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eCommerce Trends in 2021 – insights from an online jeweller

eCommerce Trends in 2021 - insights from an online jeweller 1

By Nick Withington, MD of William May Jewellers

William May Jewellers was one of the outstanding success stories of the pandemic year, with a 100% growth of online sales during the first lockdown, followed by a jump of 250% in sales over the last two months of 2020. But how do you continue to build an online business now that the high street has re-opened? Nick Withington, the owner of William May Jewellers, looks at the trends that his business will be focusing on in 2021.

There is little point on commenting on 2021 trends without mentioning the huge impact 2020 had on our economy, and particularly on eCommerce businesses. William May is best known for a strong digital presence and noticeable growth, but many might not be aware that we also have a strong retail presence, with six stores under the Mays brand located in the Greater Manchester area. 2020 hit our stores hard, making it one of the most difficult years we have ever seen. However, we were fortunate enough to already have in place a well-established online side of our business which felt the uplift from a sharp change in consumer purchasing behaviour.

2020 influenced the biggest change in consumer behaviour in our generation and this allowed our business to reach new audiences, who previously may have been hesitant to make large & considered purchases online. Prior to 2020, we had been investing heavily in our online presence for a number of years and this, coupled with the influx of new traffic, put William May in the right place at the right time.

2021 eCommerce trends

To continue growing at the rate of 2020, would be a massive challenge for any eCommerce business, but we can report that we are still seeing a fantastic Year on Year growth, which has exceeded our own expectations. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact trends that are contributing to this, we have noticed some clear areas of growth that have emerged.

Consumer behaviour

From our internal analysis we are finding that new customers who made their first purchase in 2020 had a positive experience, which has resulted in more repeat business in 2021.

This has influenced a change in strategy from targeting customer acquisition in 2020 towards customer loyalty in 2021, with a much greater focus on increasing customer lifetime value.

Word of mouth is back

Jewellery is a purchase that is meant to be worn and shown off. With the easing of restrictions in 2021 and the ability for people to meet up in greater numbers, we are now finding more friend and family referrals coming to William May.

Although this was never a specific target of ours, it is humbling to see that by focusing on our customers, and the great service we provide, we have managed to create greater trust and an increased likelihood of word of mouth recommendations as a result.

Increased media cost

In 2020, as many advertisers will be aware of, the online CPC, CPM and CPA dropped to an unbelievable level. This was mainly attributed to larger businesses and huge parts of the economy not being able to advertise due to reduced businesses hours and restrictions.

In 2021, we have seen a strong bounce back on the cost of advertising, with an increase in cost of media across all channels. 2021 is not only showing a comeback in advertising but an increased demand, as more and more businesses are making the switch over to online and future proofing their business. Such cost increases were to be expected and we have managed to adjust our budgets and targets accordingly, keeping our business in a strong position for growth.

Focus on local

With all the events of 2020, it would be easy to forget the impact of Brexit and leaving the EU single market. Customs and borders are still proving a challenge to many companies supplying luxury goods. The situation has led us to a UK First approach, with much of our efforts now being spent on national growth over targeting new markets overseas, which was something we were looking at developing before Brexit.

Know your customers and treat them well

Finally, the mantra we have always had as a business continues to put us ahead of many of our competitors: the most important element for any retail business, whether it is on or off line, is to provide superb customer service combined with excellent products. William May is able to combine trusted customer service with a gap in the market for high quality investment pre-owned pieces of jewellery and watches, which are available on our site for a fraction of the normal price.

In the luxury market, and particularly when it comes to fine jewellery and watches, consumer trust is paramount. This was a strong foundation on which we built our digital business. Our focus on customer service runs right through the William May shopping experience, from visiting and browsing our site, to our speedy and secure delivery service that ensures you get your item quickly, in perfect condition, and in beautiful packaging. It is this element of our business that provides us with the strongest foundations in order to compete successfully even against the worst of economic storms and shifts in consumer behaviour.

About the author:

Nick Withington is owner and MD of William May Jewellers and was given a Retail Titan Award in 2021 by Professional Jeweller Magazine for his outstanding work to successfully revolutionise this traditional family jewellery business.


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