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Why the jewellery sector is in major need of disruption

(Image credit: Image Credit: Zapp2Photo / Shutterstock)

Every aspect of our lives is now heavily saturated with technology. We have startups, like Deliveroo and JustEat, delivering your takeout food, technology to collect your laundry such as LaundryHeap, and a plethora of companies, such as Uber, to take you to your destination with a few clicks of a button. Yet, until now, there was one significant industry that still hadn’t embraced technological disruption: the gold and diamond jewellery industry. Let's call this JewelTech; the $175 billion-dollar industry, which is set to grow exponentially.

Historically, the jewellery industry has been very closed for a number of different reasons. Firstly, the high value of products in question means transactions are commonly done in person, as it reassures customers that what they are purchasing is legitimate and authentic. This is particularly true for gold and diamond retailers, as many customers still don’t have confidence in the reliability and validity of online sellers.  Secondly, a vast number of jewellery purchases come from an emotional place, usually for a loved one, and a lot of thought, time and care goes into making this decision - yet another reason why purchases tend to be made in-store over online. Finally, the physical store allows customers to get appropriate and sufficient guidance from a shop assistant ahead of their, often expensive, purchase.

Against this backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that the luxury jewellery industry has largely been living in the dark ages - relying purely on the shop-front - compared to the wider retail landscape, where online retail is booming.

So why and how does the industry need to embrace technology if shoppers remain committed to shopping in-store?

Firstly, the reality is that customer needs are changing, and increasingly they are now more concerned with the ethical implications of what they buy, over price. For example, brides frequently want to know their diamonds have been ethically sourced, have come from conflict-free zones and that there has been no child labour involved. In most cases, the jeweller will provide the customer with a certificate to authenticate this. But there is now a better way to demonstrate this. This is where blockchain technology can be used to provide ‘Mine-to-Consumer’; a concept used to track and describe the full traceability and transparency of the precious metals and diamonds from source and used in the jewellery item right through to the hands of the consumer.

Changing how we shop

Many traders use outdated audit and certification systems that are prone to tampering. By placing current, physical process on a blockchain, the jeweller can provide better visibility to the consumer throughout the entire supply chain which allows exchanges of information amongst all participants in the supply chain. The blockchain can be used to track the jewellery supply chain from the mines of origin of the diamond and precious metals, through to the refining, polishing, jewellery manufacturing and shipping the final product to the retail store. By applying this technology to provenance for jewellery products, the jeweller is providing consumers with a greater level of transparency and assurance, which will in turn allow shoppers to place greater trust in them.

Secondly, what many jewellers are failing to realise is that customers will purchase jewellery online if they are able to provide a seamless online customer journey, something which is currently missing. High-street bespoke and chain jewellers typically don’t have an online presence as they understand most of their customers will come in-store when they are looking to spend a large amount of money, but they’re missing a massive opportunity.  

Customers want to be spoiled by an array of designs, and they want to personalise and customise their products. Naturally, this is much easier to do if jewellers have an online presence, as generally shops will only have a limited number of designs available in-store. However, for this to work effectively, jewellers need to make better use of video and imagery online to tell the story behind each unique piece of jewellery. Video in particular can be used to take the customer ‘behind the scenes’ to show how and where their precious metals and stones were sourced from and who designed their product, massively improving the online customer journey.

And with millennials accounting for a larger section of jewellery consumers, they are fundamentally changing the way people want to shop for jewellery too, placing a greater emphasis on online transactions and leading the charge for greater transparency - proving just how important it is that jewellers embrace technology as part of their business model. Of course, customers may still choose to buy in-store, but they want the option of having an online platform and sourcing the information they need before they walk into the store. Success will be when both in-store and online transactions dovetail and work together to help the customer make a purchasing decision, with the added benefit of enabling jewellers to reach more and more shoppers and improve their bottom line.

Sukhi Jutla, COO and co-founder, Marketorders
Image Credit: Zapp2Photo / Shutterstock

Sukhi Jutla is an award-winning entrepreneur and the world's first blockchain author. She is the COO and co-founder of the online b2b platform for gold and jewellery industry.