In 2016, a ruby necklace sold for $413,000. In the world of hard luxury, it’s just another purchase. What makes this mean something is the fact that the piece sold online at Moda Operandi. Another e-commerce titan, Net-a-Porter, also regularly makes 6-figure fine jewelry sales.
Until recently, buying fine jewelry has historically been a special experience that involved going to elaborate appointed sales salons and putting up with sometimes pompous staff. Even though luxury brands have long embraced the influencer strategy, names in fine jewelry like Bulgari and Cartier held off until more recently.
The Moda Operandi sale marked a milestone in the e-commerce industry. Used to selling exclusive luxury clothing and bags, e-commerce has finally been embraced by the fine jewelry industry - albeit slowly.
In spite of the adoption of e-commerce by almost every commodity and service, fine jewelry has been the slowest to make the transition. The fine jewelry market has integrated slowly because fine jewelry purchases, like engagement rings, are largely emotionally charged. The emotional aspect of such purchases means that consumers want to experience a given piece in person before purchasing it. However, the rise of online jewelry concierges and customization services is making the online shopping experience more personal, and closer to the experience in stores.
While jewelry categories online currently make up a small percent of online luxury sales, the industry is beginning to embrace the potential of growth offered by e-commerce. E-commerce is clearly the future for brands looking to reach consumers in this digital age, as according to McKinsey, about 80 percent of luxury sales are digitally influenced. In order to thrive, luxury brands need to transform their businesses for the digital era.
35 percent of investment entering the jewelry industry between 2013 and 2017 went to omnichannel retailers, which are mostly e-commerce based, says Sarah Willersdorf, managing director at Boston Consulting Group. This percentage will only grow, making a quality digital presence of paramount importance.
The e-commerce boom has been fairly recent as well, likely attributed to more millennials entering the workforce and having more disposable income. In fact, a large amount of luxury e-commerce shoppers are millennials who live on the internet. By 2020, the purchasing power of millennials is projected to reach $1.4 trillion, making the millennial generation one that businesses should target to stay afloat.
By the time significant numbers of millennial consumers have become affluent enough to buy fine jewelry, the internet was already developed, so they never become accustomed to the salon experience. This is likely the reason why fine jewelry brands are making to the move to digital spaces. Furthermore, consumers are already comfortable shopping for luxury items online, which will only add to the growth online of fine jewelry sales.
More and more, online jewelry retailers are marketing the convenience of online shopping as a luxury for online shoppers. At Net-a-Porter, the goal is to marry the convenience of online shopping with the services offered in stores.
There is also a noticeable element of ease and convenience to being able to browse online without having to go into a store and inquire about pricing when there is interest in a piece. The first time entering a jewelry boutique or flagship store is intimidating. Being able to shop a similar selection online gives a customer a sense of ease to browse and take their time.
With more time to browse, consumers prefer to carry out detailed research on products, and compare prices. The emergence of online retail has made the purchasing journey multidimensional with a number of back and forth movements as consumers research and make decisions. Consumers often go through blog posts, videos and reviews prior to arriving at a particular purchase decision.
Additionally, online spaces provide retailers with opportunities to influence their audience, and establish contacts with them. Product selection, price inquiries, and purchases can now take place entirely online. A positive product review, a nicely shot image of jewelry, a blogpost on the collections, a positive social media buzz, and a well designed website all go a long way to influence consumers.
It’s a forgone conclusion that more jewelers will transition to e-commerce, and that sales will continue to pick up for years to come. In the coming years established jewelers will have to adjust their operations for online sales, while newcomers will have to establish themselves as credible jewelers. It is now, more than ever, a time for jewelers to adapt their brands for a booming digital landscape.