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Overcoming barriers to online gold jewellery sales



By Suneeta Kaul

The World Gold Council (WGC) recently released a report, titled “Online Gold Market in India”, and its findings confirmed what many in the retail jewellery industry already knew — though India has embraced online retailing across several categories, online purchase of jewellery, particularly gold jewellery, is still in its nascent stage, accounting for just 1%-2% of overall gold sales by value. In fact, by the end of the thrid quarter of 2019, only 17% of urban gold jewellery purchases and 3% of rural gold jewellery purchases had been made online.

Current state of the market

Online retailing of jewellery in India has been around for more than a decade now, with the very first online platform, CaratLane (now a Titan subsidiary), having been set up in 2008. Since then, online sales of jewellery have picked up at a brisk pace, thanks to smartphone penetration, mobile apps, digital wallets, and the like. According to the WGC report, “Digital and social activity plays an increasingly important part in the purchase journey for gold. In urban India, consumers browse online/mobile apps before making purchases; they use online blogs and social media for ideas and inspiration. In urban India, 30% of consumers say that they browsed online/mobile apps pre-purchase for fashion and lifestyle items.”

However, online retail sales of gold and other precious metals jewellery have not kept pace with the overall e-commerce boom in other sectors. As per a 2018 McKinsey report, nearly 80% of luxury sales in India were digitally influenced, yet the use of technology and digital engagement in the gold jewellery category still lags that of other high-end fashion and lifestyle categories.

Says Arun Narayan, AVP, Category, Marketing & Retail, Tanishq, Titan Company Ltd, “Generally, e-commerce is a very small business in India, and online jewellery sales are even fewer. Retailers also see online jewellery more as an add-on, and, by no means, as the mainstay of their business.”

Barriers to online gold sales

Jewellery is a special category as it is a big-ticket item. In India especially, jewellery purchase is a very well-planned, thought-out exercise. Says Ramesh Kalyanaraman, Executive Director, Kalyan Jewellers, “In India, people usually prefer to visit jewellery stores physically so as to touch and try on the jewellery pieces before buying them. Since jewellery purchase often constitutes large amounts, and since it is often passed on from one generation to another, it is critical for brands to be able to retain the trust of consumers in order to drive sales.”

Agrees Narayan, “Jewellery buying is an important occasion for Indians. It is a well-planned family affair, with a lot of thought and emotion going into the purchase.” In view of the special place it has in the hearts and minds of Indian consumers, online sale of jewellery is bound to present very specific challenges.

Customers want to touch and hold the jewellery before buying it, they want to know how it ‘feels’ and looks on them. Purchasing it online deprives them of that vital factor. Moreover, they are not sure they can return the product, or exchange it, if they are not satisfied with their purchase. Additionally, they have lingering concerns about purity and overall quality, and this comes in the way of completing a transaction.

Overcoming the challenges

Jewellery retailers are adopting a multi-pronged approach to overcome the challenges faced by the sector when it comes to online commerce. Says Joy Alukkas, Chairman & Managing Director, Joyalukkas, “In order to overcome the barriers of online sales, we are planning to implement an omni-channel approach, with an enhanced digital strategy, to boost sales online. We believe that integrating offline and online sales will be critical to attract more consumers in this segment.”

High-end jewellery retailers have taken multiple steps to address the problems of online jewellery buying. For instance, live video shopping is a feature that many jewellery companies are already offering. “At Kalyan Jewellers, we have made it convenient for our consumers to browse through, and even purchase gold jewellery from the comfort of their homes. We recently launched the live video shopping facility at our showrooms that are currently operational. We are receiving more and more appointment requests from our customers, especially from tier-two cities,” informs Kalyanaraman.


Similarly, Tansihq (Titan) is offering facilities such as live chat, live calling and video conferencing to its customers in order to guide them through their purchase journey. Explains Narayan, “At Tanishq, we take recourse to high-end technology, such as Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, as a result of which we offer our customers the facility of virtual try-ons. Our customers also have the option of seeing a live person try the jewellery online so they know how it looks on an actual human being. Besides, we take several steps to offer them a true store-like experience, and it could be something as small as offering them the use of a magnifying glass.” 

Companies such as Joyalukkas are also investing in high-end technology in order to take the digital leap. “We are using digital technologies to create new/modify existing business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. We have invested in the latest technologies to achieve this,” says Alukkas.

The last word

Even as the retail jewellery industry is taking steps to enhance its digital footprint, the quest might actually have been made easier by the on-going pandemic. Digital transformation has become all the more relevant in the post-COVID  scenario, with the pandemic making the need for the transition more immediate. Renewed focus on online sales and seamless integration of offline and online channels will be key to successful growth in the post-COVID era.



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