Sustainability and social responsibility: Catering to a globally conscious bridal consumer

May 17, 2017

[1]By Kate Peterson

The bridal department has always been a major component in any jewellery store. Today, however, the success of bridal collections has become the essence of survival for many businesses struggling to manage fluxes within the consumer market. 

Redefined value

Bridal customers have redefined the concept of value, and retailers are faced with adapting to a new sense of value no longer tied exclusively to product.

For consumers, value is not found in what the product is, but on what it does and how its unique features are specifically relevant to an individual. Price is secondary to this desire to satisfy personal ideals and ethical sensibilities.

Why choose you?

Sophisticated, connected bridal consumers are often ethics-based purchasers. They need to feel good about the luxury they want and prefer to buy products aligning with their ethical standards from businesses who share their values. The bridal customer today is also older, more diverse, affluent, and more demanding than ever before.

[2]
With technology advancing and the availability and size of lab-grown diamonds increasing, the emerging synthetics market enables retailers to provide options to clients who might otherwise avoid naturally-mined diamonds.

In addition to quality, value, styling, trust, and brand loyalty, important factors influencing diamond purchases include sustainability, community awareness, social responsibility, and ethical sourcing. Buying decisions are often based on a retailer’s presentation of these factors.

Sustainability

Sustainability is becoming mainstream for businesses as environmental responsibility is often expected by those seeking luxury products. Celebrities are touting global citizenship in product campaigns. Energy and resource saving initiatives, and carbon footprint reduction have become the norm for many businesses.

Community-focused

Community stores and local jobs matter.  Despite the growing e-commerce sector, the luxury brands which stand out the most support brick-and-mortar stores. Local/family businesses with global awareness are also in favour with luxury buyers. People want to help in their own communities. Locally sourced/made items are continuing to grow in popularity.

Social Responsibility

Millennials are demanding greater social responsibility from luxury businesses. They care how the products they buy and the money they spend impact people and the environment around the world. Retailers competing for their business must effectively communicate how social consciousness is part of their products and service.

Ethical sourcing

Consumers want to know their luxury spending is not funding human suffering. Brands such as Forevermark have gained traction with diamond consumers by guaranteeing clean origins and supporting the advancement of women in careers as miners, gemmologists, and engineers in diamond-sourcing countries.

Standing out

[3]
Creating a personalized bridal customer experience that is tailored to a couple’s value system will make a retailer stand out in today’s saturated market.

Even under the best circumstances, spending a few thousand dollars on a piece of jewellery can be a scary experience. Concerns the product in question may have funded a far-off conflict, contributed to human rights abuse, unfair labour practices or environmental damage in its extraction, can make the process agonizing.

It’s fair to assume consumers may have heard more about these problems and not the solutions. You can offer clarity. Communicating a positive and clear message about your commitments and efforts will help customers understand spending their money with you can create a positive impact in other areas. With infinite purchase options available, differentiating and adapting to evolving consumer needs and interests are critical to thriving as a retailer today.

Becoming involved in local business development campaigns, implementing green initiatives, promoting brands with strong ethics and values bases, and becoming part of larger industry efforts like the Diamond Empowerment Fund (DEF) are all important endeavours, but only if you talk
about them.

Options

While the symbolism of the wedding ring has maintained its significance throughout history, the form, style, and look has continued to evolve with changing customer interests.

Personal expression is often more significant to the bridal customer than tradition. For ethics-based buyers, that expression includes exploring new options for the materials in their ring and choice of stones. 

Today, challenges and opportunities present themselves in three prominent forms.

Nature vs. nurture?

The choice of whether or not to offer synthetic diamonds has become difficult for many retailers.  Some fear offering a less expensive, man-made option will pull business away from naturally-mined diamonds and dilute the value and emotional symbolism a diamond has historically carried. Others prefer to leave what they consider the ‘budget-driven’ lab-grown buyer to other stores, choosing instead to maintain a more traditional definition of ‘fine jewellery’ as part of their brand message. 

The reality is, a consumer may be open to synthetics for a number of reasons.  Price is often a consideration, but personal values and beliefs are usually more significant. Many consumers with interest in what they perceive as ethically and environmentally sound options are likely to be consumers who would not be in the market at all if naturally mined diamonds were the only available choice. 

For many jewellers, synthetics present an opportunity for ‘in addition to’ as opposed to ‘instead of’ business. New alternatives addressing consumers’ global concerns are opening new markets for business owners willing to adapt and work with them.

Understanding the motivation of the shopper is essential to earning trust and confidence. Knowledge, objectivity, and honesty are essential to protecting your reputation and business, and making the sale.

Metal movements

In terms of jewellery metals, many socially and environmentally conscious consumers are looking to businesses with a commitment to fair trade gold and silver or to a documented, recycled-metals program. In their view, the purchase of  ethically sourced  jewellery such as gold wedding rings should empower grassroots economic development, make a positive contribution to environmental restoration, and support full transparency in the supply chain.

These customers want to know that at best, their purchase of precious metal will, in some way, contribute to improving the life of the miners and other workers who are part of the process and, at least, will not contribute to further mining-related disruption of the Earth.

Offering a fair trade or recycled-metal option (with or without a premium price) is often another way to offer consumers an option to square their interest in the tradition of the engagement and wedding ring with their ethical and moral commitments to the world and its people.

The great estate

The popularity of antique, vintage, and estate jewellery has been on a steep rise over the past decade. While many bridal consumers are inspired by the designs, others are simply committed to the concepts of recycling and repurposing rings in order to help minimize the impact of modern mining processes.

In many cases, old-world craftsmanship and style blended with a new-age environmental and social consciousness make buying a previously owned, vintage or estate piece the right choice for today’s consumer.

Retailers who have ventured into the world of vintage jewellery know that doing it well requires a level of expertise far exceeding jewellery store basics.  Authentication skills are vital, and informed consumers demand accuracy and detail with regard to history and provenance as well as material components.

The selling process

Most bridal customers are experienced luxury shoppers, but first-time buyers in the wedding arena and they come into a store seeking the help and guidance of a trusted professional.

[4]
Offering fair trade gold is just one way a retailer can help an ethically-inclined bridal shopper feel comfortable making a big-ticket purchase.

For the most part, they are eager consumers, primed and educated, and inclined to tell a sincere, engaged sales professional everything he or she needs to know to create a personal experience that’s value-driven—as defined by the customer—and effective.

In order to create that experience, sales professionals must become less focused on providing a service and more focused on becoming effective and efficient trusted advisors who can problem solve, communicate, and demonstrate value at every point in an interaction with their customers.

Sometimes shoppers may be conflicted and it’s the sales professional’s job to help resolve the issues standing in the way of the customer’s peace of mind and
ultimate satisfaction.

[5]
The popularity of antique, vintage, and estate jewellery has been on a steep rise over the past decade.

A retailer’s commitment to embracing sustainability, social responsibility, community-focused support, and responsible sourcing and making them core components in their brand promise is the key to thriving in an evolving bridal market. 

Kate Peterson is president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Performance Concepts, Inc., a firm offering retailers staffing, business development, management, and performance solutions. Peterson is a regular contributor to JCK and Instore Magazine and a sought-after speaker at trade events such as JCK, American Gem Trade Association’s (AGTA’s) GemFair, and the JA New York show. She can be reached via e-mail at kate@performanceconcepts.net.

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bigstock-Romantic-Couple-Of-Newlyweds-R-173359568.jpg
  2. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bigstock-Couple-Showing-His-Engagement-100577714.jpg
  3. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bigstock-Young-man-looking-at-the-colle-62111357.jpg
  4. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bigstock-Profit-trade-and-exchange-Go-167693720.jpg
  5. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/bigstock-Old-Vintage-Diamond-Ring-Detai-134247077.jpg

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