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Understanding how young consumers buy jewellery

Ryan Purdie-Smith discusses why jewellery retailers should put their customers first – particularly if they plan to appeal to younger shoppers.

In my first few months in the jewellery industry, I was genuinely shocked at how a good portion of jewellers spoke about and treated their customers.

Being part of a few online jewellery groups and pages, I would hear so much jaded complaining on a daily basis – an ‘us-versus-them’ mentality with no intention of retaining or building customer life-time value (LTV).

Many jewellers had a transactional approach to each customer, with a focus on short- term margins and little to none on branding.

Coming from a business background, rather than through the ranks as a trained bench jeweller, gave me a different perspective and allowed my jewellery business, Crooked Howlet Designs (CHD), not to be stifled by standard practices or archaic ways of thinking.

In a way, there was a competitive advantage to being blissfully ignorant about how things ‘should’ be done, and instead seeking out best practices. For example, I was – and still am – completely bewildered by jewellers who charge for finger sizing tools.

“Young consumers need to be able to ‘see themselves’ in a brand today – especially for high- ticket items or purchases that hold emotive significance, like jewellery. They need to feel connected to the brand’s personality, or to the attributes associated with the business’ founder.”

It is absolutely mind-blowing that large, engagement ring-focused jewellery brands – many here in Sydney, where my business is based – will charge $5 for a finger sizer to be sent to a potential purchaser of a $15,000 ring!

This puts up an unnecessary psychological barrier-to-purchase for the customer.

Instead, we send out two free finger sizers to potential customers, with a note to ‘gift one on’. The finger sizers are branded and have scannable QR codes that collect data about the potential customer.

We also offer free re-sizing and go above and beyond to leave the customer happy on the first purchase, even if that first order is a net loss, because a strong LTV – repeat purchasing over time – is the most important factor.

In the first years of the business, we also invested heavily in creating a ‘brand personality’. We focused on building trust with our customers and establishing a brand that provides value outside jewellery.

Social media has not only not only provided an amazing opportunity to create this personality and reach a new audience, but it also has an accessibility and personal touch.

Taking a closer look at our customers led to another key realisation: why they purchase from us, and therefore how we should position ourselves in a marketing sense.

Young consumers need to be able to ‘see themselves’ in a brand today – especially for high-ticket items or purchases that hold emotive significance, like jewellery. They need to feel connected to the brand’s personality, or to the attributes associated with the business’ founder.

This has led to the development of our ‘brand mission’, which is to provide a blank canvas for experiences, and to give our jewellery purpose and a legacy. In fact, I would never say that we are in the jewellery industry – we are in the experience industry.

Here are some of the tactics we’ve implemented to achieve our brand mission:

• The CHD Ring Library, which is an archive recording every single one of our pieces. It is housed in an aged, bison leather binder, and contributes to the sense of legacy by giving each customer’s ring a defined and documented age.

It’s something that our customers can refer to when they visit us in 20 years.

• Our online marketing is very focused on provenance – where and how the pieces are made. Every piece is made to order, with purpose. We give a lot of in-depth production education and information about our team of jewellers.

• All our rings are delivered to the customer in whiskey label-style packaging, listing the ring’s cast date, the alloy it was made from, and the weight. Hand-writing these details gives the rings a specific purpose and differentiates them from the sea of mass- produced junk on the market.

• A very important element in building our brand, and creating a community around it, was the launch of the CHD Design Competition in which people can submit designs with the chance to have theirs made and sold by us for one month.

The competition allows us to engage with highly involved customers and followers, who give us feedback on the design submissions.

This creates trust and provides insights on future product designs, but it would be extremely difficult to convince the majority of the industry of the benefits of this type of campaign.

However, it’s important for me – and every other jewellery business owner – to remember that our industry is, first and foremost, product-centric.

In this day and age, getting too engulfed in consumer purchasing behaviours and content marketing can fool you into thinking that is the most important part of your business. But if your product stinks, then all an efficient marketing funnel will do is find the right customers – and let them know, efficiently, that your product stinks!


Name: Ryan Purdie-Smith
Business: Crooked Howlet Designs
Position: Founder and jewellery designer
Location: Sydney, NSW
Years in the industry: 5



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