Melding the in-store experience with online selling channels is the way forward post-pandemic, says e-commerce expert Ross Cockerham.
The pandemic caused a seismic shift to online shopping, forcing many jewelry retailers to offer e-commerce in order to survive. But now that stores have reopened, where will digital selling fit in? Ross Cockerham, CEO and cofounder of Punchmark — a jewelry-focused e-commerce and digital-marketing agency in Charlotte, North Carolina — explains how retailers can sustain their online sales after Covid-19.
HOW DID THE PANDEMIC TRANSFORM THE CONSUMER MINDSET?
People who had never shopped online bought everything from the bare necessities to luxury. But for the jewelry industry, traditionally slow to embrace technology, Covid-19 catapulted the trust aspect of digital and omni-channel shopping.
Furthermore, the daily interaction with technology elevated customers’ expectations. As a result, it is incumbent upon jewelers to meet those expectations so they don’t miss a sale — even at 1 a.m.
HOW CAN RETAILERS WITH A BARE-BONES E-COMMERCE WEBSITE IMPROVE ITS EFFECTIVENESS?
Retailers should strive to ensure that their online experience mirrors that of in-store shopping. To start, jewelers should separate their e-commerce process into four parts: administrative, products, content and marketing.
I can’t stress enough that the most important element is integrating the point-of-sale system with the website. Creating that functionality will enable retailers to merge five critical elements: products, customers, wish lists, repairs and transactions.
HOW DOES INTEGRATING THE POINT-OF-SALE SYSTEM HELP GENERATE SALES?
Data is the backbone to driving sales. Imagine a customer walks into the store and selects three pieces that she adds to her wish list, which is posted online. Hours later, she logs onto the website from home and adds three more pieces to that list. Her significant other goes into the store the following month to buy a gift for her and is presented with her wish list.
JEWELERS PRIDE THEMSELVES ON PROVIDING SERVICE. HOW DO THEY TRANSLATE THAT TO AN E-COMMERCE SITE?
Jewelers can show their knowledge and provide helpful advice by installing a chat function to answer customer questions, as they do in the store. Jewelers can facilitate transactions by adding payment methods such as PayPal and Amazon Pay, as well as financing services like Affirm and Sezzle.
For their own peace of mind, jewelers should consider adding an application like ClearSale, which offers fraud protection on larger orders.
HOW DO JEWELERS DECIDE WHICH INVENTORY TO FEATURE ONLINE?
The optimal approach is to include a representative mix of price points, product types and branded jewelry. Too many products can be as intimidating online as in a store.
It is also helpful to guide the consumer with curated categories, like holiday gifts or gifts for women.
Bad retail is dead.
is very much alive,
and omni-channel is
WHY EMBRACE OMNI-CHANNEL?
Omni-channel really bridges the gap between online and the physical store. One way to do that is to ensure that each product has high quality images and/or videos so the customer can see the product in
detail. Include the same information available in-store — style, type of metal, material, gemstone type, size, weight and brand. Managing content is important, since retailers need to maximize website click-through.
DOES SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO) STILL MATTER?
SEO is still incredibly important for organic content, especially when it comes to the different levels of buyer intent. For example, someone searching for “engagement rings” is in the initial stage of the buying process. However, a person who types in “platinum, double halo, Brand X, 1-carat ring” shows an incredible amount of buyer intent, because they’ve [narrowed] it down to a precise product.
Not having a product with those precise keywords, or a landing page that embraces some or all of those keywords, could result in missing out on someone who is ready to make the next leap to buy.
HOW CAN A RETAILER DETERMINE WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA IS MOST EFFECTIVE?
It all depends on the brand personality of the store. Is it young and fun, or timeless and elegant? TikTok might be effective for the former, but the latter might favor Instagram or Facebook. LinkedIn, which is usually business-to-business (B2B) but now business-to-consumer (B2C), is another option.
Instagram is the clear winner in our book. We developed a system that automatically connects a store’s website products to its Instagram or Facebook catalog, which allows the retailer or its marketing team to set up a constant stream of dynamic product ads (DPAs).
HOW CAN ONLINE CUSTOMERS JOIN IN-STORE EVENTS?
Think QVC meets the jewelry store showroom. Imagine a livestream video running simultaneously with the event that shows people having a great time in the store and letting people participate from their computers and mobile devices. This could generate more brand trust while publicly displaying brand
Showing people having fun could create lots of FOMO (fear of missing out) and an air of exclusivity that makes people really want to be part of it next time.
CREATING AN EFFECTIVE E-COMMERCE SITE CAN BE CHALLENGING. CAN RETAILERS DO IT BY THEMSELVES?
Yes. There are generic website options that retailers can use to start small and then scale up. There are a lot of DIY resources available online. In fact, Punchmark offers a free e-commerce strategy checklist as well as our “In the Loupe” podcast (punchmark.com/ loupe).
But just as jewelers are experts in their field, it is often to their advantage to engage people who are experts in digital and omnichannel marketing.
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE OF RETAIL?
Bad retail is dead. But brick-and mortar is very much alive, and omni-channel is super alive. At the end of the day, it’s not about a robotic, digital transaction. It’s about human interaction. It’s calling your customer and inviting her to the store to try on the products from her online wish list.
Stores that let passion be their driver won’t fizzle away. Their websites should be