August 31, 2015

"The way you tell an industry needs disruption is everything looks the same. The truth is: how much difference is there from one jewelry store to the next?" Sobering words from Ben Smithee, a digital marketing expert, during his keynote presentation at the JA New York Show on Monday, July 28.

Ben spoke to a crowded room of retail jewelry professionals and designers about digital disruption and how to reach the millennial consumer -- two things he is an expert on as CEO of SPYCH & Digital Strategy Officer at RELEVENTS. While he acknowledged the jewelry industry has a lot of room for improvement in the online marketing and e-commerce space, he had words of encouragement:

"Stop thinking of digital disruption and online marketing as something that breaks or kills your business but rather something to embrace that will grow all jewelry business," he encouraged.

Ben advised every jeweler to get started with digital marketing, "Just do something. Just stick with it and do it and I promise you that the business model will come about from it."

To get started doing something, here are some key areas of the future of millennial marketing that Ben advises jewelers to start considering for their marketing strategy:

Where to Invest

"Biggest thing jewelers can invest in right now is your web presence and your personnel to maintain that web presence." Ben suggests having staff in house or using an agency that will help you enhance your web presence through all online channels: website, social media networks, e-commerce.

Leverage Brand Influencers 

"If you aren't talking to the leading jewelry bloggers and influencers, you are missing out on a huge audience," according to Ben. Brand influencers are bloggers or popular personalities on Instagram, YouTube, Vine and other social networks.

Follow them on their social networks; invite them to your store. Invite them to do a video blog or do an interview with them asking them about the jewelry trends and style that inspires them. Some companies, like Bauble Bar, invite brand influencers to curate collections from their existing jewelry merchandise. It isn't difficult to think of creative ways you can incorporate brand influencers into promoting or discussing your existing merchandise and engaging their audience with your store or products.

Customization Wins

Millennials do not want big, pre-set bundled packages anymore (think cable). The a la carte mentality of millennial consumers exhibits itself in fine jewelry as a desire for custom design, and the ability to select each element of a jewelry item to create something truly unique to them. Jewelers who feature custom design and bench jewelers in their store have an advantage.

The Experience is Everything

Jewelers must give millennial consumers a reason to be in the store or even at their website. With ease of shopping via mobile -- for anything, from anywhere -- it's imperative jewelry stores offer exceptional experiences and customer service to motivate the modern consumer to walk through the store. Ben compared the retail experience in Apple vs Best Buy, saying, "Apple wins."

I's just as important that a jewelry company's online presence and user experience match the in-store experience. Jewelers need to inspire the customer through the sales cycle from website to store to email or print marketing to social networks and finally to the sale. 

Digital Advertising: Facebook or Bust

Jewelers should focus on targeted online advertising (Ben is not a fan of Billboards). The top three areas jewelers should invest in is Facebook paid advertising, Pay Per Click online ads and Remarketing advertising.

He thinks every company that has a Facebook account should invest in paid Facebook ads. "Facebook ads have more data than anyone else, so leverage their consumer data," he explains. It's also not an expensive endeavor; with testing, you can get the amount you pay for a click down to 2-3 cents.

Ben also advises not to put money into "boosting" posts since you don't get good returns. Instead, Ben introduced the audience to "Dark Posts" -- a Facebook ad strategy that allows you to test and target multiple ads via unpublished posts. There's a great article on dark posts by Inc Magazine to get you started.

The Future of Retail Technology

Ease of payment is the wave of the future. Millennials are used to paying for things via mobile check-in, chip technology and transferring funds to friends via Paypal, Venmo and other mobile apps.

Customers are also getting more comfortable with dynamic pricing, where supply and demand -- or other consumer behavior -- adjusts the price of a product in real time. Think Uber, Airlines and even There are many benefits for retailers to this pricing model; one of particular interest to jewelers is that it may help curb showrooming, because the prices are always changing.

Wearable technology's momentum will only increase: "This is something to spend five minutes online researching this a week to catch up and continue to follow." Ben explained that this could translate to fine jewelry in microchips in products that offer the ability for identification, added security, or even personal video message. 

Stay Informed 

Ben advises jewelry professionals to commit 30 minutes each morning to go online, research some of these strategies and see what's new in digital technology and marketing strategy. "It's going to change the way you shape your marketing and advertising," he says.

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