IDEX Online Research’s Challenges for 2008: Jewelry Shopping A Dull In-Store ExperienceFebruary 14, 08
Go to any mall in America and see where the crowds are. They are in the Apple Computer store. They are in the Bass Pro store. They are anywhere that retailing is fun, anywhere there is an “experience” involved.
American Baby Boomers – older, wealthy consumers – have latched onto the concept of “experiential retailing,” and now merchants serve it up every chance they get. Little wonder: it turns out that consumers of all ages enjoy the experience of shopping when it is interactive and fun.
Retail futurists tell us that “experiential retailing” is the wave of the future. The concept of “putting the dog food out for the dogs” won’t entice shoppers any longer. The concept of “one-size-fits-all” won’t work, either.
Shopper change. Social norms change. Consumers’ needs change. Unfortunately, far too many merchants resist change.
Jewelry Store Shopping: Same-Old, Same-Old
Jewelry merchants haven’t updated the way they do business in generations. Each morning, they lay out their merchandise, just as their forefathers have done for hundreds of years. Because retailing has traditionally been product-centric, it made sense.
Today, this won’t work in a market where the shopping experience is interactive, and customer intimacy is important. In the days of mom-and-pop retailing, the local merchant knew all of his customers. Today’s chain retailing has all but eliminated the concept of personalized shopping. And, even though many of today’s jewelers are still mom-and-pop family operations, they have forgotten their roots: they don’t offer a personalized shopping experience. Amazon.com is probably the leader in understanding customer intimacy: each time a customer returns to its website, a personalized list of books and other products are recommended to the shopper.
J. Walter Thompson (JWT), the ad and marketing agency that serves the U.S. diamond and jewelry industry, conducted a Retail Landscape Study which shows that shoppers are unimpressed with the jewelry shopping experience; they say that merchants’ stores are dull and unexciting. Here are some highlights from the JWT Retail Landscape Study:
- The jewelry shopping experience is rated only “average” by consumers. Unfortunately, that’s not good enough for jewelers, if they hope to take market share from competitors who sell designer handbags, plasma TVs, and home décor items.
- The jewelry industry’s current success is due to consumers’ love of jewelry, not the shopping experience.
- Consumers have high expectations. The competition provides more fun, expertise, and excitement than today’s jewelry stores.
- Diamond jewelry is extremely romantic and emotional, while the shopping experience is anything but. The jewelry store shopping environment fails – it is not about passion and excitement.
- Here are specific consumer comments about shopping in the typical jewelry store in America:
- “Many jewelry stores are just like other jewelry stores.”
- “Many jewelry stores are like stores of my parents’ day.”
- “Jewelry merchandise seems too similar from store-to-store.”
- “Traditional jewelry stores are boring.”
Preferred Stores Offer Fun & An Interactive Experience
JWT’s Retail Landscape research study asked potential jewelry consumers what kind of stores they preferred. Here’s what the research uncovered:
- Upscale shoppers enjoy the décor of their favorite specialty stores.
- Upscale shoppers seek pampering when they shop.
- Upscale shoppers seek stores that feel exotic, inspiring, and elegant.
Shoppers in the study cited three retailers that especially fulfilled their needs and wants:
- Restoration Hardware
- Apple Computer
J. Walter Thompson says that other luxury retailers seduce people into browsing and buying. In general, jewelry retailers fail to follow through with this concept. Consumers seeking “retail therapy” – recreational shopping – shop for fine clothing, accessories including jewelry, consumer electronics, home décor, and gourmet foods. Unfortunately, jewelry is not high enough on that list to capture its fair share of consumer expenditures related to recreational shopping.
In addition, shoppers want an interactive experience. Apple gives customers a hands-on shopping experience. Sporting goods merchants have climbing walls and casting pools.
Stores Must Tell A Story
Paco Underhill, the guru of the American shopping experience, says that merchants must tell a story over the course of the store. That’s what distinguishes one store from another. The merchandise alone can’t do that, according to Underhill.
Further, Underhill says, “The jewelry store has to create the fantasy that comes with how women adorn themselves, the way Armani or Versace sell to women. Go to these stores and see what the trying-on experience is like. It’s aimed at the wearer. It assumes she’s the decision maker. A woman tries on an Armani suit or a Versace evening gown and she feels like a movie star. She gets a taste of how the rest of the world is going to see her and respond if she buys that garment. That’s what a jeweler must now attempt to do.”
A well-planned retail environment romances all five senses, according to JWT research.
- See – Design, pattern, lighting, displays, layout, fixturing, signage
- Hear – Music or soundscape that sets a tone, conveys the store’s “energy”
- Smell – Aromatherapy can send subtle unconscious messages that trigger strong responses (scents should be very light) – from fresh-baked cookies to coffee to expensive perfume to essences that excite or calm like ginger or peppermint, lavender, rose or vanilla
- Touch – Tactile “experience” not only of merchandise but all surfaces, furniture, fixtures, materials on which merchandise is presented
- Taste – The offering of a taste, from cookies to mints, coffee to champagne
Solving The Retail Puzzle
J. Walter Thompson says too many jewelers are missing one or more pieces of the retail puzzle. The challenge and opportunity for jewelry merchants is to enhance all marketing factors:
JWT’s research project showed that a frightfully high 30% of all shoppers who visited a jewelry store would never go back to that store again because it did not meet expectations.
In particular, JWT research emphasizes the importance of employing the proper store personnel. Here are JWT’s key observations:
- Staff attitude can “make or break” a consumer shopping experience. It can cause shoppers to reject a store forever.
- Many consumers don’t believe that jewelry sales people are diamond experts or have the knowledge of jewelry styles. Further, shoppers don’t think that most men, in particular, have the ability to understand their personal style and make a match between the proper jewelry and the shopper’s style. Paco Underhill says most women dress for other women, not for men.
- Consumers say jewelry sales people have a snooty attitude. Here are their comments:
- “They look you over, when you enter the store. You have to dress a certain way to go into a jewelry store.”
- “I would never just look at jewelry the way I will when shopping for clothes or bags or other fashion merchandise.”
- “You can’t look at things by yourself; there’s always a sales person there. You can’t compare. Jewelry shopping is a frustrating experience.”
Paco Underhill’s Observations
Paco Underhill, the retail guru, has made some specific observations about the jewelry industry, both in his lectures and in his books. Here are some of the more relevant comments he has made, regarding jewelry retailers.
- Very high-end jewelers don’t want to be approachable or seem affordable. He cites both Cartier and Bvlgari. The more precious the goods, the less glass to show it off in the store display windows. He cites Cartier as having a mall store clad in black stone. This store makes a statement in the context of the mall: no other store comes close to creating such a definite distinction between out there and in here. The windows are small squares of light set in those black walls: it feels expensive. Bvlgari doesn’t want good visibility into its stores from the outside. Underhill seems to agree: “You shouldn’t be able to see the best diamonds from outside the store; otherwise, where’s the mystery and drama?”
- The store must take care not to undercut the ambience with shoddy materials or workmanship. Attention to detail is imperative. You can’t ask shoppers to examine a tiny diamond, but ignore that smudged glass or that gray plastic trash can in the corner.
- Jewelry stores are not keeping up with social change, Underhill asserts. New studies show that there is a huge market for self-purchasing women who jewelers have not tapped. The jewelry store must create the fantasy that comes with how women adorn themselves. That is a challenge.
- “The entire jewelry store traditionally plays to a certain fantasy – the one of the guy who’s rich and powerful enough to afford something for the woman who’s beautiful and desirable enough, with exquisite taste in adornment, to deserve what’s here. Once women start buying their own baubles, however, the store needs to accommodate a second fantasy. This one is about dress-up, a game most women have been playing in one form or another since childhood. It’s also about self-reward, and making the leap between who she is and who she wants to be.” Call of the Mall, page 115.
- Jewelry is now closer than ever to fine fashion, especially when women buy it. But it is not sold like fashion.
- The display cases in a jewelry store act as a barricade; they tell the customer to “keep your distance.”
- Underhill describes a jewelry store targeting only women shoppers: The windows are large; the first thing you see is color, a kind of pink, mauve, rose shade which looks girly. Jewelry is nestled among swirls and swaths and swoops of fabric. The female sales people are wearing pastel-colored fuzzy sweaters, and they don’t look like the stylish keepers of the crown jewels. Prices are moderate, perfect for the woman buying for herself.
- Underhill believes customers should spend time trying on jewelry: allowing shoppers to play with and try on whatever they want will result is strong sales gains and increased word-of-mouth advertising. Mirrors must be plentiful and large, so customers can see themselves trying on the jewelry.
- He recommends better integration of jewelry and clothing. A sales person should assemble an outfit, the shoes, the bag, and the jewelry. “What Sephora did for cosmetics is what someone should do for jewelry,” he says. Sephora, a cosmetics superstore, changed makeup sales from a stern uptight salesperson-behind-the-counter experience (much like jewelry) to a fun, experimental, try-it-on-and-play environment.
- Jewelry stores are hard. The casements are hard, there’s hard glass, and the product is hard. But it is sold to the romantic, soft side of a customer. There needs to be some way to soften up the store environment.
- Underhill favors visible pricing. That, too, sets the stage for the show that’s in the store.
This article is the first in a series that expand on the points IDEX Online’s director of online research, Ken Gassman has raised in his analysis “State of the Jewelry Industry.”
Ken is available to speak to corporate management groups and others about the State of the Jewelry Industry. He has developed a PowerPoint presentation which can be customized to your group. For further information, please email Ken at research [at] idexonline [dot] com.