Relations, stories and magic’: insights into the jewellery store of the future

The SGL Retail Jeweller India Forum 2019 featured a session on the jewellery store of the future. The session was presented by Sachin Jain, president, Forevermark, HozefaAttari, co-founder, NetworkBay Retail, and MatthieuRochette-Schneider, general manager, Centdegrés (China & South Asia), an international brand consultancy. These experts explored the evolving landscape of technology in retail.

Their message to retailers was: stay abreast of change, so that you are able to provide consumers with the engaging retail experience that they seek.

Sachin Jain began by highlighting the pace of technological change. Retailers must be up to speed with all the relevant technologies, he said, because these technologies are very soon put to use in retail innovation.

He offered an interesting parallel. “The generals during the two world wars had a tough time because military technology changed every day. From swords to cannons, submarines, fighter jets and beyond — by the end of World War II, every sort of technology was out on the battlefield. Every day there was a fresh battle to be fought, and the side that lost often did so because of the technology they had in hand. In its own way, the market situation today is like a war.”

Storytelling, beacons, social media integration, ease of shopping, robot assistance, magic mirrors and face recognition are some of the tech-led solutions that can be deployed to improve the in-store experience for customers. Jain urged retailers not to wait around for solutions to each or all of their problems. Take up the gauntlet and begin, he said, even if you have a solution to just one problem.

Five years ago, said Jain, jewellery stores inside malls had failed to click in India. The reasons, being lack of storytelling around product and serious store designs, discouraged potential customers from simply walking in to look around and perhaps indulge themselves.

Libert’aime by Forevermark, Jain said, has set the standard. Its retail outlets offer millennials a new way to shop for diamonds. “We are planning to open three of these stores in India now,” he said. “With the help of specific technologies, and heat mapping of the customer’s body temperature, as they move from one part of the store to another, targeting an audience becomes easier. The amount of insight one can get is remarkable.”

Regarding the RFID Tray technology, for example, Jain said, “When the consumer tries a product off the Tray, the display shows storytelling on the product.”  In case the product does not sell, the merchandiser can study consumer behaviour through the highest tried-on jewellery piece as chosen and tried by customers. This helps understand why, when a product was tried on, the moment did not convert into a sale.”

He quoted the famous line from marketing expert Seth Godin: “People do not buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories and magic.”

Hozefa Attari of NetworkBay weighed the impact of the change in consumer research habits between 2006 and 2018. During this period, habits changed from primarily offline searches to online searches at one’s fingertips via mobile phones.

“According to a study,” he said, “28 per cent of millennials, even if they don’t buy jewellery online, are probably looking at it online. For them, jewellery on the Internet is encountered mainly for inspiration, or via social media recommendation.”

Attari listed a few basic rules that, he said, will guide him in planning the store of the future. “Learn from other categories and engage in communities. As a retailer you will have access to key clients, whose ability to foster a community is very important. Make careful use of this. Make your products easier to discover when a consumer lands on your website. Technology helps you personalise your services and allows you to know your potential customers better and better as they browse. Make good use of it. Create follow-up notes when a customer leaves your website, thus not losing the opportunity to engage.”

At the moment, he said, follow-up notes are generated manually by sales associates. “Create strong brand language and make it very relevant for these associates,” he advised. “If you are running a standard ERP, [business software], the technology in the software can sit on top of that to enable meaningful conversations with customers that go beyond birthdays and anniversaries. Real-time conversations are a third necessary factor after personalisation and completing the ‘look’, and these features really need to be built in.”

In their presentation to the Forum, Attari and MatthieuRochette-Schneider of Centdegrés speculated on the jewellery store of the future. They selected three categories to reimagine, namely, solitaire lounge, bridal lounge, and everyday fashion.

Their design proposals had one unifying motive: to get away from the old-fashioned counter-and-chair format. Their aim was to instate a semi-private seating areas within stores where the merchandise could play the hero. Such areas, with seating for premium customers, they said, would convey the impression of luxury, and give customers an intimate shopping experience.

The concept of VIP services in retail, as Rochette-Schneider said, is “a huge topic, not only in the jewellery industry, but in every industry. VIP service should not depend on the amount the customer spends. It’s reflected in the time and quality of service the retailers can give. The right strategy is to reinvent service procedures in such a way that every customer can feel like a VIP.”

The bridal lounge is a promising concept that retailers are investing in to offer their valuable wedding customers more intimate and personalised spaces. “The bridal lounge is about more than the jewellery, it is about the story,” said Attari, explaining how retail experience can go a long way in converting sales in bridal lounges which are far evolved in ambience as compared to counter-and-chair stores treating jewellery as meagre products.

“Brides today visit jewellery stores not only with family members but also with friends. This means there can be great brand tie-ups. For instance, an augmented reality solution for makeup is a great idea. It allows a customer to create multiple makeup ‘looks’ while the bride is trying on jewellery.”

Progressive retailers really do want to provide their customers with a great shopping experience. And why limit the effort to jewellery, when the same creativity, technology and smart solutions can be applied to related product categories?

“This is the best industry for creating partnerships,” said Rochette-Schneider. “If you are a jeweller, you can create partnerships with a perfumer, a makeup artist, and so on. This is the best starting point from which to create multiple stories.”