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Who is the most important person in your business?

By Malcolm Alderton

The owner?

After all, all major decisions which affect the business are made or authorized by the owner.

The sales team?

If the sales team can't sell, then you are out of business, or at the very least they help your competitors take sales you should have banked.

The buyer of your merchandise?

If they buy according to their tastes (as we all tend to do) and their tastes are quite different to the majority of your customers you end up with old stock and cash flow problems.

The suppliers?

Without good relationships with your key suppliers you do not get offered the deals, get the support that can make or break a sale, extended credit when required, and a whole host of other benefits that come with great relationships.

Your Customers?

Without them, you don't need any of the above.

The fact is you are NOT in the jewelry business. You ARE in the people business and it just so happens you sell jewelry.

Rule 1 – For your business to be successful you MUST treat your suppliers, staff, and customers with the same reverence and respect as you do yourself.

I could write a full article on improving each of these relationships but today I am going to focus on Customers.  Customers are the people who keep you in business, the people who can spend money with you... or not.  They are the people who pay your rent, your wages and for your next holiday.

Customers have been around for as long as businesses have been operating and many things have changed throughout time but there is one vital difference between then and now… the passing of the spending baton from the baby boomers to the Y generation.

Customers' buying habits today are far different now to a generation ago.  The facts are, customers have far more options today, both with the products available and where those products can be purchased from.

A generation ago jewelers were not competing with electronic goods such as the iPhone, iPad, flat-screen TV’s, affordable cruises, gift stores (jewelers were the gift stores), etc.

Consumers are having greater temptation thrust at them from every marketing channel you could possibly think of.  Online access to almost any product in the world means that shopping is as easy as searching the Internet from the comfort of an armchair at home.

The days are fast disappearing when you can put an advert in your local paper, on TV, radio, or produce a mail drop and customers come running.

If jewelers do not recognize and accommodate this changing thought process then they will continue to lose market share to other industries.  A short five years ago, who would have predicted that the North American jewelry industry would have made tens of millions from $40 beads in 2012 or that Apple would sell billions of dollars of telephones in a month.

You need to define who your current customers are and examine the changing customer mix you have witnessed over the past 5 to 10 years.  The baby boomers are rapidly passing their spending peak and cannot be counted on to sustain your business for much longer so your marketing needs to attract a different generation of consumers.

The millennial generation, or Gen Y, born between the mid-’70s and late ’90s, are computer savvy, are the current and next spending generation, use technology to research and purchase things, and want "things" here and now.  Gen Y was bought up in smaller families than Gen X was, resulting in more gadgets being bestowed on them, and they place value on branding.  This ‘here and now’ thought process extends to instant communication (texting and cell phone calls by the hundreds).

These customers are your future, but only if you can appeal to and accommodate them.  This requires change.  They want on-demand service and service is something the jewelry industry sadly lacks.  Sure, every jeweler believes they give great service, and yes the service they give was acceptable and great to the X generation, but that service is not acceptable to today’s customers.  Unfortunately, the jewelry industry, in general, is not stepping up to the plate quickly enough to address this, causing a huge amount of lost sales.

My view is that in the near future there will only be two types of jewelers who remain in business, the cheapest in town (appealing to price-driven consumers) and the jewelers who are giving super service (the real deal experience).

Retail jewelers need to improve the way they treat their customers.  The number of US jewelry chain stores jewelers are expanding at the expense of independents that are disappearing at an alarming rate.  Why is this happening?  Simply because the chain stores are appealing to the price-driven consumer.

So, who are you appealing to?  Do you know what your new market wants?  Can you service that market better than your competitors?

Let's look at one competitor - the Internet.  What do they offer that you don't or can't?  They offer selection, price, and convenience. Your customers can now sit watching TV with their iPad on their lap being able to view jewelry and watches by the thousands on websites, pick the best price and enter credit card details to have the item delivered the next day, all without leaving their armchair.

What can you offer that the Internet cannot offer?  It's down to one thing, the shopping experience you can provide.  Starting with great salespeople not just with good product knowledge, but more importantly who have top people skills to forge lasting relationships and even better sales skills. But it doesn’t stop there… the after-sales follow-up (out of store service) is vital to growing sales.

The reality is that the jewelry industry is one of the last industries that still opens the doors, hopes customers will come in, and then doesn’t do enough to keep customers coming back.

Even stodgy industries such as dentists and opticians have turned essentials into services. My dentist sends me SMS reminders, has a TV on the ceiling, and sends me special offers like discounted teeth whitening to tempt me to come back in.  My optician sends me an SMS to remind me of check-up time, and when my glasses are ready.  They have the latest eye imaging equipment that they use to take an image of the back of each eye then read it for eye and brain disease.  They email me the image for each eye and keep it on file for future comparison.  Of course, they charge accordingly, but I am more than happy to pay for this extra service.

I walk into my menswear store where, before they start to serve me, they look up their computer and tell me my size, past brands that fitted then update my details when I have lost weight (or should I say, when I put it on).  I cannot remember when I last came out of my menswear store without spending 3 to 4 times what I intended to spend… and I keep going back because they care about ME!

Ask yourself “what do you do to enhance the shopping experience for your customers?”  Do you offer a security service where you image all your customers’ jewelry and hold it for them in case they ever need to make an insurance claim?  You can use the same images to find matching jewelry for their birthdays and anniversaries and let them know that it is available as their special occasion draws near.

Do you email or SMS market products of interest and special offers to bring customers back into your store?

Do you hold a Ladies Wish List night in October with drinks and ladies entertainment where your customers can build their wish list portfolio, then hold a men’s evening in November where over drinks and entertainment they can see their wife/partner's wish list and purchase accordingly?

The bottom line is that many retailers in the jewelry industry have lost sight of:

  • Who their customers are
  • What those customers want
  • How to market to them to get them in the store
  • What needs to be done to provide them with an experience that keeps them coming back.

Ask yourself, have you addressed these 4 issues and taken action to make your business the most successful it can be?

All the best as you tackle change,

Malcolm Alderton