Online and offline: blurring the difference
Online and offline jewellery businesses are a different ball game. But that does not mean the struggle to outdo each other is not fierce. From online stores introducing exciting features or launching their brick-and-mortar set-ups to traditional players going online, the jewellery industry is constantly abuzz with some developments. Here’s Deepa Mishra presenting to you an overview of the tug-of-war between the two entities.
You thought online jewellery stores are only competing amongst themselves. Not true. They are all set to take on their traditional counterparts too and in a big way. They are exploring every avenue to not just make it big in the digital space but the industry as a whole. In response to that, traditional players too are going all about invading their space. Both the entities may appear to be chalk and cheese but with each new day, they are heading towards creating a level playing field – a phygital world.
Before we delve into the hows and whys of it, let’s first understand the four existent e-commerce models of the jewellery industry.
- Traditional players launching online stores: Either by launching their own online store or by acquiring/ partnering an existing one, traditional jewellers have entered the digital space. Note that, although they boast of their generations-old legacy in their campaigns, the brand names of the two entities – online and offline, need not be the same. Even the marketing strategies and jewellery collections may differ.
- Traditional players on marketplaces: Some of the traditional jewellers are still reluctant to go online in full steam. To begin with, they have tied up with online marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart. Through these platforms, they sell their popular designs. With that, they get exposure to a wide range of audiences, while slowly gaining a foothold in the e-commerce world.
- Purely online players: There are also jewellers who have entered the jewellery industry with online stores and have limited their presence to it. Their strategy is to cater to the new-age audience that is confident about purchasing jewellery online.
- Online players going offline too: Realising the importance of being personally connected with their customers, a few of the online stores have also started setting up their brick-and-mortar stores. Although this is a reverse strategy to enter the gems and jewellery business, they are surely here to stay.
The first model, where traditional jewellers have gone online, may seem to have an edge over the others. For they already have a reputation to cash in on. But to go far in the e-commerce world, secure transaction, technical efficiency and safe delivery are crucial in building a brand and that is equally challenging for all, irrespective of scale and age of the business. If all goes well, half the battle is won. However, it is easier said than done. It took generations for the traditional jewellers to earn a brand status. With a view to score on these counts, hardly a few year-old e-commerce businesses have laid down some crucial policies. Namely: they sell only certified products; they provide an insurance cover in case of loss or damage and they have customer-friendly return and exchange policies.
On the back of these policies, online retailers have earned customer confidence in the recent years. As a result, more and more women from different walks of life, including those based in tier II and tier III cities, have taken a shine to this new way of jewellery shopping. Here, they not just enjoy the comfort of buying from their own home but also access to multiplicity in designs and materials. As they appreciate the interactive nature of this medium to share product reviews, they often stop by to do their homework before actually going to a physical store.
Among other things, cash on delivery, EMI payments and timely delivery also attract them. Still in today’s context, the buying behaviour of the same individual is different when s/he logs into an online store and when s/he walks into an offline store. From budgets, reasons to choices, everything varies. At a physical store, they will make a big ticket purchase while online they spend frugally. Why so? Thanks to certain inherent limitations of online stores.
- Jewellery is not just a fashion accessory but also an investment in our culture. Before zeroing on any jewel, the buyer wants to be assured about the product. The product images and descriptions on the site are not enough to satisfy the customer’s need to know more. As a result, the buyer confidence is still low.
- On top of that, online it is more of an advance payment system for the products which practically the buyer has yet not seen. Hence, decision-making is slow.
- Not just that. About women, it is commonly said that they will try 10 designs but will buy the 11th one. Online stores’ try-at-home therefore has a long way to go.
- Personalisation and customisation is still a big problem online, especially in case of buying rings and bangles where size is of prime importance.
Then how to compel the customer to shop online, especially when there are 10 jewellery shops within 10 kilometres of their homes? This is where the phygital strategy steps in. It helps online retailers to blur the difference between the online and offline experiences. At PNG Jewellers, we have set up an Omni Store on our online store that allows the customers to select designer jewellery online and then, try them at their nearest physical store.
Stepping into customer’s shoes and understanding how to give customers in-store experience online, online players have developed many such revolutionary features which either add a new dimension to their proposition (for instance: opening brick-and-mortar set-ups) or come closer to the offline experience. That’s not all. Through promotional offers and loyalty programs, they have further stepped up their appeal.
No wonder, despite so many limitations, slowly and steadily customers are warming up to online stores. It would not be too long, when they would prefer to make big purchases too online. The hard work of the online players will definitely bear fruit. It’s just a matter of time, now.