Norwegian Jewelry’s Digital Transformation
During the past three years, artisan and boutique jewellers have seen challenges, similar to the traditional retail sector.
The main factors are the shift to online marketplaces and changing tastes and preferences. The online stores offer a wide selection and instant price comparison, making it very easy for consumers to click and buy from anywhere at any time. Moreover, the marketplaces are very promotional oriented, offering deep discounts and free shipping. According to a McKinsey & Company research report, the younger and digitally oriented consumers want to associate with established brands. Not only are they interested in iconic jewellery labels but also the fashion ones too. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Michael Kors, leveraging their exclusivity and marketing, made a successful entry into the fine jewellery space. They achieved year over year growth at the expense of boutique jewellery designers.
Locally, Oslo’s Majorstua and Briskeby neighbourhood witnessed this transformation. This past summer, one exclusive designer suddenly closed down her business after 30+ years of business – 10+ in that location. Elisabeth L. Due, the owner of Sugar Shop Jewelry Studio, affirmed that the downturn could be attributed to technology and changing tastes,
“Consumers now opt for more personalized and custom jewellery. Travelling both on trips and surfing online exposes them to more options. CAD and 3D printing also widened the selection, making the market more competitive. However, jewellery still needs a set of hands for the final touch and customers still seek interaction with the jeweller for advice and affirmation.”
Additionally, many small Norwegian designers started to offer promotional pricing and sales, trying to keep the customer’s attention but at the expense of margins.
In addition to the aforementioned challenges, the artisan jeweller must strike the perfect balance between making and marketing. When they are making jewellery, they cannot promote and sell it and vice versa. The process to become a jewellery designer and goldsmith is a long one. It starts with three to five years of school, followed by a few years of apprenticeship under an emeritus designer or goldsmith. After that, those who choose to go out on their own must come up with original designs, which not only express the designer’s personality and life experiences but also gives the marketplace something it wants.
Many designers met these challenges by going online and on social media to expand their market reach. Some like Ina Gravem Johansen had no choice, operating her business out of Finnsnes – a small town in Northern Norway. When asked how she found balancing her tradecraft against marketing, she replied,
“I find that many craftsmen experience this as problematic. But I really do not. I am interested in text, images and the media in general. So, for me, this combination makes things extra exciting. This is also one of the main reasons why I chose to operate IGJ Design this way (as an online based jeweller).
Furthermore, she attributes her success to working with top digital professionals, photographers, and marketers as well as seeking advice from peers and experts. They help her put everything together, reaching a worldwide audience, interested in Norwegian themes like the northern lights, folklore, and the wilderness.
Yet, other Norwegian jewellery designers and goldsmiths still find it challenging to master photography, copy text, websites, e-commerce, and social media. McKinsey & Company suggests that artisan jewellers, established and up and coming, should collaborate. Specifically citing Cadenzza, a Swarovski spinoff, the chain of curated multi-brand jewellery stores featured well-known luxury brands side by side with up and coming designers. The new approach offered the consumer a wider selection under a single venue while reducing the marketing burden for the designers. Nevertheless, the bricks and mortar concept succumbed to market forces, forcing Swarovski to close down the stores in late 2017.
Norwegian Jewelry digitized that concept, offering a curated multi-vendor marketplace, exclusively online. Each designer has a business card and their personal quote on the front page, which opens up to a personalized page with a biography, contact information, logo, profile photo and jewellery for sale. As an online-only concept, the overheads are minimized while allowing the customer to interact directly with the jeweller, building the ever-important personal connection. Jewellery is an art form, and it is as important to know the person and inspiration behind the piece as the piece itself. Norwegian designers feel the same way, wanting to understand and connect with their customers.
From the webpage, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, customers can choose jewellery items from nine different boutiques. Unlike Etsy or eBay, and Amazon, Norwegian.Jewellery limits membership to reputable artisan jewellery designers from Norway. Moreover, the customer can be assured that jewellery items are handmade in Norway, using traditional methods.