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How to Sell to Female Self-Purchasers

Women who buy their own jewelry are a rapidly growing market, but retailers need to retool their approach if they want to attract these customers.

Dec 23, 2019 8:31 AM   By Leah Meirovich
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RAPAPORT... It shouldn’t be a novel idea, but in the jewelry industry, it’s practically revolutionary. Unlike in almost every other fashion and accessory retail sector, the idea of jewelers targeting female shoppers as direct consumers only began to emerge fully in the past couple of years.

But why has this strong and fast-growing segment been overlooked in the trade for so long? In this male-dominated industry — from its store ownership to its designers, salespeople and marketing teams — the long-held belief that men are the primary purchasers has centered around big-ticket items such as engagement rings.

However, women are no longer the homemakers. They are entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners with established careers. They are not only willing to spend money on themselves, but empowered to do so by their circumstances. The problem is, while the times have changed, jewelry retailers — and their marketing — haven’t.

More than half of millennial-age women say they are the primary buyers of jewelry in their households, according to a study by MVI Marketing. Beyond that, women control more than $20 trillion in global spending and make up 85% of all brand purchases, said marketing consultant Stephanie Holland in a recent webinar hosted by jewelry-industry group the Plumb Club. Holland, who founded the She-conomy blog and specializes in marketing to women, added that within the next decade, women would control more than two-thirds of consumer wealth in the US.

Putting that into context, if jewelry retailers continue on the same marketing and selling trajectory they have followed in the past, without taking into account who’s actually making the purchase, they will be severely impairing their business and cutting off a large portion of potential sales. Lyst, a global fashion-search platform, says that while women are likely to spend less on an individual piece, they buy up to three times more jewelry than men do.

But overhauling a long-standing practice isn’t simple, so how do you sell to self-purchasing women? First and foremost, it’s imperative to understand their needs and desires, and that begins before they even walk into the store.

How it looks vs. how it feels

Retailers need to take into account the difference in mind-set between women and men when it comes to a purchase, says Andrea Hill, CEO of Hill Management Group. While men base purchases more on performance or the status it can bring, women relate on a more emotional level, explains Hill, whose company provides consulting, marketing and other services to small and mid-size businesses.

Men tend to shop visually, which is why a car advertisement featuring a sexy woman appeals to them, she says; it equates the product with virility. However, when it comes to attracting female shoppers, a woman wants to know how the item will make her or her loved ones feel, or how it relates to things that matter to her, according to Hill. “Just showing a picture of the jewelry, the car, the beach vacation, that doesn’t work so well for women,” she says, but depicting her wearing a necklace while enjoying quality time with her family or while out to dinner with friends is a good way to close a sale.

On the hunt

Men are utilitarian shoppers, focused on the buy, Hill continues. They have a goal and want to get in the store, get what they need and get out, while women are much more interested in the hunt.

“For women, shopping is an activity, not just an objective,” she clarifies. “It’s not just about the thing you end up buying, it’s all the fun that went into buying it.”

That’s why retailers need to find a way to engage a woman’s need to hunt, and not simply purchase. They need to create an experience that will generate interest and deepen her interaction with the brand, Hill says.

Keep it subjective

When it comes to the need for knowledge, men are relatively simple, according to Hill. They want objective information, such as the design or functional requirements of the item they’re looking to purchase. Women, on the other hand, are looking for objective and subjective information, such as emotional and social cues, which means retailers need to make it easy for women to share their shopping experience.

“The typical millennial has no problem telling a salesperson to ‘hold on — I’m sending a picture of this to my best friend to see what she thinks,’” Hill says. “That millennial’s mom probably wants input, too, but she wasn’t raised taking pictures of everything…and it feels rude to her to do it while a salesperson is helping her.”

If retailers see a client shopping for an expensive item and notice she isn’t with a companion, they can encourage her to share and help her do so, Hill suggests. She recommends simply asking, “I can see you like those earrings, but is there someone you’d like to send a picture to, to get another opinion? If you put them on again, I can take a picture with your phone, and you can text it to [whomever you want].”

Play with the space

Women don’t enjoy the traditional jewelry-store experience, Hill says. While men tend to think about space as compartmented, organized and sequential — which is how most jewelry stores are set up — women often find it boring. They don’t want to see rings with rings, metal with metal, diamonds with diamonds. They want to mix and match and see how things work together.

“The vast majority of jewelry stores are designed for men’s sensibilities, not women’s,” Hill points out. “For women, the average jewelry store is dead space. There’s no life in putting things in separate cases and categories. Men are very linear when they shop; women are very organic. [For them], there’s a creativity to shopping.”

Most importantly, retailers need to speak to women, ask them what really matters to them, and above all, pay attention to their responses. Even if a client wants a lower-end item and you want to upsell, you should do it relative to her interests, Hill advises; if you’re just upselling and it doesn’t add value for her, it’s not going to be successful.

“Value is defined by the buyer, not the seller,” she stresses. “Ask enough questions, listen hard enough, and you will figure out some ways to increase your sales to her — but not necessarily doing the things you’re used to thinking of, because those are your definitions.”

In Their Own Words•Some 91% of women feel that advertisers and stores don’t connect with them, She-conomy blog founder Stephanie Holland said in a Plumb Club webinar. They don’t see many women working in traditional fine-jewelry stores, they don’t see much product variety, and they find stores intimidating,

• One-third of diamond jewelry purchases in the US were by women as of March this year, according to the Diamond Producers Association.

• The number-one reason women buy themselves jewelry — cited by nearly 60% of female self-purchasers — is “just because” or to “treat themselves,” an MVI Marketing survey found.

• Nearly 75% of women say they are willing to walk away if brands don’t listen to them, reported Holland.

• Although 90% of women prefer to buy in a physical store, when they do browse online, they will exit a vendor’s website immediately if it doesn’t allow shoppers to make a purchase, says Andrea Hill of Hill Management Group.

• Women tend to be budget-minded, and consider $50 to $2,000 an affordable price range for jewelry, reports fashion-search program Lyst.


This article was first published in the November issue of Rapaport Magazine.

Image: A woman buying jewelry. (Shutterstock)
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Tags: Andrea Hill, Diamond Producers Association, female self-purchasers, Hill Management Group, Leah Meirovich, MVI Marketing, Plumb Club, Rapaport News, She-conomy, Stephanie Holland
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