I am often asked, by peers from the industry, what I think personally of the future for the jewelry industry. It is far too complex to frame my thoughts or anyone’s thoughts really, into just one catchy phrase. But I do have a view and in this blog, I will share it with you.
Where will it all go? The Jewelry industry is such a beautiful one! But a struggling one too. Even though the economy is getting back on its feet, and many brands and designers. or retailers too, are thriving, there is an enormous amount of insecurity about the future for many people, brands, retailers etc, withing the jewelry industry. Looking at the future can be done from many perspectives, of course. I am shining a light on just one of them. I hope you'll find some value in it and am truly interested in hearing what your ideas are!
First of all, I am no guru. And even if I do work together with the trend forecasting agency; TrendVision, that doesn’t make me a trend-forecaster but rather an observer. Although guru may be a popular term these days, it’s most often used by the ‘expert’ him- or herself and I find it always a little hard to take anyone, who calls himself that, seriously.
I love to observe human behavior, and read about retail trends, the Millennial generation, developments in technology and trends in social media etc. I also am involved on a daily basis in the jewelry world itself and by combining all this with my decades of experience in the jewelry industry, I form my ideas about the future and the developments within the jewelry industry.
It seems we are balancing at the top of an enormous waterslide. We feel the thrill, the excitement, but we also worry about the speed and if we will arrive safely at the bottom. Things are changing, but how fast will it all go? And which turns and directions do we need to follow? All is well if you are a big brand with a great budget for marketing, but what about all those smaller brands, producers and retailers? What does the future hold for them?
It is as exciting as it is uncertain. And it is as difficult and challenging as it is also a path to new opportunities. One thing is for sure, it will definitely all change!
Change is in the air but it is something hard to grasp. When I read about one of the biggest luxury chain stores: Nordstrom, opening a much small store with no stock at all, but with services that help people to make choices, make their lives easier, solve problems and offer services such as stylists etc, I am intrigued. This is a store that tries to listen to the market and dares to make some bold new moves. It is also a store that can afford to do so.
Most of the smaller retailers can’t make such a choice, yet it should not be money or the lack of a full marketing team, that holds them back.
One could look at this store and think; what can I learn from or how can I adopt this idea? Or what can I learn from all the developments in technology? What might be a good thing to adopt for my business? AI and AR (Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Reality) are coming. What will it mean for the whole buying experience? What can we adopt today? My first questions to any business that asks me advice would be; what are you doing with social media? Are you there where your clients are? How visible are you really? How willing to connect with your clients are you?
The truth maybe is that you don’t want to connect with them all the time. That you simply want to open your small town store and close it in the evening and not be bothered. I have met so many jewelers that want to continue running the business ‘’as usual’’. And I understand them completely. I live in such a town. With even the small town jewelry store that has all the same marketing jewelry products ( brands that you can purchase literally everywhere online now) and I understand it.
Understanding it, instead of simply saying that they will be closing within a couple of years, which I too tend to say way to fast at times, makes us look more objectively. In a world where we live in a constant overload of information and participate in our various Whatsapp groups from the tennis club to the school app of our kids. From keeping our local business page on Facebook sort of alive to trying to keep one’s head above the water, whilst margins are smaller, and competition is fierce, it can be a lot and maybe for many ways too much too also read, adopt and invest into marketing and technology.
And then there are all those smaller brands. One of the realities I personally lived is the Valenza reality. A small town with a dense population of brilliant jewelry makers. It’s incredible! The skills and the talents of the people in this town is beyond belief and it is for this reason that Bulgari opened its largest factory in 2017, right here. But whenever I speak to people from Valenza, they all complain. Saying the town is not doing well at all. Companies close, one after another. Many have asked me, in an informal way, what to do. But often they search for a solution that matches their idea of how things ought to be, instead of adapting to the way the world evolves. When you search for that match, your vision becomes a tunnel vision. And we are all capable of understanding the mechanism. We are all creatures of habits. And small businesses have got their heart and soul invested in the business. They take it personally. And understandably so, as perhaps the business has been in the family for many years and the weight of the responsibility alone can weigh heavy on anyone's shoulders.
At the same time, I see young entrepreneurs opening their stores. Starting their brand, sharing their ideas with the world. They have a thumb glued to their cell phone and sharing images on Instagram, looking at the world through the filters of this social media platform, is natural for them.They think that talking to a client through Whatsapp is normal and don’t feel it as inappropriate if someone reaches out on a Sunday to ask a price. They may lack in other areas, as I don’t think of them as the perfect retailers or entrepreneurs, just because they ‘get it’. But boy, do they make up for it with their tech-savvy, online minded approach.
Well, it is already going on. And chances are that many of the smaller brands, producers, and retailers have missed the boat so completely that they will not survive another 5 or 10 years.
Perhaps it is also wise to consider that if you don’t want to invest in yourself and your store/ brand/ producing company, the option of selling or quitting.
I think that big investment clubs will come to many countries and start buying smaller brands or smaller retailers. They’ll buy the stores, pay perhaps (way too) good money for them. With the expectation that the current owner now becomes an employee and will only get his or her money fully if she or he reaches that certain increase in their turn-over in the next years. But besides this small warning ( I see it happening already in other industries) it may be the solution for many. The other side of this is that it will be killing off a large number of independent store owners or brands forever.
These investment companies will have the money, the teams and the power to make changes that many of the smaller brands and retailers aren’t able to make. A blessing? Well, that all depends on the situation.
I think that the brands with a good story about their WHY( why they run their business as they do and who are they) a good story about the PRODUCT (transparent and responsible mining, manufacturing locally or by experts in another country or region) and a clear marketing strategy that we could call their VOICE ( client journey, excellent after-sales (pre-sale moments and even sales moments are ‘easy’, it’s the after-sale that makes you stand out) and products that meet the taste of a certain group of people (don’t try to cater for everyone, define your client, go for surprising them, really go for them) have a future.
Think much more like media. And a little less of presenting just products. Think about publishing all the time. Your clients will now and in the future determine whether to buy from you or not before they actually stepped into your store or company! They will look for reviews, ask their peers on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook etc, whether you are worth their while. They will look for you to inspire them, inform them, entertain them.
Today’s online reality is a world that feeds our minds, our every single minute, with thousands of opportunities and information. Attention is the real luxury. Don’t tell them why they need to buy your products, but show them! Add value to their lives. Find out what troubles them, find out what keeps them awake at night. Find out about their struggles and solve them. Yes, solve them. Run a watch store? How can you really help people? I mean, without trying to sell them actually something? Are you running a high-end watch store? Your client may be a collector or traveling all over the world, his or her requests may be very different than just seeking the right status symbol. What are the problems the wealthier amongst us face? Wealth management? How to keep your valuables safe when you travel?
If you think that this is going off topic or that you aren’t talking enough about your product, then try looking at the very successful companies that have understood adding value in the form of entertainment, information and networking perfectly. John Deere is one such brand. They have always applied content strategy with a magazine for farmers that only here and there mentions the logo of the brand, but is all about information. Becoming a valuable source of relevant information and not just a catalog in disguise, that farmers actually read. Try looking at the Marriott hotel content strategy. They are very much a media brand these days. Yes, they offer rooms in their hotels but just look at what they communicate online. It’s stories, entertainment, and valuable information about traveling. And let’s not forget that Red Bull is actually a very bad tasting energy drink, but the name alone stands for adrenaline. Extreme sports, beautifully filmed, storytelling, hip-hop artists, dance groups, I mean, just look at their content online and think of the many hours all these guys and girls spend watching their amazing content. All the time, thinking about Red Bull and making the connection that this is a lifestyle drink that makes them feel to at least participate in the fascination high adrenaline world.
What I am trying to say is that I do understand how scary standing on top of that waterslide feels. For some of you, it may be the moment to consider not to go down and step back instead. But if you feel like lifting your arms high and go for it…..just go for it! Take even small steps, but take them every single day!
If you like to talk more, connect with me. I do work with companies and am happy to find out together if I can be of help or service to yours.
Connect also with others that may open your world a little, advice you, solve a part of your problem. Be aware of all the so-called guru’s ;-) but do reach out! Talk with young artists for inspiration, talk to people from the group you think is the client you aim for and ask them questions. Talk with people from other industries and see how they handled the changes. Read, watch and make small changes each and every day.
I hope to see your company, your brand and your store thriving in the upcoming years! I really hope you’ll find fun and meaning in making changes. I hope also that, with all these changes, we will also refind a huge love for jewelry again. Real jewelry. I don’t mean just expensive high-end jewelry, but also smaller, much less expensive brands, made with CARE and with LOVE. Tell your story, show your passion, solve problems, inspire and share.