In early January, Macy’s announced that it plans to close 36 under-performing brick-and-mortar stores this year, laying off 4,500 people in the process. In doing so, Macy’s has joined a long list of other retail chains closing their stores – including Office Depot, Walgreens, Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters and The Gap.
Despite this trend, not all is doom-and-gloom in retail circles, as some on-line retailers are moving quickly into brick-and-mortar stores. Forbes reported that eCommerce retailers like Fabletics (athletic brand) and Birchbox (subscription-based beauty shop) are opening traditional retail outlets.
Forbes noted: “Moving from an online platform to bricks and mortar is a growing trend with younger online brands, and one that could reshape the future shopping center / mall dynamic.”
Online retailers are confident in making such a disruptive move because they have built an established customer base online, have data on those customers that can inform what to offer them and when. A physical store presence can also offer unique customer experiences, otherwise unavailable on-line.
This trend reflects a growing “omni-channel” approach to retailing. It’s a business model that deploys a variety of distribution channels to deliver a seamless customer shopping experience. This approach can go beyond an eCommerce website and a physical store to include “buy buttons” on social media outlets such as Pinterest.
For example, a customer can discover a product via social media, go to check it out at a retail store, and then order it online. Or some retailers offer a hybrid shopping experience, such as Best Buy and Staples, that allows customers to shop online then pick up the merchandise at a near-by retail store, without having to pay shipping charges.
This reverse online to in-person retail strategy is helping drive growth for “challenger brands” such as Adore Me Lingerie, a $43 million a year eCommerce business. Founded in 2010 by Morgan Herman-Waiche, Adore Me appeals to young women by offering low prices, and a fast-fashion sensibility to selling lingerie.
The NYC based company is the intimates answer to fast fashion giants like Zara, H&M and Forever 21. Adore me is also giving lingerie category leader Victoria’s Secret, with $12.5 billion in annual sales, a real run for its money.
Adore Me operates on a fast-fashion / rapid manufacture-to-retail cycle in which the brand introduces a new 30-40 piece collection every month. Their price point is about $39.95 for a matching bra and panties set. New members can buy their first set for $24.95 plus free shipping. Adore Me also offer swimwear, sleepwear, lingerie and accessories.
Recently Adore Me joined the growing ranks of eCommerce merchants opening a physical store by announcing the opening a by-appointment only location inside its West 39th Street headquarters in NYC.
This savvy move was prompted by the success of a three-day Valentine’s Day pop-up shop which Adore Me had created in New York City’s Hudson Hotel earlier this year. Adore Me plans to enhance the customer experience even further by providing 45-minute one-on-one sessions with a personal shopping stylist. Interested shoppers can sign up online for appointments.
“I literally came to the U.S. with my luggage and ambition,” said Herman-Waiche a French native and Harvard Business School alumnus. “Now I’m disrupting a whole industry.”
As another Frenchman, Marcel Proust, once noted: “Most things are not what they appear to be.” Online shoppers need to be mindful of price savings offers and comparisons that could make them feel like they are getting a great deal, when in fact, they are not.
As the NY Times recently reported, many online retailers use “list price” as a comparative benchmark to demonstrate online savings. However, this sales tactic, which usually involves a much higher amount, is now drawing legal scrutiny and may raise integrity questions for eCommerce merchants.
It’s clear that the retail marketplace is changing fast, driven by disruptive technologies (smart phones), risk-taking start-ups, and shoppers who continually seek better deals and broader selections of merchandise.
But the future of retailing may lie in the lessons of the past, as exemplified by Chicago retail pioneer Marshall Field. He was renowned for his ability to provide an exceptional level of quality, selection and customer service. Field’s motto for success was “Give the lady what she wants.”
Retailers like Adore Me are doing just that (in 21st Century terms) in terms of giving customers what they want: great merchandise selection, attractive value, convenient eCommerce delivery via smart phones and tablets. As for those who want to physically see then handle the merchandise, a personal shopper to enrich the transaction.
“The jewelry industry seems poised for a glittering future” according to a recently published report from global consulting giant McKinsey & Company entitled “The Jewelry Industry in 2020.”
McKinsey estimates annual global sales of $168 billion are expected to grow at a healthy clip of 5 to 6 percent each year, totaling $285 billion by 2020. The report noted that “Consumer appetite for jewelry, which was dampened by the global recession, now appears more voracious.”
The industry is also reported to be dynamic and fast moving. “Jewelry players can’t simply do business as usual and expect to thrive; they must be alert and responsive to important trends and developments or else risk being left behind by more agile competitors,” the McKinsey report went on to say.
The dynamic nature of the business is clearly evident in two key trends: The growth of branded jewelry and the massive increases in online jewelry sales. Online jewelry sales are enjoying double-digit sales growth, far outpacing the category as a whole.
What makes for an attractive, engaging and ultimately successful eCommerce presence for a jewelry company?
Create a Distinct Visual Brand
These days it is more important than ever for an online jewelry retailer to establish a clear and distinct visual brand. What does this mean?
Fashion and fine jewelry designers need to start with a great product line, and then work to establish a visual identity that will empower them to stand apart from the competition.
Much of the visual brand presence is represented by photography, and there is a need to create images that consistently underscore your brand. If people see the product line on a website or social media (often on a smart phone) will they be able to quickly recognize and experience the unique attributes of your brand?
The online jewelry market is saturated, and the method for success is to distinguish yourself visually, in a fast and in an engaging way.
Use Consistent High Quality Product Images
In many people’s minds, when it comes to eCommerce it is all about product shots on white.
They think creating these shots is very simple, though it is actually very complex, and many aspects need to be managed with a great attention to detail.
Styling of pieces is important: the arrangement of the product in the frame must be smooth and neat, in order to makes the product look most appealing. When shooting a series of like products, make sure they are styled consistently.
Lighting is especially import for jewelry. It is an intricate process to light the various component parts of jewelry well. Some need “hard” light, while others look much better using “soft” light.
Retouching is also important. It is its own craft, and nearly all images need help: for example delivering consistent color, a clean white background, with strong contrast. In short, a litany of issues need to be managed.
Effective eCommerce usually means employing a large volume of images to keep things fresh and engaging for viewers. A good balance of quality, with a casual appeal, will work best for these eCommerce images.
Smart jewelry companies seek out photographers who have a process and infrastructure in place to deliver consistent, high quality shots. Every time a detail is overlooked, the images and ultimately eCommerce sales will suffer as a result.
Move Fast to Test Emerging Technologies
People are using mobile devices and smart phones more than ever in their daily lives. In an era of short attention spans, and a need for immediate gratification, the appearance of “buy” buttons is revolutionizing the way people can shop online using social media.
Many social media networks, including Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, are now offering a simple two-step “buy” button. This is a revolutionary online shopping development. This emerging technology is ripe for use in jewelry eCommerce.
Using this feature, the social media user can purchase the product in as few as two taps – one on the buy button and a second confirmation tap.
Online merchants also need to work hard to stay visible and relevant by actively managing their “digital storefront” (website, blog, social media) with fresh, engaging and relevant content. They should also be mindful of tracking the data eCommerce produces to help identify what works, and what does not work.
It’s clear that the eCommerce future for jewelry manufacturers and retailers is a bright one, with a mindful approach to the art + science of eCommerce.
Keywords – everyone seems to be talking about them. But what’s the best way to use the art + science of keywords to help build your business?
Keywords are usually thought of as an “index term” to help people and search engines find relevant web content. They can also be the primary gateway to eCommerce or other business engagements.
Let’s take a look at them in a broader way. In this post we’ll look at:
- Using keywords from an artistic / visual branding perspective
- How keywords work, and why you need them
- The different types of keywords
Consider the artistic and creative perspective on keywords. Your brand should have a unique character, and an equally unique aesthetic look and feel.
Here’s a fun marketing exercise:
Pick three keywords to describe the aesthetic character of your brand.
Is your brand fun? Colorful? Intimate? Quirky? Serious? What’s the personality of your brand?
Think in terms of the three words that can immediately describe the way your brand looks and feels. This is a useful exercise – as the key words can lay down a consistent foundation for your images and related marketing content. This process is something an algorithm can’t do for you.
Consider Tiffany, the legendary jewelry brand. If you were to distill the visual character of their brand into three words, they might be elegant, powerful and loving. The company embodies these terms, and they are used as a visual blueprint for every image the company’s creates.
Without using keywords as a road map – you may fall victim to the old adage: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” and this certainly applies to the visual presentation of your brand and its products.
In terms of the science of key words, a business should create content around relevant topics for their products or services, and these are expressed as keywords, which helps them “rank” well in search engine result listings.
A simple informative video of how search works from Google can help you understand the mechanics.
Why do you need keywords?
- Keywords should be used as the foundation of your website, blog and social media presence. They can also inform offers and e-mails.
- Keywords can help visitors and potential customers understand the purpose of your web page / blog and business.
- When a search engine crawls your web pages to index them – it will parse the keywords on the page to determine the purpose of your pages.
There are two different types of keywords:
Broad Keywords: Are short words or phases that can apply to your own company, as well as every other firm in your industry.
Long-tail Keywords: Tend to be longer words or phrases that are more specific to your company.
When you’re first getting started, you definitely will want to start by targeting long-tail keywords, because these are easier to rank for and they also bring in the most relevant and qualified traffic.
Using a combination of both “art” and “science” driven keywords will help spell success for your eCommerce / online marketing efforts. Be sure to test different keywords to see which yield the best outcomes or results in terms of building site traffic, visitor engagement and eCommerce.
That’s the art + science of keywords in a nutshell.
How do you plan to use keywords to build your business this week?