As fragile as it may be, there’s a retail recovery underway as consumers gain more financial confidence. Now that the economy is stabilizing, there’s a fight for consumer dollars. More effective differentiation is a key strategy for all jewelry stores to focus on at this time. Differentiation is much more than just being different. Effective differentiation translates to greater sales, as customers choose your jewelry company over the competition.
Here are eight questions to ask yourself about promoting more effective differentiation:
- When was the last time you updated your store? Brand equity relates to brand imaging and effective differentiation from other jewelry retailers. How long should furniture, fixtures, and equipment last in your retail environment? How does your store’s atmospherics impact shoppers? Is the shopping experience memorable?
- What new approaches to sales promotion have you tried and how did you evaluate performance? Have you trained your customers to wait for sales to begin to seriously consider purchases? What might it take to get customers to enter the store more often? How do your loyalty customers define value vis-a-vis your approach to pricing?
- How can your store consistently and effectively differentiate shopping experiences for your most loyal customers? What intangibles are most impactful in delivering positive customer experiences? How can you use new media approaches to create customer experiences that are meaningful to your customers? How are you more consistently differentiating your brand in the customers’ mind?
- How do you measure performance? Today it takes more than just customer service training of front line employees to effectively differentiate the brand in the minds of jewelry customers. It takes more than operational excellence to dominate a marketplace. Build value through interactions associated with each customer to earn each sale. Move beyond the notion that status quo merchandise and gross margin pricing strategies are enough to compete for today’s more value-oriented shoppers.
- How do you integrate differentiation strategies? Jewelry stores need to impact customers with sincere messages that convey that they are truly interested in the needs and feelings of each customer before shoppers are asked to spend their money. Jewelry stores have evolved over the years with a focus on diversified selection that lacked well targeted objectives on how the store brand was being perceived. This has led to malls filled with jewelry stores competing with indistinguishable sameness where discount pricing has become the most effective means of differentiation.
- Have you focused on managing the customers’ experience? What differentiates brands most effectively are well orchestrated interactions between sales associates and jewelry consumers. Now is the time to build a culture based on what loyal customers value the most.
- Have you invested in employees? Too often the barrier mentioned for not investing in employees is historic turnover and high payroll expense. But this is counterproductive. Employee development is a key means to more effective differentiation through improved strategic operations. Key performance metrics can be tracked through increased sales conversion and increased number of items per transaction and year to year comparative sales. Consider how investments in frontline employees and managers can contribute to lower turnover. To successfully execute differentiation strategies today, there must be alignments in the responsibilities and roles of owners and management through the organization all the way to the store sales associates. Take the brand promise from top management intentions and track it through the brand experiences of loyal customers.
- Have you defined differentiation strategies? Start by outlining the rationale for differentiation strategies and tracking successful execution. Create alignment among all employees at all levels of the organization focused on creating consistent brand strategies that deliver superior perceived customer value.
Differentiation is more than being different. Start now to better understand more value-oriented customers and how you might create more customer preference to drive more transactions. Now is the time to reconsider investments in your company’s people and store atmosphere and brand image.
Dr. Tim Malone served on the faculty of GIA for several years. Well known for his presentations at industry conferences and events, he now consults jewelry companies on how to offer sustainable competitive advantages, more effective differentiation, and sales, marketing, and merchandising management performance improvement. He can be reached at 760-305-7977 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.