Stars align for online jewellery industry – Tough road ahead to realise full potential

Editor | Sep 10, 2020

The Indian ecommerce industry has always been surrounded by skeptics. The naysayers believed that consumers won’t accept a shopping trend that lacks ‘touch and feel’ element. And how wrong were they because it is now one of the biggest ecommerce industries in the world. Then the skepticism moved to specific product categories – people won’t buy lingerie or grocery or furniture or large appliances online. Buyers proved them wrong too.

Jewellery is one such category that many believed that people won’t be comfortable buying online. To everyone’s surprise, this ecommerce vertical is growing from strength to strength. Several reports hint at that the online jewellery market might reach $3.6 billion (20% of the global market) in the next 3 years. It still is a highly fragmented market, but the online share is increasing steadily.

“Indian consumers prefer to touch and feel the jewellery before buying, but the change in consumer behaviour will happen quite fast,” had said Mehul Choksi, chairman of Gitanjali, which is one of the major jewellery brands in the world.

He was right because sellers of all kinds have benefitted from this change in consumer behavior. Don’t believe us? The insightful seller stories of Kriaa’s Ritesh N. Barbhaya and AuGrav’s Vivek Krishna illustrate the growing popularity of the online jewellery segment.

Seven factors contributing to this growth

  • Online is where the world is

With growing number of smartphone users and internet users, thanks to better broadband connectivity, 3G/4G services and affordable mobile phones, the number of online shoppers is climbing up at a light speed. Around 80-90% of buyers browse online before making big purchases including jewellery. No wonder big retailers like Tanishq want to make the most of the digital presence of their online partners such as Caratlane.

  • Discounts

Again, a no brainer. Discounts are where online retailers win over the traditional retailers. It is now possible to buy certified diamonds and precious gold/silver jewellery at very affordable prices from e-stores Caratlane, Bluestone and others. Two things are making this possible – elimination of overhead expenses and investors’ money.

  • 24/7 availability

A virtual store is open 24-hours so a buyer can shop conveniently from anywhere at any time unlike brick-and-mortar stores. In addition, there’s no pressure to buy immediately.

  • Marketplaces follow strict quality measures

Considering the nature of this category, online marketplaces and niche players adhere to strict product quality measures to reduce risk and encourage buyers to shop online. For instance, on Amazon sellers need ‘Category Approval’ to sell jewellery as it limits the addition of new vendors to ensure a high level of quality. Used, vintage and pre-owned jewellery is also not allowed on Amazon. Also, sellers have maintain, Order-Defect Rate of 1% or less, and Cancellation Rate of 2.5% or less to be eligible for the jewellery category.

  • Buyer-friendly services

In rare cases (family relationships) traditional jewelers agree to bring their stock at someone’s house. But top players BlueStone and Caratlane offer services like virtual try-on, home try-on, and EMI facility to buyers. The clever use of technology to enhance shopping experience is where online players earn brownie points.

“Online jewellers like us have leveraged technology and innovation to address some of the barriers to buying jewellery online… Our try-at-home channel appeals to consumers who would rather buy something in the comfort of their own home,” asserts jewellery etailer CaratLane’s spokesperson while speaking to IndianOnlineSeller (IOS).

The spokesperson adds,

“One of our recent apps – the Perfect Look app, gives customers another innovative way to virtually try on earrings in three dimension (3D)… It is the world’s first 3D virtual try on jewellery app.”

  • Wide variety

With high global exposure and the internet, the young, independent and aspirational women of today (largest target group) demand more than the ordinary. This desire is being easily fulfilled by online jewellery stores that have the bandwidth to offer a wide range of products for all age-groups, budget, occasions and personal style.

  • Cross border trade

Like we said, even B2B online jewellery market is growing. Due to trade restrictions, big brands as well as small sellers use the online medium to buy/sell jewellery across the world.

Challenges faced by sellers

While the online jewellery industry is growing, there are a host of problems that sellers face. Six of the most common ones are:

The menace of ‘high returns’ has affected the entire online retail industry. But it pinches harder in case of precious and fashion jewellery. Things are different for merchants/jewellery brands & designers that sell directly through their online stores or niche jewellery sites. But sellers listed on online marketplaces like AmazonFlipkartSnapdeal, & eBay and fashion e-stores like JabongMyntra are often heard complaining that it is easier for buyers to use the product for few days and return it before the ‘returns period’ is over.  

Fraud/fake buyers who replace new jewellery with old ones and return the product to the seller are big troublemakers. Imagine shipping a 22kt gold ring and getting a gold-plated brass ring or old junk jewellery in return? Marketplaces’ indifferent attitude towards sellers’ stock add to the problems. Then there are sellers who are more than eager to copy other seller’s designs, which lead to the danger of brand infringement.

Packaging and shipping cost to deliver small & light but precious & delicate items can end up being expensive, more so after adding the returns cost. Sellers allege that the high operational cost coupled with intense competition in the fashion category leaves little money in their bank accounts.

Samarth Jewellery’s Parth Patel reveals to IOS that pricing remains one of the biggest challenges in this category as competitors have a short term vision with no regard for profitability.

“I think the pricing is a challenge in some regions as, in the market people are still present who are ready to break the profitability of the market just to show that they exist. Breaking the profitability is an individual step but that step should be taken with a long term vision,” elucidates Patel while speaking to IOS.  

However, the biggest roadblock that sellers face is buyer’s distrust. Ecommerce players in this segment are trying their best to win buyers’ trust. But there’s still a long way to go before people stop feeling anxious while buying jewellery online.

Demonetisation – Thumps up or down from the online retailers?

No discussion is complete these days without talking about demonetisation, the latest buzz word. The sales of gold touched a new high on the day (8th November) when Rs. 500 & Rs. 1000 notes ban was announced. But after the one-night spike, the sales dropped

We asked Patel, if demonetisation has affected his jewellery business.

“I think from my stats demonetisation has not affected us. Yes, total number of footfall has decreased. But I guess it’s temporary. In India, we still have mentality of saving money. And buying gold is the one of the best option available,” he shares.

Patel adds,

“After demonetisation there was a sudden fall in sales due to panic situation for around 15 days. But after that it came on track. Number of footfall has decreased by 25%. But at the same time people have started paying by cheque. People do have money in the bank. It’s just that people wanted to spend cash first. Now due to lack of cash they directly give cheque. Post demonetisation we have seen 5-10% increase in total sales amount.”

Caratlane too revealed that cash crunch had insignificant effect on its business.

“While we saw a significant impact on sales in the first 3-4 days immediately after demonetisation, sales picked up subsequently both online and at our stores and we went on to deliver a very healthy revenue growth for the month. Our customer profile is such that most of them used to anyway pay by credit or debit cards. So the impact on sales due to demonetisation has been fairly insignificant,” says the company representative.

The potential of online jewellery market in India is huge as we are the land of festivals, where every big occasion calls for jewellery. Niche players and marketplaces are on the right track in terms of using technology, artificial intelligence, developing new products & designs and attracting the growing creed of online buyers. What needs work is fixing the issues that sellers’ face while maintaining quality of the products.

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