We all know the jazz song by Carol Channing, "Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend". Here in Singapore, consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to jewellery shopping.
From Lee Hwa Jewellery, Niessing, Tiffany & Co and Malabar Group to Soo Kee Jewellery, Goldheart and Poh Heng – the market is saturated with brands vying for consumers’ attention. Singapore’s jewellery market is expected to increase by three percent annually in the next five years, according to diamond and jewellery publication Rough&Polished. To capitalise on the growth, companies will have to cut through the cluttered jewellery market and stand out from the rest.
Marketing caught up with German jeweller Niessing, which recently opened its first monobrand boutique in Southeast Asia located in Singapore, on what marketers in this glitzy field can learn about outshining their competition. According to CEO Sandro Erl, Niessing is a company that doesn’t simply produce seasonal designs, but rather creates pieces that can remain relevant for decades.
This strategy, which Erl describes as “polarising”, gives Niessing a competitive edge. As Niessing believes in having a global marketing strategy for all its stores, the local boutique receives instructions and directions from headquarters in Germany. While local marketing efforts are in place, they will ultimately still be based on the global strategy. “If you want to be a global brand, you cannot have different styles,” he said.
“Certainly, we think about adjusting some products to fit the Asian market such as making them lighter. Nevertheless, the DNA of the brand always has to remain secure, and I think this is also the key to our success.”
In 2014, Niessing collaborated with Lee Hwa to complement the latter’s diamond offerings such as Destinee and Forevermark, and provide something “innovative” to the Singapore market such as the tension ring. Initially sold within Lee Hwa’s stores, both companies eventually decided to launch a mono-brand boutique for Niessing to allow customers to experience the full range of products, as well as provide a proper representation of the brand.
Kean Ng, senior director at Aspial Corporation, said Singapore was chosen for the boutique launch as Lee Hwa was a local company and customers were already familiar with the Niessing brand, having viewed its products in stores. He added that as a partner of Niessing in Asia, Lee Hwa is working with it to launch in other Asia Pacific countries such as Hong Kong. It currently has stores in Japan and South Korea.
Customisable pieces are also big on the brand’s agenda. Erl said there was always a high emotional value linked to each piece of jewellery since it is customised to suit the consumers’ needs. “We are developing for personalities. We design for people who have an appreciation for design, quality and authenticity. If you talk about the younger generation, I think especially the Millennials, they are very much into authenticity,” he said.
While it is easy to fall back on the default move of marketing based on segment, Erica Kerner, regional VP of marketing and communications for Asia Pacific at Tiffany & Co, said both Millennials and the older generations are important when it comes to the jewellery sector, and it isn’t always true that the older generations alone hold the spending power.
“The way that Millennials and the generation before them communicate or shop may be different. But ultimately, they have similar expectations. For example, both groups seek products with superior quality, craftsmanship and innovative designs, as well as brands that understand their needs and are engaging,” she said.
She also said that while localising products is important for the company, it also believes in catering to the type of customers rather than nationalities. After all, today’s consumers are more global and digitally connected. Wong Mei Wai, business director for Aspial and Lee Hwa Jewellery, shared Kerner’s views on consumer segmentation. She said Lee Hwa has continued many of its customer relationships since its early days, and its female customers have grown with the brand.
It has also strived to remain relevant with the younger generations by evolving its offerings to match changing consumer preferences, the personalisation of wedding bands under Lee Hwa Romance, and strategic partnerships with global brands such as Niessing, Forevermark and Destinee.
While the common perception is the older generations generally have the spending power when it comes to fine jewellery, Wong said companies cannot assume spending powers correlate with groups of consumers. Instead, Lee Hwa Jewellery believes in understanding the occasions and needs that drive customers.
Marketing to a range of consumers
Wong said the brand also sees the consumer’s journey pre, during and post-purchase has shifted significantly so it has attempted to transform the customer journey via online customisation, bookings and the in-store customer experience driven by digital selling. She stresses the importance of listening to one’s customers.
Her team’s marketing initiatives now range from traditional media for the more mature audience to embracing mobile, social media and digital with omni-channel marketing for the new generation. "Aspial is very aware that even with luxury products, online retail is evolving and while brick and mortar retail boutiques will always remain relevant, we need to embrace technology and be visible where the consumers’ focus is – which is online,” Wong said.
Erl also added the rise of e-commerce is also an opportunity for the jewellery business as it provides consumers with the option of buying a product online should they change their mind after leaving the physical store. Nonetheless, physical stores will remain important because the touch and feel aspect in the jewellery industry is still vital. As such, players in this space need to combine both the online and offline experience to further engage consumers. Erl added:
We certainly think about adjusting some products to fit the Asian market such as making them lighter. Nevertheless, the DNA of the brand always has to remain secure, and I think this is also the key to our success.
Meanwhile, jewellery brand Poh Heng sees the need to be “keenly attuned” to the various needs and preferences of local consumers. According to marketing manager Pamela Seow, this is done by creating jewellery collections such as its modern customary collection 四点金 (Si Dian Jin), designed to be worn beyond wedding celebrations. It also produces other collections suited for everyday wear such as the Disney Babies Collection, ORO22 and Carousel Charms.
“From a marketing standpoint, we focus heavily on brand-building, ensuring that our offerings in terms of best quality products and detailed-oriented service follow through on our brand promise – ‘nothing is quite as precious as trust’,” Seow said.
Meanwhile, Tiffany & Co engages individuals through platforms such as social media. Kerner cited Tiffany & Co’s fall campaign “There’s only one” as an example of the engaging content it creates.
“The campaign features the creative concept of celebrating self-expression and individuality, which “resonates strongly” with consumers today, and showcases celebrities such as Elle Fanning, Zoë Kravitz and Janelle Monáe. In the lead up to the campaign launch, Tiffany & Co also produced multiple behind-the-scenes videos and used a social media first strategy to promote the videos.
“Even the way the jewellery is worn in the visuals is imaginative and exuberantly unconventional, encouraging dialogue with our consumers. The hand gestures that form an integral part of the storytelling can easily be leveraged for user-generated content on social media,” she said.
Finally, Aspial’s Wong also suggests promoting a social initiative that consumers support, which not only adds meaning to the business, but also helps consumers identify with the brand. Some initiatives taken by Aspial in this area include partnering with Forevermark to support responsible sourcing of diamonds, and preserving Singapore’s art and culture by unveiling two handcrafted bangles in celebration of the National Museum of Singapore’s 130th anniversary.
This article was first published in the November 2017 print issue of Marketing magazine.
(Photo courtesy: 123RF)