There is no denying it: The e-commerce business is booming. By 2016, the e-commerce market is expected to grow to a staggering $1.85 trillion. Increasing rates of Internet access in emerging economies, most notably in India and China, continue to fuel the growth of online commerce, leaving virtually every consumer affected.
Yet in spite of widespread e-commerce growth across all sectors, there has been one market that has been a bit slow on the uptake: fine jewelry. Experts say the reason the fine jewelry market has integrated so slowly with e-commerce is because fine jewelry purchases, such as buying an engagement ring or an anniversary necklace, are extremely emotionally charged purchases. This strong emotional aspect of the purchasing process means consumers want to be able to experience a piece of jewelry before they purchase it.
However, the U.S. jewelry market is a staggering $70 billion dollar industry and one that will be disrupted by e-commerce immensely in the coming years. As key players in the industry grow their online stores, the market will flourish and innovate like we’ve never seen before.
Let’s take a look at the how this evolution will manifest by way of e-commerce:
- Modern-day concierge jewelry. Concierge jewelers, or personal jewelers, are smaller operations. Unlike major retail chains, these jewelers tend to operate by word of mouth and offer a much higher level of service, along with higher-end customized jewelry pieces. With the rise of e-commerce, we’ll likely see the rise of modern-day concierge jewelry.
- 3D printing. As 3D printing becomes more common and costs drop, it is likely that fine jewelry companies will make use of this technology to provide customers with samples. This means a customer will be able to try out the piece in their daily life, judging size, comfort, and wear before they make a commitment. This also allows the emotion component of the purchasing process to be better integrated into the e-commerce shopping process, allowing the customer to connect with a particular piece before he or she purchases it.
- Better catering to mobile buyers. The segment of mobile buyers is big, and getting bigger. People are buying more and more on their phones, and that includes fine jewelry. Even when making a purchase in store, a staggering 82 percent of shoppers say they consult their phones before making a purchase. Jewelry retailers will increasingly cater to these mobile users with mobile apps and mobile-friendly websites.
- A more comprehensive buying experience with more sophisticated websites. As consumers turn to e-commerce to purchase fine jewelry, retailers will work to develop a more comprehensive buying experience, particularly with more sophisticated websites. The goal will be to bring the luxury of an in-store purchasing experience to an online purchasing experience. That means high-quality images, an excellent navigation scheme, and easy-to-use product configuration settings.
- As more jewelry retailers realize the opportunity in the e-commerce sector, the market will become more competitive. That means consumer expectations will rise—they won’t just being look for an excellent piece of jewelry, they will also be looking for a great shopping experience. Retailers will need to step up their game to stay competitive in this changing market.
- Ultimate customization. Consumers are becoming more interested in the potential of customization. A survey conducted by Bain & Co. found that roughly one quarter of shoppers are interested in online customization options. With e-commerce, retailers can expand the number of options they offer to their customers. This will ultimately open up more options for customization, allowing consumers to customize more aspects of jewelry pieces.
Similar to the direct to consumer business model of Tesla, the fine jewelry market will soon break through to consumers by encouraging them to order some of their most expensive and significant items with the touch of a finger because they’re receiving an ultra-customized product.
- On trend. Jewelry e-commerce means that stocking and supplying the trendiest jewelry will not only become more important, but will be easier for jewelers to meet demands more quickly. It will no longer take months to get the trendiest cut into their brick and mortar store, they will be able to feature that product on their website and more quickly showcase that style to the customer.
Online jewelry sales will continue to flourish steadily for the next few years and as the industry implements these innovations to meet consumer demands, that growth rate will accelerate as jewelry e-commerce reaches it’s stride.
The timing of this growth will revolve around consumer preferences as they become more and more comfortable in buying emotionally charged products online, jewelry will fall right into this category.