Behavior & Culture

Rethinking Retail Customer Engagement in 2017

January 5, 2016

New Year, New Opportunities In Customer Engagement: How jewelry designers, retailers and the fine/luxury jewelry industry should be looking at customer loyalty and social media behavior through the lens of engagement

Do you know what Van Clef & Arpels and Tiffany & Co have in common? Is it the same business trait that De Beers and Blue Nile share? If your guess was loyal, social customer bases, then you are correct. In the past few months on our blog, we have been discussing how to create better holiday sales success, giving our readers better advice on merchandising, and getting to the heart of using Instagram and SnapChat well. If you have been reading these posts you may have noticed a common theme that touches each one – and that is customer loyalty.

Engagement Is More Than A Ring  – It’s A Relationship

Jewelers are no strangers to customer loyalty. Customers that spend hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars on a single piece are often high-touch shoppers who expect above average service from the places they shop. Combine this expectation with the information found in our most recent State of Jewelry report (you can download it for free), and you will see that customer loyalty has evolved; it has given way to customer experience, something directly driven by the holy grail of jewelry marketing -–– engagement.

As a small or medium-size business owner, you are able to foster relationships and connections with your customer just as well as any large company. Leveraging experience and engagement should put you at a strategic advantage, in fact. Let’s start by defining what customer experience and engagement means for this industry.

For jewelers, customer experience is best defined as how customers perceive their interactions with your company created by the ways they as customers are able to connect with your business across the channels available to them.

This simply means the ways that a customer interacts with your brand provides you with multiple strategic, ongoing opportunities to continually develop your relationships with them. So how do you that?

Understand the Occasion, Understand the Customer

A recent article by our sister show, NY NOW, effectively outlines how to understand who your customers are so that you can build better sales success. A large part of sales success is based on two things ––  1) monitoring what customers buy and 2) communicating with them regularly. As a jeweler, you are in an even more unique situation because the customer is often shopping for something related to a specific occasion. When a customer enters your store, greet them, give them a few minutes to look around, but do not wait too long to engage them in conversation.

Notice which items they gravitate towards in the first few minutes of browsing, study their body language and then simply ask, “are you shopping for a particular occasion?” instead of, “Can I help you find something?” Asking the shopper an open-ended question immediately opens the door for them to share a story with you. Their response communicates a personal need or desire, which is the reason they came through the door. Once you’ve heard the story, then you can ask additional support questions like, “what are you wearing to/for this event?” and then, “tell me a little bit more about your personal style.”

Once you have gotten the conversation rolling, your expert recommendations can be used to help the shopper envision a particular piece in the proper context of their specific need. For instance, if a woman is looking for a lovely set of pearls to go with a particular dress for an evening out, ask if she has any photos of the dress so you might better match your recommendations. The customer will appreciate the level of detail in your efforts to find the perfect jewelry selection. And you will be able to have much better insight into the customers’ preferences, in order to make the best possible recommendations.

Plan Preemptive Strikes

The scenario above is one that has the potential to open the door for you to collect more than just basic information from your customers. During your sales process if you collect an email address, send a quick follow up thank you email, that doesn’t contain any sales promotions or incentives. The email can simply thank them for their purchase and offer information about keeping the piece properly stored. It is the first step in establishing in-person and online conversations. When you have established a dialogue, you can later ask about birthdays and anniversaries. If they have had an amazing shopping experience with you, they will most likely give you this information. As each of those dates come around, have a system in place to mail personalized incentives to come back into your store

If they are someone that you eventually build a longer relationship with, you can collect more information about their lifestyle that may give you an even deeper understanding of who they are. For example, one of your customers may have a large family and for every high school graduation, the parents would like to give each child a special gift. For you as a retailer, this is a golden opportunity to offer cufflinks or a money clip for boys or a custom locket for girls, as the perfect gift to send them off to college. It becomes a symbol or tradition in the family and again, the level of detail and personalized service will be deeply appreciated.

Another example could be a customer that comes in for jewelry cleaning very frequently. If you ask about the frequency of her visits you may find that she collects a specific type of jewelry, and adores wearing her jewelry every day. As a retailer, you can use this opportunity to deepen your relationship with her. Offer free lifetime cleaning for anything she buys from you, as well as percentage off other jewelry cleaning needs. This is something she will value. Small efforts like these offer big opportunities to retain your customers for years to come.

Master Being Socially Savvy

Social media may not be your forte, but it plays an important role in how you connect with your customers online. Social connections online can bring customers to your website and your store, with the help of smartphones. Take a little time to get familiar with online tools, including review sites like Yelp! to take the opportunity to engage with current and potential customers online. It is okay to set limits on what you can and cannot do online, setting yourself up for success is important. With that, here are our recommendations about where to invest in social media to maximize engagement:

  1. Facebook: Facebook is now the largest social network in the world. If you were to upload a list of your customers’ email addresses (you can do that), on average you will find that 60% of them have Facebook accounts. Facebook offers you a huge opportunity to continually connect with and market to your customer base. And once the platform knows who those people are (it does that too), then it can be used to help you find new customers!
  2. Instagram: Instagram may be considered your most important tool as it delivers 58 times the level of engagement that Facebook does (and Facebook owns it!)! While it now offers a variety of live and video features, even if you only use photos, you are going to be in good shape. Posting photos of your jewels, gems and collections (your brand story) naturally invites people to admire the products you make or sell. And if you take advantage of the advertising features, you can even sell them right from Instagram!
  3. Yelp & Google: Many people have a love/hate relationship with review sites, but they are still important. Both Yelp and Google reviews are based on real customer experiences. As a retailer, you should respond to comments and take advantage of being able to help guide the conversation about what people are saying about you. These sites also have geolocation features tied to them that can help nearby foot traffic come through your door through the mobile app and phone features. Big win again!
  4. Your Own Website: Whether you have e-commerce or not, your website is your calling card to the world. It is where your social profiles drive traffic to, as well as your reviews. Your website should feature high-quality photography, a customer service phone number and be easily accessible via a mobile device.

If you have these four things in place, you are in good shape to start, maintain and eventually scale the online aspects of your customer engagement.

Guide the Conversation or Your Customers Will

By actively participating in your customers’ lives and conversations, you are able to continually guide and impact the story they are telling about you. If you create a special story for customers to share by connecting with them on a personal level and anticipating their specific needs, you are building valuable revenue sources. If you are creating the assets and content they are sharing, you are driving it. Creation and participation are the success factors in experience and engagement today. Leverage them correctly, and you will see success in your bottom line.

Additional Resource: RetailNext’s Shopper Engagement Study 2017 has great insights for jewelers. Check it out today!

This post was originally written for my client JA New York. Learn more about the fine and luxury jewelry industry on their blog at