With the acceleration of e-commerce during COVID-19 lockdowns, the time is right for retailers to integrate and invest in this side of their business, writes JOHN ROSE.
A successful online presence has become an increasingly important part of any jewellery retailer’s business. To allow customers to browse and shop at your store wherever they are, and whenever they wish, exponentially increases the potential for sales.
E-commerce has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, and so has consumer behaviour towards online purchasing.
Gone are the days where consumers went online simply to get a bargain. Most sites offering cheap products are not trusted and have lengthy delays in delivery of the product, without any ability to talk to anyone about delivery times, defects, returns, etcetera. Customers do not want that.
The three main reasons why customers buy online today are convenience, trust and speed. Consumers, especially Australians, prefer to buy from a trusted source that they know. This is why Amazon has had a far more difficult time making an impact on the Australian market than it has overseas.
People are shopping from their desk during their lunch break, on the bus, before breakfast, late at night – whenever it is convenient for them to do so.
So, how can jewellers capitalise on this ‘new normal’?
As a supplier to the jewellery industry, West End Collection gets a lot of feedback from retailers. Sell-out reports show major retail operators selling seven to 10 times more of our brands through their online store than they do in their largest flagship store.
Why is this? It comes down to those three factors of convenience, trust and speed. Customers know that they can quickly and easily buy a quality product online from a trusted retailer that, should there be a problem, they can talk to directly and drop in to see should the need arise.
That part is critical: consumers want to buy from a retailer they recognise, that has a real presence here in Australia, and that they can easily contact for customer service.
The greatest advantage that physical stores have over purely online stores is their loyal existing customers, with whom they often have a personal relationship. So, in order to succeed, an online presence should be an extension of the bricks-and-mortar store.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars chasing potential customers, trying to convince them to buy from you. The easiest way to build your web sales is to entice your existing walk-in customers – not through discounts, or special offers, but with the convenience of online shopping.
Starting an online store is quick, easy and inexpensive – there are services such as Shopify which do all the work for you. The monthly rates for these services are competitively priced and the extra features available allow you to add more functions to encourage sales.
To make the process even simpler, suppliers – including West End Collection – often offer digital integration with your website, which allows you to upload batches of watches and jewellery to your website at the click of a button.
West End’s ‘Integrator’ service also connects directly to our warehouse and automatically updates retailers’ websites when an item is out of stock, or when a new item becomes available. Many of our retailers are also offering drop-shipping, which means fewer sales are lost due to lack of stock.
When an order comes in for an item that’s not in store, the retailer simply ‘pushes’ the delivery on to the supplier, which then ships the item directly to the customer.
The other benefit to retailers of having a quality website is being able to offer a broader range of products than they could carry in-store.
If a customer is in the store looking for a particular piece of jewellery or a specific watch, the retailer can simply show them the item on the website. If the customer likes the item, it can easily be ordered and be sent to the store – no lost sale.
While it may seem counter intuitive, customers often like to talk to someone while they are browsing the retailer’s website. This creates a genuine personalised shopping experience and allows them to ask for advice and guidance before they make their purchase.
Further integrating the online-offline sales process, retailers can use programs such as Podium which allow them to send a text message to the customer while they are in-store, or after an online sale, prompting them to leave a Google review.
These positive reviews boost the retailer to the top of Google searches and add to their online credibility, leading to more sales.
Making a website an extension of a physical store is now becoming the standard, and there are many clear benefits for retailers.
Name: John Rose
Company: West End Collection
Position: General manager
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Years in Industry: 23