released April 30, 2021
(recorded April 28, 2021) - 1 hours, 25 minutes
Methods of marketing have changed drastically since we began our journey in the jewelry industry in 2003. We were just recovering from the recession that was caused by a both the dotcom bubble bursting and the 9-11 terror attacks. After the burst of the dotcom bubble there was a general feeling that the internet would never work and no one should take it seriously. The future possibilities of the internet were understood by the technology companies who continued to forge ahead and only a few outside of technology who had vision to understand that technology designed to help with mundane life could leap us all forward.
Back then, every jeweler was using traditional marketing methods like radio, newspapers, billboards, postcards, TV, and other direct mail. Because those methods were successful through the 2001 recession it was difficult to convince retail jewelers that a website, online catalogs, and even ecommerce, would help them serve their existing customers and attract new customers.
The biggest worry retail jewelers seemed to have in the 2004-2005 was how to combat online diamond sales from BlueNile.
With MySpace and Friendster on the rise, the idea of using this crazy thing called a "social network" to promote a jewelry store seemed like a huge waste of time.
The biggest hurdle back then was that jewelers didn't have a digital camera to take photos of their jewelry. I think it was in 2006 when we started buying Olympus digital cameras and sent them to our clients with the offer to learn how to use them to take product photos so we could them. The hope was that, little by little, every month, we could build online catalogs for our jewelers.
Of course, once we started giving out cameras, the new hurdle was "finding the time" to take photos. In my view, you find the time for the things you do take seriously, and the internet just wasn't one of those things that jewelers were serious about. The speed of online change and the online adoption of things were outpacing every aspect of traditional person-to-person business transactions. Many jewelers who spent a lot of money, or knew a friend who spent a lot of money on a website during the dotcom bubble days were still jaded and unwilling to reinvest.
Back then, our monthly retainer fees included tech support and website updates for all of our jewelers. Even thought jewelers were paying for monthly website updates, very few of them request significant changes, if any, to their website every month. This always saddened me because I always felt I was one of those technology people who could see the bigger picture of what this was all about and the possibilities.
When the Great Recession hit, we lost a lot of jewelers from the industry. In our company, we lost more than 100 jewelers, half of which went out of business and the other half that canceled their monthly retainer contracts and asked a relative or someone local to create a static website for them.
The thing that those 100 jewelers all had in common was that they didn't take the internet seriously. They had the opinion that they just needed a presence, and they were fine with paying someone else so they could forget about it. But we were never the type of company that would just come up with monthly marketing fluff to put on a website. We understood that the website should be a real representation of who you are, what you do, and what you sell rather than just some generic regurgitation of the same information over and over again, or worse, the same information that would be written once by our team and copied onto all our client websites.
I don't think any of those 100 jewelers are in business today, and I firmly believe it was their refusal to accept new online marketing techniques, and change their in-house procedures to accommodate immerging customer needs in the online realm that lead to their extinction.
Even though we lost a lot of customers during the Great Recession, we gained a few that had hopes and some vision. We had one jeweler us about $3,000 to build a website in 2008. This was a new jeweler, only in business for about 3 years, located in the center of a city with a population of 80,000. Theirs was a small website with plans to expand into ecommerce and grow their business with the help of the internet. The husband and wife team was in their early 40s and excited to give this a try.
But a year later, they chose not to move forward with their website anymore and asked if they could just pay for hosting until they were ready. Several times a year we checked in on them, but it wasn't until 2014 that they came back on our monthly retainer plan with the hopes to get motivated. But they didn't. We tried to motivate them towards social media, and they did set up a Facebook page in 2012 without our help, but they rarely posted to it. They continued to pay us for two years without touching their website.
So now we're at 2016 and they still have a website that we built for them in 2008. To give you an idea, that was before responsive design and before mobile. In 2016 they have a mostly inactive Facebook page, and by that time they are already missing out on Instagram and Pinterest.
All of this is a far cry from the original idea that they would try to use the internet to its fullest potential. The excuse that they would eventually make time for this just didn't seem realistic. I can't even say that there was a generational resistance, because they were probably among the youngest jewelers to sign up with us shortly after they got their new store settled in.
Since 2016, we still kept their online website active, and we checked in with them a few times a year to tell them about new possibilities, but they still said they didn't have time. They never added Facebook activity into their online routine either.
I suppose it's easy for me to sit here and tell a story like this and make it seem like this jewelry store was missing out on something big. But if I take a step back and think about their location, they are near the center of their city. It's difficult to compare where I live in NJ with what they call a city because the City of Patterson has 145,000 people and one of my neighboring towns has a population of 85,000. But still, for their area, they might have a reasonable amount of customers every day from their main road. So maybe their claims of being busy are legitimate. A lot of business is simply about location, location, location.
Of course, with the internet the way it is today, your location for walk in foot traffic doesn't matter, as long as you have a continual flow of outgoing shipments through the back door, and that's what you get when you do make time for the internet.
During the pandemic they didn't engage at all on social media, in fact they had 1 post on Facebook on February 11, 2020 for Valentine's Day, and the next time they posted was two months later to April 15, 2020, then to May 15, 2020, then a five month leap to October 9, 2020. Throughout that time there was no mention of COVID-19 closure, even though they were, no mention of the now infamous "unprecedented times" or "we're all in this together." No mention of how to contact them. No mention of how to pick up repairs that they might have had trapped in their repair shop.
Throughout all of 2020 they didn't even contact us once to change the store hours on their website. They just dropped out of existence during that time.
From October 9, 2020 through December 2020 they only posted to Facebook 12 times. Jump forward to their next post in February 2021 for Valentine's Day, followed by 4 more posts in February 2021 for closures due to weather.
The next time they posted to Facebook was on April 1 to announce they are going out of business. Right now they are posting to Facebook every day to advertise the sale of the day.
I wanted to tell this story today because I know many jewelers have suffered through the pandemic, and even though the latest JBT report shows that there was only a 1.5% drop in the number of jewelry businesses in first quarter 2021 compared to 2.1% for the same period in 2020, and 3.1% in 2019. That said, we have heard of a number of jewelers that have said they won't be renewing their lease next time around.
I don't know the real reason for this jeweler to be going out of business, but all the evidence shows that they are a victim of the lack of response to traditional advertising without them participating in the new online marketing methods. The pandemic closures cut off their ability for income and they didn't employ any methods of ecommerce.
The moral of the story is that pushing the opportunities off the internet off until tomorrow because "you don't have time" will catch up to you. Retail jewelers need to break out of the mould of the "local traditional jeweler" and rethink their business model into some new format that serves the expectations that their existing customers have today, while also attracting a new online customer base.
With traditional marketing your biggest worry was the photo to choose, the copy for the ad, the artistic design of the ad, and the cost. Radio and TV required some professional studio work. Those types of marketing only took a few days out of your routine every month to prepare. With online marketing, everyone seems to be afraid of things like SEO, content building, and product photography, and the amount of time it takes.
But I look at it this way: If you are spending 30 minutes to explain one piece of jewelry to one customer in your store, I challenge you to write all that information out so you can put it on your website and make your sales associates memorize it. Remove yourself as the jeweler that must do everything for customers on the showroom floor.
The internet isn't going away. It has already taken over our lives. You as a jeweler have to either figure out how to become relevant in this new way of living, or you have to hire someone who you will be willing to learn from, or, you're going to join the extinct class of traditional jewelers that could not transition.
Friday, April 30, 2021
AT: 04/30/2021 11:12:13 PM
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