Online World & Gem and Jewelry Business in the New Normal Era
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about the new normal in way of living, for instance, working from home has become a usual thing and more activities have been carried out through digital domains. Since consumers’ behaviors have changed, adjustments are necessary for business sectors. Many businesses have shifted to online trading or e-commerce. Gem and jewelry businesses have also held virtual events instead of physical events and/or sold products through live streaming. It has been expected that such changes will remain despite the end of the pandemic.
COVID-19 Crisis Pushes Businesses Online
Online trading has been available for a long time, but it might not be used actively, especially among entrepreneurs of small and medium enterprises. However, globally implemented measures to curb the virus outbreak have forced people to stay home more than usual. Consequently, they have increasingly shopped for almost everything through online platforms. The trend is likely to become a norm even after the pandemic. Online shopping will eventually become a natural choice. Thus, different shops have been aroused to quickly adopt digital technology and e-commerce in their businesses in order to fully migrate from offline to the online world, or O2O (Offline to Online).
Ever since many countries started their lockdown measures in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online trading around the world has flourished dramatically. According to Bazaarvoice, number of online orders in March 2020 increased 21% before a 96% surge was seen last April, compared to the same period of 2019. Sales of many online platforms soared with great earnings. Amazon, the world’s giant e-commerce platform, obtained a 40% year-on-year increase in sales of the second quarter of 2020. eBay’s US sales of the second quarter increased 34.6% and its international sales of the same period rose 26.3%, a record high in 15 years.
In addition, eMarketer has expected that in 2020, e-commerce markets around the world will grow approximately 16.5% and it is likely to continue steadily. The world’s top largest e-commerce markets are China, the US and the UK, respectively. Jewelry trading will also benefit from the online trading boom as well. Technavio has predicted that during 2020-2024 online jewelry markets around the world will rise by an annual average of 15%.
Source: https://www.business.com (as of April 2020)
Gem and Jewelry Business Enters the Online World in the New Normal Era
The change in people’s lifestyle during the new normal era increasingly embrace the online world. Therefore, gem and jewelry businesses need transformation of different aspects into the digital world as follows.
Virtual Event* :
Trade fairs or events, generating various business opportunities, have either been cancelled or postponed indefinitely because of pandemic prevention measures. However, for businesses’ survival, event organizers of many businesses, for example, concerts, seminars, book fairs, or trade exhibitions, have shifted their approach to a virtual event, or an online trade fair. The followings are examples of gem and jewelry trade fairs.
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) in collaboration with Israeli Diamond Institute (IDI) held the first ever online diamond trade fair during March 30 to April 4, 2020 through a platform called Virtual Diamond Boutique. The event was exclusively for Belgian and Israeli traders participating as diamond and diamond jewelry product sellers. Traders of other nationalities could only join as buyers. Participation of buyers and sellers was free of any charges.
Virtual Diamond Boutique platform
Indian Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Show (IFJAS) is one of India’s leading fashion jewelry tradeshows. Its organizer hosted the first online jewelry event on June 1-4, 2020. Exhibitors of the online event were Indian major manufacturers from cities producing fashion jewelry and accessories, namely New Delhi, Akra, Mumbai, Noida, Lakhnau, Jaipur, Moradabad, Faridabad, Gurugram, Firozabad, Kolkata, Varanasi and Amritsar. The tradeshow is suitable for importers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, franchisors and department stores looking for affordable and unique fashion jewelry and accessories.
JCK, the US and the world’s famous gem and jewelry trade fair, hosted the first online tradeshow called “JCK Virtual 2020” during August 10-14, 2020. American and foreign buyers and retailers were invited by JCK. Over 3,500 participants attended the event. All activities in the event were conducted via the JCK Virtual Platform. They included virtual activities, namely, jewelry product showrooms for entrepreneurs, meeting rooms for sellers and buyers, business matching, and seminars on different topics.
Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair, a prominent gem and jewelry fair of Thailand and the world, has also scheduled an online tradeshow during November 2-4, 2020 under the title “BGJF Special Edition – On Ground to Online Exhibition” as a solution for the new normal trading amid international traveling restriction. The event will allow buyers, importers and interested individuals to explore worldwide gem and jewelry products through online channels, similar to visiting a physical location. Moreover, online business negotiation will be arranged during the event. This will expand trade opportunities for gem and jewelry of Thai and overseas entrepreneurs.
The virtual event is not a new thing because event organizing platforms have been available for a while. However, they were not as popular as they are now. For instance, pre-existing gem and jewelry tradeshow platforms such as the Jewelry Virtual Fair (JVF), which has been offered since 2018 with features equivalent to a jewelry showroom. It is also a forum for sharing news and information on jewelry markets and trends. Currently, more than 800 manufacturers, wholesalers, online sellers and designers from over 60 countries around the world are its members. Charged and free services are offered for entrepreneurs.
As consumers’ lifestyle has been gearing more toward the online world and circumstances have been unfit for gathering, event organizers have not been able to hold usual events. Thus, the virtual events’ popularity has been rising. It is possible that the virtual events will not be just a temporary solution anymore. They can become the primary choice for event organizers who will incorporate them with offline events.
Live Streaming** :
Since the COVID-19 outbreak started in February, selling products through live streaming has become a new trend in the e-commerce market. Entrepreneurs have been trying to adjust their selling approach to keep up with consumers behaviors which have been turning more toward online shopping. Lately, almost every business, for instance, department stores, real estates, restaurants, automobiles, cosmetics, or even fine jewelry have been relying on live streaming so much that soaring expansion has been seen in number of users and product categories, with potential of constant growth. According to Global Trends, the marketing value of worldwide live streaming was 20 billion US dollars in 2020. The value will reach 60 billion US dollars in 2026 as predicted by Trendsmarketresearch.
The market using live streaming to sell products with remarkable growth during the pandemic was China*** . It originated the strategy of selling through live streaming since 2014. Entrepreneurs of nearly every product, from local brands to premium luxury brands like Lanvin, a French luxury brand, have diverged to live streaming via China’s popular platforms such as Taobao and JD.Com. Mr. Guo Guangchang, the chairman of Fosun International Ltd., which is the majority shareholder of Lanvin, joined a live streaming for merely 5 minutes, but a sale of 4,060 US dollars was made instantly. Burberry, which arranged a live streaming on Taobao, gained 1.4 million views. The world’s leading jewelry brand like Tiffany & Co. or Chow Tai Fook, Hong Kong’s key jewelry brand, did not miss their opportunity in boosting sales through live streaming.
Selling jewelry through live streaming in China
Mr. Guo Guangchang, the chairman of Fosun International Ltd., joined a live video selling Lanvin bags.
Nowadays, customers usually want to see actual products before buying ones. If sellers want to get immediate response from them, advertising through photographs and video clips may not be enticing. In addition, sellers cannot make prompt interaction with customers, while live streaming answers all of these demands. Thus, it stimulates customers’ desire to buy and induces them to shop faster. The approach also raises credibility of a brand, so customers will be more confident in shopping from the brand.
Undoubtedly, post-pandemic business world will not be the same, particularly behaviors of modern consumers who are familiar with and prefer the online world. They will shop online more. Therefore, it is necessary for gem and jewelry entrepreneurs to create opportunities from this new lifestyle, which consumers have started to get used to, by quickly and actively penetrate markets via online channels as online markets have great potential to grow. Entrepreneurs also need to be flexible in order to respond to demands and build good impression to consumers. These are vital factors for businesses’ competitiveness and survival, which will maintain their continual progress.
*A virtual event is an imitation of an event’s environment transformed from physical venue to online platform on screen. Attendees can participate through online platforms from anywhere in the world. They can also experience the same content as physical events. A virtual event is suitable for a small or large event with a large number of participants from various countries without requiring an actual venue. The event format helps boost participants’ access and enables them to experience the event thoroughly.
**Live streaming is a sales boosting tool in a video format on online platforms. Sellers can carry out live streaming with their mobile phones via many platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. They can also do it through e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Taobao.
***QCC.com stated that in 2020, there are 5,684 registered livestreaming accounts in China. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the figure started to climb in March and surged in May as there were 2,877 accounts, a 6.84-fold year-on-year growth.