While I have never owned a jewelry store, I have certainly shopped in them. What always strikes me as odd is how generic the experience is from store to store. When I go to Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, and Kohl’s, I expect a different sales experience, a different price tag, and different merchandise. Similarly, a steak from Ruth’s Chris should be somewhat different than one from Outback. And why is this? While offering similar products, these places have a unique positioning so they “own” a specific piece of the marketplace with their customer base. This sets expectations on the experience prior to entering the doors.
So, if I were to own a jewelry store I’d start from scratch and rethink the basics with some marketing fundamentals. Here are the first steps I’d take:
- Identify your target audience and delight them – Who lives by, works by, or drives by your anticipated store location? Understanding your customers is critical to creating the ideal store that will compel them to enter, to look around, and to possibly buy. For example, if your store is in a community that primarily houses highly paid executives then your product mix would likely skew toward higher ticket items and more precious gems. In contrast, if you serve a more artsy community then your pieces might focus on creative designs and settings, rather than the high-end stones. All too often, companies think they know their customers better than the customers knows themselves. You need to understand what about your target audience will keep them coming back. You definitely don’t want to be visited once for an engagement ring and that’s it. An engagement ring might be the point of market entry for a long-term customer. It is much easier to keep a customer than to find a new one. So take the next step: make sure you know the wedding date, birthday and any other special holidays of importance that would serve as a good to reconnect with that customer. Does she want to be called by “Mrs. Smith” or “Sue”? Does she arrive with an intentional purpose to buy or just to look around? Does she have a favorite stone or metal? All these extra touches help enhance the experience and may not only lead to more purchases but referrals from your good customers. So delight your customers with what they need in their first experience.
- Understand your competition and be different – What are the alternatives to your store? Of course, this means you need to survey other area retail stores, but what about online venues, the diamond and gold districts in places like NY, and home-based parties? All provide a different sales experience, so you should, too. I am pretty sure that the Apple retail store has turned more computer users into Apple fans than any other aspect of their marketing mix. Apple already had great products, but they also crafted a welcoming and helpful environment. That was in stark contrast to the typical PC purchased with only a 1-800 helpline that may not even be located in the U.S. It is hard to be memorable if you only offer a generic experience.
- Find your niche and create a positioning concept – What can you promise to your customers that will be new, unique, and relevant? This is the crux of marketing positioning. You want to find an opening in the marketplace that provides customer pull. You need to identify the primary benefit or promise that excites your customers. Are you about selection, designer only, personal shopping, gem expertise and knowledge, the latest Hollywood trends, or customization? The choice you make has a great deal of influence on all the other elements of your marketing mix–the locations of your store, how you promote your products, your pricing strategy, and your product inventory. Try to match your marketing to the specific needs of your niche buyers.
- Match store environment, your environment, and jewelry to support your concept – How do you want your customer to experience your concept? I live in the Northeast, and I have two major choices for my coffee–Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. If you’ve walked into either of these places you definitely get a different feeling. Starbucks encourages you to sit down, relax, and chat with a friend. In contrast, Dunkin Donuts is more about a transaction. The chairs are uncomfortable, the employees are often less service focused, and there is no music playing in the background. Think about it. A jewelry store offers high-ticket items, so customer relationships need to be nurtured while buying decisions are pondered. You want all elements of your retail concept to complement the buying habits of your target audience.
Sometimes it is really difficult to rethink your business model when dealing with operations each day. Customers have changed and information flows more rapidly than ever before. You need to empower yourself to work ON your business, not IN your business to bring freshness and to shake up tradition. Just because “it’s always been done that way” doesn’t mean you still have to. Did we ever think we’d trade a paper book for an electronic book? That’s a whole new concept when it comes to the traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore. Take the time to consider the trends and your customers’ wants and needs. It’s the only way to succeed in the future of any changing retail industry.