There cannot be anything more significant than beautiful jewellery clad on to add a fine exuberance in life. But, how do you sell this precious grandeur online? Are spenders ready to move it digitally in India, too?
For most businesses, this year went by being uncertain and unpredictable. Capitalizing majorly on virtual channels, luxury brands are keeping a connection with the customers and also, even acquiring new clienteles. Especially for the jewellery industry, more than ever the leaders are trying to create a bespoke experience.
During the earliest, most uncertain months of the pandemic, fine jewellery sales dipped. In a July webinar hosted by Bloomberg News focusing on the luxury retail market, sales of the Richemont Group, which owns Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels were down 37%. Even Tiffany & Co. is in the midst of a lengthy legal back and forth with French luxury conglomerate LVMH, which was set to purchase the entire outfit for a record $16 billion before backing out due to the economic downturn.
India’s jewellery industry has also been one of the impacted sectors. Although the first quarter was unfruitful, it is hoped that the second quarter will make the industry flourish with demand for goods and operations starting again.
Abhishek Raniwala, Co-Founder, Raniwala 1881, a jewellery house continuing its legacy since the 19th century notes an important point, “The mindset of people has changed due to the current scenario. It has made them more self-aware and made them more conscious about their purchases. They are now choosing quality over quantity and utility over extravagance with versatile and practical pieces.” Indian jewellery online sales are also expected to account for 1-2 per cent of the fine jewellery segment by 2021-22.
The Digital Magic:
The combined pressures of COVID-19 and the rising numbers of young audience have forced jewellery brands to rethink their approach. Online purchases via website browsing or virtual private appointments are now significant to brands. They need to be able to offer consumers a virtual experience that is possibly close to a real one – seamless-safe transactions, amazing images, some investments in augmented reality, a personal concierge.
“There is no doubt that jewellery will, on the average, face more challenges because of their continued strong reliance on sales through the physical and wholesale channel. For businesses to survive, the need of the hour is to promote virtual shopping and use virtual marketing tools to make it an enjoyable shopping experience. This could help not only boost online sales but also entice consumers to visit stores in the future.” advises Mr Raniwala.
At Signet Jewelers, online sales rose 6.7% last quarter; they even rushed out a new platform in April for virtual shopping and has since hosted roughly 200,000 virtual consultations. American celebrity favourite Le Vian, a family-owned luxury jewellery company, made a record of having sold a necklace costing $60,000 online. During March and April, digital fashion site Moda Operandi recorded a 35% rise in jewellery sales. In the West, there’s been a real investment in online selling of luxury fine jewellery. But, are people in India ready to invest in fine pieces virtually? Or, is it still a nascent event?
Amrapali Jewels has been playing a key role in revolutionising Indian jewellery. CEO and Creative Director, Tarang Arora enlightens, “I don’t think we can say that they are completely ready, but the number has definitely grown and people do prefer the convenience of shopping online, however they would still need a brick and mortar store to go too. We can’t ignore the fact that what we are witnessing right now is a retail renaissance where we will see paradigm shifts in the retail world and this definitely marks a beginning of new shopping culture where virtual experience will be predominant. I can’t say it is the new norm for fine jewellery, but the inclination has started and hopefully it will eventually lead to people buying more fine jewellery online. I feel this time has taught us all to see things very differently and probably in the right perspective – a definitive thought and meaning before they purchase anything.” Legend Amrapali is also launching soon which would be an online jewellery store.
Here in India, jewellery is more than just an ornament, it symbolizes tradition, blessings and culture. Amit Mehra, MD of Mehrasons Jewellers, shares, “I personally feel that for heavy jewellery one would certainly want to see and feel the piece physically before making a big purchase. Yes, they would like to window shop virtually and see what’s in store but as I said, people may buy small pieces of jewellery online but for bigger or heavier pieces everyone prefers to see the piece physically before making a huge investment of any kind. We are seeing an increase in customers coming to the store too however footfalls will take a while to go back to pre-covid times.”
Online Jewellery Auctions:
The industry needs to adapt the way they produce, communicate and sell now. Auction houses have resumed and adjusted operations through a thorough exploration of digital channels and private showings like never before. From Christie’s to Sotheby’s to Doyle – all of them are pushing their best online methods with heated biddings from all over the world. Sotheby’s Hong Kong even sold a 102.39-carat D colour flawless diamond for $15.7 million to an avid bidder over the phone, showing that spenders are also willing to pay vast sums even in a socially distanced setting.
Mr Raniwala guides, “It is very important for luxury brands to give bespoke experience to the clients. Luxury jewellery auction is a very popular method which is very fruitful for both the brand and customer in the west but unfortunately, it’s not that widely popular in India due to certain geographic constraints of Indian jewellery as here, the trends and patterns are very varied and different, resulting in lesser options of Indian ornamental auctions. However, there are few options for traditional auction jewellery but they are limited.”
Very recently, AstaGuru, a premium Indian online auction house sale comprised a curated selection of Indian and European jewellery pieces. Important highlights remain ‘Four Row Basra Pearl Necklace’, from the 1940s, composed of 327 graduating Basra pearls set with diamonds and baguettes in white gold was estimated at INR 1,25,00,000 – 1,30,00,000 (US$ 176,056 – 183,099); an elegant vintage ‘Gold Bracelet set with Rose Cut Diamonds’ from 1900s estimated at INR 40,00,000 – 42,00,000 (US$ 56,338 – 59,155). The auction took place on their website itself. Also, Bonhams’ Islamic and Indian Sale was led by glorious and royal jewels from the treasury of Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab.
“The future of auctions is bright in India especially for Indian Jewellery and art, the market and consumer values for auctioning Indian ornaments is gradually developing. I think Indian ornaments are one of kind, special pieces with heritage and cultural values attached. Also with added support from campaigns like ‘vocal for local’ people have now started to understand and appreciate the Indian art and craft even more.” Mr Arora shares. In recent times, people have also shown undivided interested in vintage and antique jewellery, resonating to the success of digital auctions.
The Change Onwards:
India has been a fascinating land for art and designs. All the glitter and merriment, the elaborate sparkling beauties, large rubies and emeralds mark the beauty of Indian jewellery. We bear a deep emotional connection, a sentimental process and not just a financial one.
“What we have seen now is, families, as well as the bride and groom, are looking for lighter, more wearable pieces. Their aesthetic and fashion sensibilities for intimate celebrations are very different from the grandeur of the typical Indian ones.” Mr Mehra says. The pandemic crisis has put either some of us on hold or some eager to start on a holistic approach towards life. So, from being just trend-based, it has changed to a value-based experience.
Mr Arora is of the same view: “People would now go for value-based pieces that can stand the test of time and have investment value. I feel people now want meaning and value in the piece that they are buying and give a definitive thought before they purchase anything. They want to make sure they make sustainable choices, they want to buy something that reflects their values, something which is like an extension to their personality.”
With the festive season coming in, jewellery brands here are hopeful to witness improved sales along with accelerated digitalisation. Spenders are focussed on both online and offline of fine investments. This demonstrates that jewellery leaders here need to respond accordingly – online catalogues, allowing customers to reserve and buy pieces on the spot, remote interaction, a specific appointment-only invite, enhanced sanitisation and safety measures. The current times are filled with blurred lines, one has to rope in both offline and online marketing equivalently This is the digital age and we need to keep up with it – like a part of our evolution.
Mr Raniwala adds, “Consumers, here, are now getting comfortable with digital platforms – right from communicating schemes, making a decision, online payments as well as delivery. And, as jewellers, we will have to narrate jewellery which is more purpose-driven and responds to consumers’ overall needs. Omnichannel comes into play where the story and narration of the content can be shared by the brand to the customers to engage them and give them the same experience.”
Analysts believe the decision to acquire and spend will be even more enthusiastic. Whatever be the format, consumers will attach more value to what they buy than ever, indicating the average spending behaviour could be on the rise and there will be a positive rebound!
Lead Image Credits: Mehrasons Jewellers