By Deborah A. Yonick
Women are powerful consumers. Currently, they control more than $20 trillion in worldwide spending—$7 trillion of which are spent in the United States. And that consumer power is only going to grow: Over the next decade, women are expected to control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the U.S.
Already we’ve seen women emerge as a powerful consumer group for the jewelry industry. No longer are they merely the recipients of jewelry gifted to them by the men in their lives. According to research conducted by MVI Marketing, modern women are buying jewelry for themselves in record numbers, making the self-purchasing female one of the largest areas of growth for the industry.
To help jewelers understand, connect with, and sell to female self-purchasers, the Plumb Club recently hosted a webinar on the topic. Guest speakers Stephanie Holland, author and founder of She-conomy, and marketing consultant Andrea Hill of the Chicago-based Hill Management Group shared market research and actionable steps jewelers can use to reach today’s female consumers.
Traditionally, jewelers have sold primarily to male gift givers, considering the female a secondary influencer, Holland says. “But with only 48 percent of U.S. adults married, as compared to 78 percent in the 1950s, the landscape of the jewelry industry has changed dramatically.”
Because the jewelry industry has built a paradigm around engagement rings, says Hill, it has some unlearning to do. “As an industry, we focused on diamonds, the 4Cs, and selling by certificate, all techniques that work when selling to men, because the social construct said they had to buy a big engagement ring. Now, that social construct has diminished. But jewelry stores are still designed almost completely around how men buy.”
According to Holland, market research finds that more than half (51 percent) of female consumers buy jewelry for themselves, 14 percent buy for their partner/spouse, and 17 percent make purchases together with their partner/spouse. That equates to women purchasing and influencing 81 percent of all jewelry sales.
“Because the customer paradigm has shifted from men to women, it is imperative for jewelry manufacturers and retailers to understand the female market,” says Holland. However, in her research, she’s found that 91 percent of women feel advertisers don’t connect with them. “Most jewelry manufacturers and retailers are male-owned and operated. This is further exacerbated by the fact that advertising is also a male dominated industry. There’s a big disconnect, when you have 89 percent of advertising creative directors male, and 81 percent of consumers female.”
The result? Women are feeling unheard, untargeted, unconnected, and underserved. Holland underscores that brands must appeal to women or risk negatively impacting their bottom line. Research shows that 74 percent of women are willing to walk away from brands that don’t listen to them.
Jewelers must understand how women are feeling unheard and what to do about it before they can even begin to effectively connect with their female customers.
Holland recommends brands think in terms of life stages and not age. “A 40-year-old woman could easily have a toddler at home, a child going to college, or no children at all, or still be single. While they’re all 40, their wants and desires, and where they are in life, is very different.”
To connect effectively with the female self-purchaser, you first have to know what motivates her, says Holland, who cites some of the top reasons: to get what she wants, to reward herself, to commemorate a memory, and just because.
It’s also important to think about the differences between the way men and women shop.
“Men are interested in the visuals of an item and anything performance or status-related,” says Hill. “Women are generally interested in ideas and relationships associated with an item. Their visual construct is very different.” (See chart below.)
If you want to sell to women, you must appeal to them, engage them, and relationship-build with them differently than you do with men, says Hill, who offered the following suggestions:
• Never Stereotype: No more breathless, “She said yes!” advertising, unless you’re only selling engagement rings and only to men.
• Advocate Beliefs: Think about what your brand sells beyond jewelry. For example, Home Depot doesn’t present itself as a hardware store. It focuses on being the place to go to make your home beautiful and welcoming, created by doing projects with your significant other. The brand is not selling tools; it’s selling hearth, home, and togetherness.
• Illustrate Context, Not Product: Subaru is good at targeting women with contextual advertising. You don’t even see the inside of the car. Instead, Subaru tells stories about how your dog might finally like your boyfriend if you take them both camping in your Subaru. That your kids can grow up in that car, then drive it when they’re older. It focuses on what cars mean to women—personal adventures, taking the kids to band practice, family vacations.
• Choose Conversations Over Advertising: Sell through conversations, not ads. Everyone loves pretty pictures, but women respond better to dialogue. It’s why getting all those comments on Pinterest pins and Instagram posts works for women. Choose communication mediums that allow you to have a conversation and deepen engagement over time.
• Use Social Proof: Women want to share their discoveries and know what their friends and family think, making social proof critical for these shoppers. Also known as informational social influence, social proof includes referrals from friends, other customers, and experts; ratings and reviews; certifications; and social media posts. When your marketing is linkable/sharable, you help women build confidence and make it easy for them to learn from, and solicit input from, their communities.
• Maximize Website Appeal: Your website must do more than just show pretty pictures to build confidence among female shoppers. Show every product and its price and, if you’re a retailer, enable consumers to put it in a shopping cart and buy it. Even though more than 90 percent will still go into the store and buy, women are turned off by websites that don’t facilitate instant gratification. Women also expect your website to encourage and engage interaction, research, entertainment, and other ways to contribute feedback and share with others.
• Less Categories, More Experiences: Williams-Sonoma is a great example of this. They don’t merchandise frying pans with frying pans, and spatulas with spatulas. Instead, they demonstrate vignettes of an amazing kitchen life. They make you feel like cooking after being in the store for only five minutes. How can you turn your jewelry store into an experience? What must you do to make it possible for your customers to pick up the jewelry, try it on, look in a mirror (without asking for one), and rapidly share on social media? How can you create integrations between smartphones and jewelry displays so a customer can scan a QR code and learn things about a designer, collection, or product that they couldn’t learn by just looking at it? How can you make shopping for jewelry appeal to a woman’s desire to experience your store through relational merchandising and the joy of the hunt?
• Facilitate the Hunt: Women want shopping to be more of a hunt, like Hamleys toy store in London. It’s filled with demonstrations and experiences to create interest in, confidence about, and desire for its toys. It’s more than toys in boxes on shelves; it’s toys in action.
• Collaborate Instead of Assist: Women don’t want service; they want collaboration. Think about how Sephora makes make-up fun. They show interest in your skin type, lifestyle, and make-up regimen. Many other stores sell all the same items, but Sephora does it better.
• Avoid Jewelry Rules: If you want to keep women in your store, avoid jewelry rules. Women have their own reasons for buying fine jewelry, and they are far less likely than men to consider jewelry for its monetary value. If a consumer is interested in a lab-grown diamond, show her a lab-grown diamond. Merchandise to your brand, but stop judging the options. Just make the proper disclosures and deliver a quality product that meets the customer’s expectations.
• Invest in Relationships: The American Express platinum card does a great job of investing in relationships. When you arrive at a hotel booked with the card, there’s usually a personalized greeting and gift waiting from AMEX, not the hotel. They give new perks, offers, and valuable information—all things that demonstrate AMEX cares about its relationships.
• Make Excuses to Engage: Starbucks gives its customers many reasons to visit the barista. It shares updates on customer points and what you can do with them. It gives away free points just because. It shares new products, flavors, and even the music playing in its stores. It entertains through meaningful engagement.
• Help Her Own It: Engagement with the customer shouldn’t end with the sale. Hill shared a story about her daughter’s recent experience buying a Ford pickup truck. “The dealership invited her to come in so it could show her how to do basic maintenance checks; checked in on her to see if she had any questions. They are empowering her to be a great truck owner.” How can you empower your customers to be great jewelry owners?