and analysts tell us that this pandemic is an opportunity for governments and businesses to refine their disaster planning processes. That’s good for everyone in the long run, and headlines herald that innovation flourishes in times of crisis. But what does innovation look like for jewellers?

History has proven that societies are altered  by extreme adversity, and the lessons learned are carried through generations.

Trade has developed a pattern over thousands of years: firstly, identifying gaps or needs in people’s lives, secondly, conceptualising how we can fill that gap or need, and finally, fulfilling that gap or need.

Following this template, we can find solutions to problems of the present and adapt to the inevitable changes that will occur in the future.

Agility is the new normal

Business owners are constantly told to remain “agile”, but what does that actually mean for jewellery retailers, and how can they quickly respond to the inevitable post-coronavirus shift in consumer behaviour?

The nature of evolution is not only survival, but also how necessary the organism is based on its usefulness to its surrounding network. To evolve, you must understand your position in the market and how best to serve your customers.

We must acknowledge that the way we engage with our surroundings has fundamentally changed. With all the meticulous handwashing, there’s bound to be an increase in shoppers feeling uncomfortable trying on items in stores. This may lead to increasing consumer reliance on e-commerce.

Many of the behaviours that consumers have adopted during the pandemic might remain permanent, which will in turn decisively affect our economy. For example, shopping centres will have to rethink the way they rent retail space with more businesses adopting sophisticated omni-channel strategies.

"If you’re still in business today, it’s because customers have trusted you over the years. Strengthen your position now by keeping your communication lines open, engaging them in creative ways."

SOTI, a technology company, recently published A State of Mobility in Retail which included the survey results of 4,000 people about their omni-channel shopping experiences. The findings indicate that consumers want a secure, personalised instore experience via mobile.

It also revealed that 67 per cent of consumers felt that mobile was the best way to deliver a seamless shopping experience, and 76 per cent wanted store staff to use mobile devices to provide a better in-store experience.

If a safe, seamless and speedy delivery is uppermost in the minds of customers, then the next few months are a good time for retailers to spend fine-tuning their digital presence, focusing particularly on mobile development, and connecting with customers. Is this a gap in your business? If so, then fill it.

Strengthened local manufacturing

With the global supply chain heavily impacted for the foreseeable future, consumers will be driven by default to support local businesses and we will only become more reliant on one another until markets resume some form of normality.

Manufacturing jewellers have seen a slow return to custom design and personalised manufacturing in the past few years, with coloured gemstones enjoying a moment in the spotlight.

This trend, in part, is driven by a generation of Millennials who ascribe strongly to philosophies of self-expression and personalisation, and those aspects of the business may experience further growth once the market is ready for some form of normal trade.

If you’re still in business today or when the crisis has passed, it’s because customers have trusted you over the years. Strengthen your position now by keeping your communication lines open, engaging them in creative ways.

Remember: love doesn’t stop in a pandemic! It’s a good time to let your customers know that your ability to serve them in their moments of celebration remains unwavering during this time.

Smarter shoppers

The internet has made consumers smarter – and more selective – than ever before. They are looking for attentive businesses that will help fulfil their needs and wants. With the emergence of CAD/CAM and 3D printing, a gradually growing segment of customers are producing their own designs saved on a USB stick, for their local jeweller.

While some retailers have turned these jobs away, smarter operators with the right skillsets have helped customers refine their design on-screen behind their bench, leading to an opportunity for a sale while extending education and earning the trust of a committed new customer.

The joy of a better-informed customer is in the engagement and depth of discussion. It is a jeweller’s job to stay abreast of a wide range of topics such as ethical sourcing, 3D modelling and printing, the pros and cons of natural and lab-created diamonds, or alternative gemstones for engagement rings. Don’t be intimidated – be prepared.

Be as helpful as you can in fulfilling your customer’s specific needs and help them deliver their beautiful jewellery by any means. Smart shoppers love being educated, and if they can learn new things from you, they will keep coming back.

After all, luxury today is said to be driven by authentic, personal interactions. Creating a tailored experience for your customer works because people gravitate towards businesses that can give them what they need in an unforgettable way.

At the heart of survival is being attentive and able to meet others at their point of need.

Now is a forgiving time to take some risks, as everyone across the world is navigating uncharted waters. Try communicating with customers differently, explore new methods of selling inventory, and refine your business goals while making the changes you’ve been wanting to make. There won’t be a better time to recalibrate your business.

Your customers are changing, they’re talking, and if you listen, you’ll know exactly what they want and how you can deliver.

Angela Han

Publisher  • Jeweller Magazine

Angela Han has more than a decade’s experience in the jewellery and luxury goods industry, having worked in all sectors from retail and manufacturing to design and supply. She has been with Jeweller for over ten years and has extensive experience in print and digital media publishing, business-to-business communications and strategy. 

Ellendale Diamonds Australia

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