The Industry’s Past vs. Its Future

At the recent American Gem Society Conclave, speaker Peter Sheahan gave an excellent presentation about how all industries are dealing with rapid change. “Don’t build your future on the beliefs of the past,” he exhorted. “Just because a certain kind of marketing worked for the 30 years you’ve been in business, doesn’t mean anything for tomorrow. When a historical business practice meets the future, the future always wins.” 

I’m often asked where the industry is going. While life always holds surprises, I have long felt that some clear trends are presenting themselves. To wit:

 

THE PAST

Diamond engagement rings

THE FUTURE

All kinds of engagement rings

  

THE PAST

Natural diamonds

THE FUTURE

Man-made and natural diamonds

  

THE PAST

Consumers buy bridal jewelry because they “have to.”

THE FUTURE

Consumers buy jewelry because we have sold it to them.

[Just got this quote in my inbox: “Millennials just aren’t buying the traditional jewelry marketing paradigm that worked for previous generations. They need messages that are relevant to their lifestyles, and a generation that is delaying, even forgoing, marriage in growing numbers doesn’t necessarily care about researching the 4Cs or spending three months’ salary on a chunk of pressurized charcoal.” —Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing.]

  

THE PAST

A trade that believes that NGO and government interest will eventually go away. (Yes, many people still think this.)

THE FUTURE

Industry works with NGOs and governments on relevant issues.

  

THE PAST

“Ethical trading, production, and all the idealistic proclamations coming forth from the organizations and large companies looking to profit from the ‘ethical trade’ fad give us the chills.” —Tanzania Mineral Dealers Association

THE FUTURE

Industry sees ethical consumerism as here to stay and an opportunity

 

THE PAST

Convoluted, opaque supply chains and businesses

THE FUTURE

Transparent supply chains and businesses

 

THE PAST

Jewelry is made only to look pretty.

THE FUTURE

Jewelry looks pretty, but some also has use.

  

THE PAST

Deals sealed by a handshake

THE FUTURE

Deals sealed by a lawyer

 

THE PAST

Subjective gem grading

THE FUTURE

Objective gem grading

  

THE PAST

An industry dominated by the U.S. and Asian markets

THE FUTURE

An industry with many markets

  

THE PAST

Most jewelry is generic.

THE FUTURE

Most jewelry is branded.

 

THE PAST

Channel conflict

THE FUTURE

Multi-channel

  

THE PAST

A fine jewelry store would never sell a fashion piece.

THE FUTURE

If the consumer wants it, they sell it.

 

THE PAST

Customers shop when stores are ready.

THE FUTURE

Stores sell when customers are ready.

 

THE PAST

The industry debates what consumers want.

THE FUTURE

The industry knows what consumers want.

 

Now of course, just about all of what I’ve labeled “the past” is still with us. And while I may be wrong, I’m willing to bet, over the next decade, the mindset toward many of these things will change.  

This industry has always been something of an island, with its own rules, customs, and demarcations. But that is no longer acceptable, and the smartest people in our business are embracing technology and the wider world.

Right now, there’s some kicking and screaming, and some of it is embarrassing. The future clealry holds perils for a tradition-bound business like ours. But it also presents tremendous opportunities for those who are willing to break out of the familiar patterns, focus on the consumer like never before, and work toward making this a better industry. Because, in the end, there is no use fighting these things. The future always wins.

JCK News Director