Strong concerns about jewelry sales dropping after the devasting latest figures of De Beers’ diamond sales. What is going on? And are we falling behind? While the fashion industry seems to tap into many new routes the charm the consumer, the jewelry world seems to fall behind. It’s time to change our marketing! Are you ready for Jewelry Marketing 2.0?
Reading Time: 7.3 minutes
The story of De Beers and the astounding decline of diamond sales ran the headlines globally on all the financial papers and websites. What is happening? Are jewelry sales plummeting, are consumers less interested in diamonds? Is the so-called Millennial and the slowly entering Gen Z no longer interested in beautiful bling? Aren’t diamonds forever anymore?
As I was reading the article, I felt the urge to share a point of view with you. On how this industry seems to understand it’s falling behind, yet fails to act upon it. This jewelry industry, which I cherish so much, has a problem. And it’s a big one. More about that, almost 40% drop in sales at De Beers, you can find the article here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-03/de-beers-diamond-sales-flounder-again-as-buyers-stay-away).
What does the drop in De beers diamond sales really mean?
The diamond trade is part of the jewelry industry, but a whole world in itself. Knowing a little about it, I realize all too well that I am certainly no expert in this particular field. Therefore; I can’t give you my view of the drop in sales itself. However, the two things (De Beers drop in sales and the jewelry retail industry) aren’t entirely separate. Some experts claim that people today spend their money more on (branded) accessories or experiences. But how do we establish that?
Many reports about the preferences of Millennials have mentioned how they value experience over possession. Tech over luxury items, but is this truly why the jewelry world seems to fall behind? I don’t think so. II would argue that many more people would love to spend their money on jewelry; however, we, as an industry, fail to enchant the consumer. We fail to connect with them. We fail to adapt, and we fail to represent the customer of today in the way we market our jewelry to them.
See; last year (2018), in the U.S. -where engagement rings are still ”a thing”- the average amount of money spent on an engagement ring went up. Not just a bit, but a staggering 56%. (Brides American Wedding Study).The average amount spent on such a ring was €7829,- which is genuinely a lot of money.
The reason why the engagement ring customers spent more? No one knows for sure, but it says something about a generation wanting to invest in a beautiful piece of jewelry. And the size of the diamond is no longer what makes an engagement ring perfect. Couples might choose a more sophisticated setting, or might have the ring of their dreams custom made. But they also might choose another gemstone, such as a ruby, opal, or tanzanite. Diamonds are certainly not every girl’s best friend anymore.
What our industry fails to understand is that people today make their own choices.
What our industry fails to understand is that people today make their own choices. People connect in different ways to each other. And also towards brands, products, and experiences that have meaning in their lives. The story is everything, and it needs to be personal. The jewelry industry fails to understand this still. Better said; it fails to act upon it.
To be honest; that once brilliant line; ”a diamond is forever”, has lost its magic. But is it true that a large group of retailers, marketers, and diamond people still cling to this sentence? They think perhaps that the outside world, the final consumer, is still open to this idea? Honestly; pointing out how big one’s diamond is, has always been slightly off-putting to me. My background is Dutch, flaunting your wealth is not in our nature. I never understood why people just gobbled up the idea of diamonds and how these stones have become synonymous with love. We all have seen the movies with ”the girl” showing the size of her engagement ring excitedly to others. Or the loser who failed to buy a ”a big rock” for his true love. These are the long term ”dripping into our culture” effects of efficient marketing efforts. But times are changing.
”Millennials and Gen Z have a strong ”bullshit” radar when it comes to marketing’‘
Older white males
Today, the consumer knows exactly when an idea gets forced upon them. They see quickly through marketing tricks and have an antenna for non-authentic content. But we – the jewelry and diamond industry- fail to understand what this means. Who is to blame?
Although the problems are multiple, maybe one of the most significant issues is that this industry is still primarily managed by older white men. Older white men are trying to sell to women with their older white men’s ideas about consumers, their behavior, and their wishes.
We are not talking about the renowned names in our jewelry industry; we are talking about everyone who is not Cartier, Bulgari, or Tiffany. While jewelry retailers blame online competition; they seem blind to the other reasons why they are falling behind.
In the U.S., according to the Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT), 817 jewelry retailers closed their stores in 2018. Yes, new ones popped up too! However, the number of jewelry retailers overall is declining. The most substantial portion of the closing stores is the so-called mom & pop stores. These small family businesses often thrived for more than one generation. They were the go-to place for many local families who had something to celebrate or repair. These are the stores that managed to survive the tsunami of brands that appeared on the retail jewelry scene from the late ’90s onwards. And afterward; went through one of the most devastating economic crises we ever had. These stores are now closing, and one of the reasons is that they aren’t able to keep up with the change in consumer behavior. Their stock is often too big to be able to make rapid decisions when it comes to new consumer trends. Online giants measure the data of clients and often have no or low stock stuck in their vaults. They can adapt swiftly to new and emerging trends.
Many of the jewelry retailers fail to connect with their consumers too. There is hardly genuine engagement online with consumers, no real dedication to engaging with them. But this is the era where consumers are always online and always connecting and browsing through social media platforms.
We all know it, but let me kindly repeat it: customers are online. They educate themselves online, they look for reviews, read posts and blogs, watch their Instagram feed, see what others wear. Before consumers enter your store, they come already prepared, consciously, or unconsciously.
Jewelry retail is not happening so much online. But it’s not happening only offline either. Omnichannel is the way forward; even online jewelry businesses discovered soon enough that they needed brick and mortar points of sale too. And given the speed of changes in the omnichannel retail and IT technology, it’s not hard to see how the stores that have fallen behind too much, aren’t going to survive. The gap they need to overcome merely becomes too big.
What do we need to do as an industry? How should we talk to consumers?
How to stop saying we need to change and start doing it?! Open any newspaper, scroll through your social media on Facebook, read books, and watch today’s movies. The world is changing. I read about someone calling it the 2nd revolution of race, gender, and age equality. And what is our reality? What is the jewelry world reality?
Yes, we have predominantly white male executives in the diamond and jewelry retail. And they still market to other white males between 40-65 years old with an annual household income of $100k. They are forgetting about the 25-45 years old group, which is far more significant in size. This particular group is also all about diversity, inclusivity, and buys differently. Just one such example: 51%, according to a survey of female Millennials and Gen Z are self-purchasing diamond jewelry. We know it, but fail to act upon it.
And apart from some successful (and some pathetic attempts), we- the jewelry industry- lack to market to these groups. We don’t talk to them. We still market to that aforementioned white male, who we picture makes the purchasing decision for his wife and daughters. By the way: in the watches industry, things are even worse.
Diversity and inclusivity
Now is the time to think more inclusive about race and gender. For example, in the U.S., why aren’t there more Afro Americans in jewelry marketing? Why not more South Americans? Why not older women or men? Why do we- as an industry-ignore the conversation about LGBTQ and non-gender or transgender people.
Look, it’s easy enough: people feel attracted to marketing communications where they see themselves represented. What do you think? Do you see yourself represented much? They also connect with companies that share their values. Just think about your values for a moment and the companies that you feel share them too. Would you be able to name one jewelry brand that endorses openly one of those values? Do you know the why (think: Simon Sinek’s ‘ Start with Why”) of any jewelry brand?
I am a very open-minded woman, and I love to see a brand that shares my opinion on love and life. And I am not alone. We are all like this, but the younger generation Gen Z and the largest demographic group; Millennials, are especially sensitive to this approach. And they will let you know with their wallets.
We also have other problems, such as the ethical challenges of our industry and our ‘difficult to approach’ reputation. To start with that last one: going into a jewelry store is intimidating. To sit down, as a consumer, within a jewelry store or worse; in a separate room for more privacy feels intimidating. Could we change that?
Jewelers (both retail and brands) moan loads about the numerous amounts of lousy information out there but hardly invest in putting useful information out there. No, it’s not enough to do that on your website. No one goes to sites these days. You need to work with local influencers. You need to collaborate with other sources to spread, throughout the online social world, the right information about jewelry.
The more we tell, the more people will feel connected. The jewelry business is highly secretive. We need to be more transparent, and we know it, yet it scares us. Questions about sustainability rise – and what about those blood diamonds we’ve all seen in the movie? But today, the more consumers know, the more we tell them and share with them, the more they will feel connected. Yet, we don’t talk. Honestly; I think that we hardly know anything about the brands we sell in our stores and where the products are really made. We aren’t there yet. But we better get there soon.
Other luxury items don’t replace the purchasing of jewelry; I don’t believe so. Maybe we’ll buy just less overall; perhaps we ‘ll buy different jewelry than before. Consumers will always love to adorn themselves. Jewelry has had meaning throughout history. We connect our life’s events and stories to jewelry. We have a profound emotional connection with many of our pieces of jewelry. We tell our own stories with jewelry and pass them on. This is the power of jewelry!
I don’t mean to be mean or play the easy Blame Game; however, it’s time for companies and retailers to embrace the more diverse voices. Hire female storytellers, work with female marketers, add non-gender, LGBTQ members, and people of all color, race, and age to take over the communication of jewelry both for brands and retailers. And let go of the ”white older men”. No offense. Should the ”white older male” vanish entirely? That would not be inclusive; they are just as welcome, but they should no longer run the show alone.
Are you ready for jewelry marketing 2.0? 🙂
A little more about the author:
My name is Esther Ligthart. I am a jewelry blogger and write for jewelry magazines worldwide. I also run a jewelry job website and a jewelry consultancy company. We offer advice and training on a variety of jewelry topics, mainly in sales, communications, and marketing. I have worked in jewelry sales and -marketing in several countries, for more than 20 years. My secret jewelry addiction? Anything that makes me smile, especially animal jewelry! I share my life, in a rural town in the Netherlands, with a son and partner who is a veterinarian. And we never have a dull moment!
Want to work with me?
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or visit my website; www.bizzita.com