Natural Diamond Council's Richa Singh on building in-store experience through an integrated approach

As part of the Social Samosa 30 Under 30 Jury, Richa Singh of Natural Diamond Council shares insights on staying aligned with the dynamic consumer mindset and the importance of embracing digital-centric approaches and conducting thorough research to understand today's consumers, particularly the millennial and Gen Z demographics.

Pranali Tawte
New Update
Richa Singh

As the festive season begins, a heightened interest in jewelry purchases naturally ensues. It's a time when consumers seek exquisite pieces to celebrate and commemorate special occasions.

A recent festive report by Meta highlighted that there is a noticeable increase in the proportion of Diwali shoppers likely to use AR and VR tools to explore products, and 3 out of 5 shoppers feel AR experiences help get them into the Diwali spirit, and ultimately help their purchase decisions.

With digitization, new technologies, and tools, a profound dilemma that has also emerged as a focal point of discussion and strategy in the world of retail and customer engagement in the jewelry industry is the choice between traditional in-store experiences and the rising trend of virtual try-ons facilitated by social networks. This dilemma has become particularly prominent against the backdrop of a global pandemic that significantly reshaped consumer behavior and preferences.

However, what's intriguing is how this shift has persisted even as the lockdowns have waned. Consumers now have the power to access personalized experiences akin to those offered in physical stores right at their fingertips through digital platforms. Yet, the intrinsic desire to touch, feel, and physically try on jewelry remains undiminished. 

Richa Singh, Managing Director India & Middle East at Natural Diamond Council, shares her insights on whether the convenience and personalization offered by virtual features on social media platforms can effectively drive conversions or if the traditional in-store experience will continue to hold sway.

Edited Excerpts:

With the fast-paced change in trends and consumer inclinations, how do you stay in sync with the consumer mindset?

Yes, it is true that consumer preferences change, and trends are usually transient. But I am lucky to be working in the natural diamond industry, where we celebrate the eternal sparkle, enduring resilience, and versatility of this wonder of nature. We are promoting the diamond dream, and while our marketing strategy might change or our communication language may evolve, the core message of love, memories, and effortless style remains constant. As a brand, we have shifted our focus to a more digital-centric approach. We also invest time and resources to understand the aspirations and dreams of today’s consumers through both primary and secondary research so that we can create relevant content and messaging for them. This is the only way we can continue to make natural diamonds resonate with the millennials and Gen Z. 

What is your take on the dilemma between an in-store experience and virtual try-ons on social networks? Has the pandemic effect outlasted the lockdown and will the virtual features on social media platforms lead to conversions?

While the pandemic initially necessitated virtual interactions, consumers choose it today due to convenience. You are able to offer personalization and an experience similar to what they might get in the store at the consumer’s fingertips. Digital adoption has grown manifold since the pandemic, but people still like to touch, feel, and physically try on their jewelry before making a purchase. The tactile in-store experience cannot be replaced. I believe that a blend of the two, via a more integrated experience, is what will continue to gain traction and popularity in the industry.

In the era of fake news and suspicion towards digital platforms, how can we effectively establish trust and credibility for natural diamonds using these mediums?

Misinformation spreads rapidly today. We tend to believe everything we see on social media or consume via forwards. Our mission as NDC is to advance the integrity of the modern diamond jewelry industry and inspire, educate, and protect the consumer. We ensure that clear and accurate information about diamonds and the diamond industry is propagated, and we dispel myths and misconceptions along the way. All the content we create is built on these principles, and we collaborate with contributors who are subject-matter experts whose credibility lends us further authority and trustworthiness. We have recently launched a factual report titled Diamond Facts that offers an objective analysis and addresses stubborn myths about the diamond industry that continue to be all-pervasive. Through this report, which we are promoting extensively on our platforms, we seek to correct misconceptions and answer questions about the industry to enhance trust and allow consumers to make informed decisions. 

What are the key elements of designing a marketing campaign that focuses on garnering engagement as well as conversion?

Any campaign needs to be derived from an insight in order to be effective. We know that consumers aspire to own natural diamonds; we just try to give them the reasons to add them to their consideration set. As an industry body, we are category marketers; the last-mile advertising that converts into sales is managed by the jewelers. All we do is try to identify hidden latent desires, build on them and answer any queries that they may have which will help them in their purchasing decision. 

As someone with over 20 years of experience in both agency and brand sides of the advertising & marketing industry, what has been the driving force that initially led you to join this dynamic field?

As a marketer, I love studying and trying to understand what excites the consumer. Their choices and preferences are so dynamic, that they are constantly evolving as new innovations and options come along. To be able to keep pace with the changing demands and desires of consumers is what keeps me excited even two decades later. 

How has your celebrity-led campaign- Lily James, performed for the brand? What was the objective behind getting a celebrity onboard? 

Every brand always uses a celebrity to get higher eyeballs, generate curiosity and of course leverage their reach. But we have always been very particular about our choice of ambassador. We may not choose the celebs with the highest following, for us, it is imperative that her values align with and epitomize the values that are integral to us and to natural diamonds. We are lucky to have found in Lily a voice who is as passionate about the unique characteristics and inherent emotional value of a diamond as we are. Her journey to Botswana helped her understand the value chain and just how much natural diamonds are giving back and contributing to this world.

Whether it's Natural Diamond’s ‘Pyaar Actually’ podcast or ‘For moments like no other', NDC seems to be upping its marketing activities. What are your marketing focus areas for the year? Are content marketing and influencer marketing a part of this bucket? 

For us at NDC, it is never a singular objective as we are speaking to multiple audiences at various points in time. We speak to some to address myths or misconceptions they might have, we educate others on how to choose their perfect engagement ring, and to others, we offer topical, real-time content that they find engaging and relevant. It is about the multiplicity of messaging and touchpoints and that is why we ended up creating over 750 pieces of content across platforms and garnered 45 million website visits in the last year. 

With the festive season around the corner, what are your marketing strategies? 

For us, it is not a share-of-voice battle, but getting relevant content out to the right audience and making sure that no myth or misconception targeted to the consumer goes unaddressed. Since we are not in the direct sales business and not involved in the last mile consumer conversion, we are always on in our marketing efforts and are not driven by seasonality. In fact, we have launched a collaboration with Made in Heaven Season 2 where you can see the brides in the show sporting natural diamond jewellery.

How can women who are inspired to be in a position such as yourself make it through the gender-driven hindrances in the industry?

I have been extremely lucky to have found colleagues, mentors and friends along my journey. In order to be a successful leader, you need to be able to think on your feet, make quick decisions and create a supportive environment for your peers and team. Collaboration is the key to growth and you cannot achieve that by alienating anyone. You need to look beyond office politics and create a mark as someone who is open to learning and is creative, dependable and a team player.  At NDC, I am proud to lead an all-women team. 

Made in Heaven Made in heaven season 2 Natural Diamond Council