Even a global pandemic can’t stop love or the other sentiments that prompt us to buy a beautiful piece of jewelry. But it can throw a big wrench in a company’s plans. Signet Jewelers, the largest diamond jewelry retailer, was two years into a journey to become a customer-first organization that meets people’s preferences for digital shopping experiences—and then that strategy was put to the test. In 2020, as the world locked down, Signet—owner of brands including KAY Jewelers, Zales, Jared and JamesAllen.com—had to temporarily close more than 3,000 stores, essentially overnight. How would Signet sell intricate (and often big-ticket) jewelry if people couldn’t see their color, shape, and shine, or feel their weight?
Without physical store locations, the company relied on the expertise and creativity of its jewelry consultants to engage virtually with customers. They would communicate with customers from their homes with a variety of digital collaboration tools, often on company iPads.
But Signet could do more than simply maintain profitability through digital sales. The company could proactively launch strategic capabilities to address customers’ evolving needs, and it recognized that new behaviors and preferences developed in response to COVID-19 would remain and set the stage for ongoing changes. For example, maybe an ideal virtual experience would not just make up for the loss of a tactile and in-person interaction at a store; it could complement and exceed it.
With the year-end holiday season—Signet’s busiest quarter—around the corner, the company set a deadline to pivot from being reactive to proactive and strategic. The product teams knew they needed to prioritize key features of the customer experience quickly, such as care center and service calls. Investing in understanding Signet customers in a more profound way would make it possible to deliver experiences that would speak to them—and drive sales.