RAPAPORT… In the retail industry, “The customer is always right” has
long been the motto. This drive to please consumers means businesses are
constantly in search of new and inventive ways to make them happy. But where do
they start? What does the general public look for when making a purchase? And
what is everyone talking about when they say the new-age consumer is looking
for an “experience”?
The retail experience means something different to each
business, depending on its target market, says Elle Hill (pictured, right), CEO of fine-jewelry
launch and growth experts Hill & Co.
“Customers’ buying-experience requirements and expectations
vary widely, from wanting a rapid navigation and checkout process online, to
enjoying a luxurious in-store experience sipping champagne and trying on
pieces,” she notes. “The key is knowing who you are, who your ideal consumer
is, and how you marry what you deliver to their expectation.”
Many jewelry retailers have made the effort to rework their
consumer offerings, whether by creating an in-store experience to set
themselves apart, or giving the client a say in the creation of her jewelry.
Macy’s will spend over $200 million on renovating 50 of its
locations to offer customers a more personalized and well-rounded experience.
The department store has even placed a Starbucks inside its branches to
accommodate shoppers. In an effort to cater to all target markets, Macy’s has
also added lab-grown diamonds to its jewelry division.
Meanwhile, Saks Fifth Avenue began a $250 million redesign
on its flagship store in May, to transform it from a traditional department
store into an experience-driven location. “The Vault” is a full-floor,
luxuriously appointed space completely dedicated to high-end jewelry, providing
customers with hands-on, custom consultations and a rotation of limited-edition
designs. The exclusive section gives consumers “a more private, secure location
for making very expensive purchases,” Saks says.
A year ago, luxury-jeweler Tiffany & Co. hired CEO
Alessandro Bogliolo to steer it toward innovation and an experiential approach.
Bogliolo believes “meaningful innovation” strengthens the connection between
customer and brand. Under his management, Tiffany has reinvigorated its image,
launching ad campaigns targeting different generations of consumers and
featuring popular young stars.
ring collection, Tiffany True (pictured, right), which enables customers to choose from various
settings and stones. The line will be available at Tiffany stores, including
its famous New York flagship, which is in the process of an innovative redesign
that will “create a dramatic new experience for customers,” the company says.
Other retailers are concentrating on product reinvention in
an effort to connect with customers, a move Hill believes is imperative.
“Customization and personalization are what make the
consumer feel like they can purchase a product that is a more clear
representation of themselves,” she says. “This can be as broad as a good,
better, best product that addresses different price points, or more specific,
as in engraving, [or go] a step further [with a choice of] metal and stone options, all the way to custom-made products from
niche ateliers who will design the piece with the client.”
Signet Jewelers uses customer feedback to home in on what
its target market is looking for.
“People see jewelry as an enduring symbol of their most
memorable moments,” says senior vice president and chief merchandising officer
Toni Zehrer. “To this end, it’s also important that we celebrate the uniqueness
of each customer and story.”
Two Signet subsidiaries are offering customers the option to
create their own engagement rings, she says. Consumers can choose both their
setting and diamond at e-tailer James Allen, or take it a step further by
viewing each choice on their hand via a mobile “try it on” feature when
purchasing through Jared stores.
Signet is also replacing its traditional marketing with new
campaigns that embrace diversity, targeting same-sex couples, biracial
relationships, and women proposing to men.
“Today’s consumers seek a more personalized approach across
the entire purchasing journey, and it’s our responsibility to understand their
desires and respond to them both in terms of product and experience,” Zehrer
‘It’ vs. ‘you’
Unlike larger jewelry retailers, The Khoury Bros. designs
and creates most of its own pieces. The jeweler’s chief designer, who is based
in its Tyson’s Galleria store in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, works directly with
individual customers to fashion the piece of their dreams.
“Trends and a fast-paced life have made ‘it’ label bags and
nostalgic trends…it’s all moving so quickly,” says company marketing manager
Esabel Khoury. Alternatively, she says, “a well-made jewelry piece is something
you wear through seasons and trends. It’s a signature ‘you’ statement. You
remember a unique jewelry piece. An ‘it’ bag can help make you feel
established, but a signature jewelry piece sets you apart.”
Figuring out how much customization to offer is also a key
to success. Many experts feel allowing too much choice can not only confuse
customers, but also lead to a product that doesn’t match a luxury brand’s
identity. Mass customization — which includes established products such as the
setting and number of stones on a ring, but also lets consumers choose the
metal and stone types — is a way for a retailer to offer something meaningful
to purchasers without sacrificing its image.
The point is, no matter what innovation a retailer
subscribes to, it’s essential to subscribe to something, says Hill. “Going
behind the scenes of the most well-known retailers, designers and manufacturers
in our industry, the single most frequent pitfall for companies is
This article was first published in the December 2018 issue of Rapaport Magazine.
Main Image: Tiffany True customizable rings. (Tiffany & Co.)