Lack of consumer confidence remains a key issue, but these brands are addressing the challenge in their own unique ways.
A wide availability of latest designs and ease of payment is pushing the urban, globally exposed Indian buyer in the age-group of 21 to 45 years to increasingly shop for jewellery online.
According to Assocham-Forrester, the Indian e-commerce market is pegged at $38 billion (₹2,528.33 billion) and is projected to grow to $120 billion (₹7,988.74 billion) by 2020.
Among all the goods sold via e-commerce, fashion as a category -- comprising apparel, accessories and jewellery -- makes up the highest volume of sales in India.
The huge growth in fashion sales powering e-commerce explains the large presence of online jewellery brands like Voylla, BlueStone and Caratlane.
Even as these players make headway towards drawing buyers to shop online, they inevitably end up investing significant time and resources in convincing buyers about the look and feel of the jewellery and transparency that online sales offer for such high-value purchases.
For online jewellery brands, lack of consumer confidence remains a key issue.
The problem is deeper for high-end gold and diamond jewellery, as compared to fashion and imitation jewellery.
This lack of faith is keeping a lot of potential buyers away.
“For gold and diamond jewellery, the price points are high. An average product purchase in this category begins at Rs 25,000. For a buyer, this is a significant amount of investment. Here, touch and feel gain prominence as the buyer wants to be sure of the design and how a particular product will look on her. This translates into a high purchase barrier for precious jewellery sold online,” says Vishwas Shringi, founder and chief executive officer, Voylla.
Online jewellery brands are addressing this challenge in their own way.
Voylla, for instance, invests heavily on its product pages to ensure the designs on display are an exact replica of what is delivered to consumers. The company has put up 3D videos of every design, capturing minute details of their products.
Shringi says the objective for any brand is to bring back the customer for a repeat purchase on its platform. Therefore, it is important for brands to ensure they showcase their products in their original form.
Players have to be cautious and ensure that they do not take to enhancing the image of the jewellery showcased online merely to attract buyers. Any mismatch in the image online and the real product delivered to the customer is going to alienate the buyer, resulting in a brand disconnect.
Virani Gems, a 50-year-old offline diamond and gold jewellery retailer which forayed into the online space a year ago, also considers touch and feel a major concern for a majority of buyers.
To address the issue, the company has come up with a unique and cost-effective solution.
It is using a 3D printing technique to produce replicas of its product offerings, providing a buyer the exact feel of the size and shape of the jewellery.
Chirag Virani, chief executive officer and founder of Viranigems.com, says, “With our 3D printed models, customers can try, see and be confident as to how the piece ordered online looks like in its original form. The 3D printed models have same shape and dimensions as the original piece selected by the customer. Made of plastic, replica models are cost-effective and fit in well with our business model which has zero inventory.”
BlueStone, on the other hand, fulfills this customer need by making jewellery pieces available for trial at home. The company offers its ‘Home Try-on’ service in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ambala, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Patiala.
In case of high-ticket purchases, by comparison to physical retail set-ups, online stores tend to suffer from higher consumer distrust largely on account of the absence of a human interface between seller and buyer.
Pushkar Jain, chief marketing officer, BlueStone.com, plays down the notion of less transparency in online purchases.
On the contrary, he argues that online is perhaps better placed to offer buyers absolute transparency in any deal.
“Transparency, fundamentally, isn’t an online-only issue. It boils down to large brands scaling up. Online shopping offers transparency from the word go. Our product pages display exact details of the type of diamond, size and shape used in every piece of jewellery. Product price, including making charges, are split to the last detail,” he explains.
With every minute product details spelt in black and white, there is no room for buyers nurturing doubts over quality and price of the jewellery bought online.
Priya Sachdev, founder of Rock N Shop (an online platform selling luxury products including jewellery), suggests that the presence of well-known, premium and luxury brands on her platform helps address issues regarding the quality of the products on offer.
It offers well-known jewellery brands such as Darya London, ESA, Miriam Salat, Oscar de la Renta and Outhouse. Further, to drive consumer engagement, the company is looking at leveraging artificial intelligence and virtual reality to offer mix and match options and virtual trial rooms to buyers.
Also, to allay buyer fears of counterfeits, online jewellery retailers go for third-party certification by the International Gemological Institute. Besides, the jewellery is hallmarked by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
For both Voylla and BlueStone, in addition to touch and feel, logistics continues to be a key challenge for the industry.
“We have more than 16,000 pincodes to cater to. However, reputable logistics service providers only reach out to 6,000 pin codes. There is a huge gap between demand and supply. Demand cannot be met without logistics support; the latter is leading to under-utilisation of e-commerce. In such a scenario, offline stores are the only means to extend an online brand’s reach,” says Shringi of Voylla.