When rolling lockdowns shut down the world and supply lines fell into chaos, every business that wanted to stay relevant and connected jumped online. What was once an urgent necessity has now become the norm as brands, retailers, suppliers and manufacturers alike see the power of the next generation of technology.
Retailers have shifted their focus to the digital space, from social media to online appointments and augmented reality. 3D printing and CAD technology have allowed local designers to concentrate their jewellery production in Australia. Jewellery industry and trade shows are now hybrid events allowing more people to engage with the industry, overcoming COVID restrictions or simply distance with the power of live-streaming.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way people shop, moving the tactile, in-person experience into the digital realm.
Brands now have the ability to create a seamless experience where influencers use social media to market their products, tagging products and illustrating their brand story online, so one click takes users to the website for purchase, all in the one digital space.
Many jewellers have reported increased sales to consumers in alternative locations to their store or workshop, demonstrating the importance of utilising technology to maintain or increase sales.
Many jewellery events and tradeshows were cancelled and rescheduled due to the pandemic. Adapting to new restrictions and guidelines, the jewellery industry created hybrid events to ensure retailers, wholesalers and suppliers were able to stay connected and continue to support one another.
The creation of virtual events meant that a broader audience could be reached as attendees could log in anywhere in the world. This, in turn, created safer in-person events with fewer in-person attendees.
Hybrid events help promote traffic to featured company websites and will likely maintain popularity due to their ability to reach larger audiences than in-person experiences available only to physical attendees.
The adoption of communications technology including Zoom, Teams, EventAir, Vimeo or Google Hangouts has enabled more flexibility in all elements of business interaction. These apps allow retailers to conduct online consultations, conferences and webinars, such as the CIBJO Jewellery Industry Voices held monthly by The World Jewellery Confederation. Largely out of necessity, users are becoming more and more comfortable using online tools for communications.
DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE TECH
3D printing technology has become increasingly popular amongst the new generation of jewellery makers. A steadily growing market of 3D printers allows for highly customisable, intricate designs that can be produced in seconds, and are easy to change, conserve or cast into other materials. While the original investment and ongoing maintenance is costly, 3D printers allow for reduced-cost jewellery creation and manufacturing with laser-precision designs and finishes across many metals and finishes.
One key advantage is its capability for personalisation and customisation – something studies show makes highly online Gen Z customers more likely to purchase. Personalisation of products helps to overcome many barriers to online sales, creating stronger relationships with customers online, when in-store shopping isn’t possible.
When supply lines were disrupted, advances in jewellery manufacturing technology allowed designers to overcome a previous reliance on overseas production. Technology in this field has in some way returned the long-standing traditions of jewellery production to Australian craftspeople, reversing the ‘made-in-China’ trend of previous decades.
Companies like Sarine Technology are leading the industry with their digital advances, using artificial intelligence technology to map the entire journey of diamonds from mine to polish. 3D scanning (done in the mine) initiates the process, creating a unique 3D model (including other identifiable features such as origin country and registration ID) and the information is updated to Sarine’s database.
When transported to the polishers, a secondary scan is done to verify the authenticity before registering it safely. According to Sarine, the digitisation of this process ensures the “unbroken chain of authentication at every stage of the diamond’s journey” and secures the confidence and trust in the product.
Diamond company De Beers uses a similar digital ledger system for their blockchain tracing. Tracr provides their customers and wholesalers with an assurance on the origin and tracking of their diamond from the original mine to the final product.
This can also add value and provide a more individualised experience for the consumer who can learn about the specific origins of their diamond. The tracing of raw materials bolsters the authenticity and raises expectations and standards for the consumer, whose values have changed to prioritise ethical processes and commitments from the companies they are purchasing from.
A new generation of digital experience for online retailers and wholesalers includes the use of augmented reality applications. These merge a 3D model of the brand’s jewellery designs with a photo or image from the user’s device camera.
The benefits of digital augmented reality applications impact the business and the consumer. For the brand, the try on process is safer in terms of hygiene and security as they do not need to physically showcase each piece to the consumer. They can also reach a larger audience not in proximity to the physical store. Consumers can also try on an unlimited range of products that may not be available in store. The German online watch retailer, Chrono24, allows consumers to virtually try on their timepieces using augmented reality for their range of high end watches.
In terms of marketing, augmented reality applications help build an engaged audience which, in turn, helps strengthen brand awareness. These systems can also gather useful data and feedback regarding what pieces people are trying on, how often this process leads to the sale of a product and which features would benefit the application in the future.
To people with concerns about hygiene, particularly since the pandemic, augmented reality offers an alternative to trying on jewellery in person as well as possibly limiting the returns on online sales as people can tell beforehand whether the jewellery suits their skin tone, matches their own jewellery and see the sizing differences in 3D.
The jewellery industry should continue to embrace the new generation of digital processes, platforms and applications across the board to successfully adapt to the new post-COVID consumer landscape.
Online platforms for sales, along with augmented applications that allow for online try on experiences, have ensured that jewellery retailers stay engaged with their consumer base.
Insider events have expanded into the digital realm and the new generation of digital processes has allowed for creative uses of 3D printers and blockchain digital ledgers adding value for manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and consumers alike.
As technology improves, the jewellery industry will continue to benefit from its changes, while those retailers and suppliers who leverage digital technologies in their businesses will see positive outcomes.