Like retailers in many other verticals, jewelers are facing hard times. In fact, over 1,500 jewelry businesses closed their doors last year. (National Jeweler) While the jewelry industry has long been dominated by small and midsize stores and chains, the industry’s landscape is evolving. Customers are buying more fine jewelry from department stores, big-box stores like Costco, and online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Many jewelers have been slow to build their web presence and are falling behind the times with their omni-channel customer experience. In fact, online jewelry sales only make up 4 to 5 percent of the market today, which represents a much smaller proportion than other retail verticals. (McKinsey) Now more than ever, jewelry retailers need to turn to technology to enable them to be competitive and to survive the changing tide of the marketplace.

In this article, we discuss some of the top challenges jewelry retailers face today and ways that these challenges can be overcome.

The most popular name brands we carry place a lot of restrictions on us. They won’t let us sell – or even mention – them online. How can we drive more traffic to our website and convert more visitors into buyers?

Branded jewelry accounts for the lion’s share of the watch market and as much as 20 percent of the jewelry market today, a value that has doubled since 2003. (McKinsey) While having a Rolex or Pandora sign outside your door may increase foot traffic, many of these brands tend to sell online exclusively on their own direct-to-consumer websites and will not allow independent jewelers or other merchants to compete with them on the web. How, then, can jewelry retailers ensure they’re making the most of their websites?

As with physical stores, online success comes down to driving traffic to your website, converting visitors into buyers, and selling more to each shopper. One key technology that helps drive traffic is an e-commerce solution with integrated SEO tools to structure the site’s metadata so that search engines can index it properly. This enables people searching for the products you carry to find you in organic search results.

To convert more visitors into buyers, your website needs to be both engaging and easy to use. Search for the features your customers want most, like ratings and reviews, multiple product images and videos, wishlists, and more. Today’s shoppers demand convenience, which you can deliver with streamlined checkout options, shopping carts that persist over multiple visits, and a mobile-friendly site.

To supercharge the web experience, offer omni-channel features like in-store pickup of online orders. That way, you drive traffic to your stores from the web, giving your sales associates the chance to sell complementary items before the customer leaves with their purchase. Selling more to each shopper can also happen on the web, by suggesting cross-sell and up-sell items on the product page as well as in the shopping cart.

Our customers often shop with us only once – for an engagement ring, for example – and fail to return for subsequent purchases. How can we turn these one-time shoppers into lifelong, loyal customers?

This is where local stores have a big advantage over online-only retailers like eBay: the personal guidance that a human sales associate can provide is crucial with emotional purchases like engagement rings and anniversary gifts.

Weddings are joyous occasions that are nearly always celebrated with the purchase of new jewelry. While engagement rings and wedding bands are the most obvious pieces of jewelry associated with a wedding, there are many other cross-selling opportunities around this milestone event and for years to come. Bridal party gifts can include fashion jewelry for the bridesmaids, and cufflinks or watches for the ushers. In-store technology such as clienteling can be used to help jewelry retailers sell more over time to each bridal couple. When key events such as the wedding date are stored digitally, associates can automatically be reminded to reach out when the big day approaches. The clienteling software can even annually alert the associate that the wedding anniversary is approaching so that they can contact the customer to suggest a gift. Weddings are just one of the important dates that can be recorded in a clienteling solution: the arrival of a new baby, birthdays, graduations and holidays are all great occasions to commemorate with new jewelry. What’s more, the perfect gift is always easy to propose when clienteling is used to record objects on desire in wishlists.

Most customers have clear preferences regarding their personal style, such as favorite metals, stones, and designers. Pierced ears or not? Metal allergies? Ring size? Yellow gold or platinum? There are so many elements that associates need to track to propose relevant and appropriate items. Clienteling is the key, not only to track preferences and personal data but also to query against it at any given moment. Who was that customer looking for a semi-eternity band in rose gold last week? If the information was jotted down on a mobile device in the customer profile, it can easily be retrieved anytime. Clienteling solutions can also be used to record free-form notes about clients. For a visual snapshot of a customer’s style, a digital jewelry box with an image gallery of the items she has previously purchased can be another great tool for evaluating personal style and recommending the ideal complementary items.

Repairs and service make up a significant part of my revenues, but my customers complain that the process takes too long and lacks transparency. I need a more efficient way to track items while they’re in the repair queue.

Jewelry repairs can be an important source of recurring revenue and foot traffic for jewelry retailers. The repair or service experience provides an important opportunity to delight customers with attentive, expedient, informed service; however, so many jewelry retailers miss the mark at this key point in the customer journey. Often, customers leave their most cherished jewelry in a tiny plastic bag, only to be told to expect a call in a few weeks when the item is ready for pickup. These are the same customers who can just as easily place a $39 order on Amazon and immediately start tracking its progress, from order preparation to shipment, to delivery. However, at a jewelry store, they are expected to blindly leave behind a diamond ring and patiently wait for a phone call, hoping that the item is being well cared for. Customer expectations have changed, and jewelry retailers must offer more visibility into service processes. Trust is an important factor that influences where consumers decide to shop for jewelry, and providing a smooth service process can greatly impact consumers’ perception of your brand.

In addition to repairs, many retailers offer engraving, ring resizing, watch tune-ups, jewelry cleaning, and many other options. Another common type of repair service is called a custom make-up, which is breaking apart a pre-made item, such as a ring, and rebuilding it with a different stone. Software for the management of products requiring adjustments or repairs, including internal and external vendor handling of repairs, trade-ins, make-ups and shipping manifests is crucial for jewelers, along with real-time visibility into the status of each repair at every step of the process. For optimal use, the repairs module should be integrated with the POS system to handle the sale and repair at the time of purchase, and to automatically prompt associates to reach out to customers when products are ready for pickup. Customers can also check the status of their repair or service order at any time when the repair module is integrated with the retailer’s website, offering the visibility and control that today’s customers want.