GIA Symposium Blogging: People Don’t Trust Jewelers, and Their Websites Stink, Too

I’m not sure what this says about the industry’s psyche, but
two of the most-talked-about facts presented at the GIA Symposium were ones
that made
the industry feel pretty bad about itself. To wit:

– Jewelers ranked near the bottom when Americans were asked “what
professions do you trust,” according to a poll by Gallup, presented by
Ken
Royal, the company’s senior client service manager.

Only 20 percent of those surveyed said they trusted
jewelers, right down there with lawyers and members of Congress. Even us
much-maligned journalists, at 26 percent, ranked higher than jewelry
retailers,
who did out-score lobbyists and used car dealers. For the record, the
top-scoring professions were firefighters, nurses, members of the U.S.
military, doctors, and clergy.

– The industry also failed dismally in the “Digital IQ”
scores formulated by NYU professor business Scott Galloway and his L2 think-tank for
prestige brands.

“Jewelry and watch” sites scored at the absolute bottom of the
company’s index, which measures how well luxury businesses use the web,
and
this time there weren’t even used car dealers to make the industry look
good.  (Specific scores can be seen here.)
“The
fashion industry is pulling away from the jewelry and watch industry,”
Galloway
warned.

There were three reasons for this, according to Galloway:
First, the jewelry industry is “highly fragmented,” and doesn’t have the
resources to spend on digital. Second, there are “very few publicly
traded
jewelry companies, so you don’t have a stock analyst asking what your
Internet
strategy is.”

And finally, the industry is run by “old white men in
Europe,” Galloway said. “That isn’t the Internet generation. That is the
generation that is hoping the Internet goes away.”

He added: “For a company like Rolex, with that kind of
global brand equity, to be listed as challenged, that is a crime. There
is
really something wrong.”

He did have nice things to say about Tiffany, whose site
“does a pretty good job of threading the needle: They bring the brand to
life,
but you are there to buy.”

“A lot of companies see the Internet as a marketing spend,”
he said, “not as an ROI spend in terms of reaching a new clientele.”

He advised jewelers who want to get more digitally savvy to
“find brands in your category that you respect, and mimic them as much
as
possible.”

– So did anyone have anything good to say about the industry?
Well, Dr. Brian Nattrass, founder of Sustainability Partners,
who lectured on
corporate responsibility, professed to being pleasantly surprised at all
the
industry social initiatives. (Even though, again, this industry probably
lags
behind others on most social measurements.)

That said, the two sessions on this sustainability seemed too
general: I think most of the big players agree on the need to be more
environmentally and socially conscious. Given the growing buying power
of the
younger generation, and the increased interest of governments in these
matters,
these things are no longer optional. What the industry needs at this
point is a
road-map on how to improve, and ways to spread the word when it does do
something right.

Overall the Symposium was, in my view, well worth attending
this year. Galloway had probably the best talk, but the level of the
presentations was extremely high (as they were at this year’s AGS
Conclave
.) The event was certainly more scaled-back than Symposiums
past—the last go-round included performances by Chris Isaak and
synchronized
swimmers—but the sessions seemed “meatier.” And having it at the GIA
campus was
a nice touch. 

JCK News Director