Buying gold in Tamil Nadu is no subtle affair. Ask anyone from the state and they would narrate experiences that include weeks of planning, budget discussions and a grand trip to a jewellery store of choice, from their childhood. And of course, almost always, it took more than one visit to the showroom and multiple suggestions from a varied group of relatives to make the choice.
But in today's day and age, one has neither the time nor the inclination to spend hours in a store for jewellery that goes straight to the locker. As more women enter the workforce, the focus, according to jewellers, has been on pieces that are worn every day and can be bought at a time convenient to the consumers.
And this is the trend that several retailers have foreseen as they slowly move jewellery online.
"Chennai is definitely buying jewellery online," says Aakroshâ€‹ â€‹Sharma, Senior Vice President of â€‹Merchandising forâ€‹ â€‹CaratLane, a jewellery brand that sells online in addition to having stores across the country. "People are becoming more comfortable transacting online and this practice will only grow," he adds.
According to online retailers, there are multiple reasons why the platform has become more relevant than ever before. These include - shopping at a time of your convenience, prices readily on display, lack of commute and varied choices.
At CaratLane for instance the prices begin at Rs 5000.
"Earrings, bracelets and thin necklaces sell very well and are used as everyday wear," explains Atul Sinha, the Senior Vice President of marketing. "A customer can browse the site as many times as they want and at any time of the day, according to their convenience. This makes jewellery affordable and more accessible," he adds.
Websites are also working on overcoming any other barrier that customers may face. Traditionally, consumers like to try on jewellery that they buy and judge how it looks on them before choosing to purchase it.
"So, we present a 3D view of the jewellery and mention the size in relative terms. For example, by using everyday items like a SIM card as measure," reveals Sinha. "In addition to this Carat Lane also offers a free home trial, where replicas are sent for the customer to try on," he adds.
That is not all. Online stores have now even gone the extra step, to utilise the medium to its complete potential. Web based applications are available to allow customers to virtually try on jewellery, similar to how filters work.
This formula has definitely worked for Carat Lane that has now seen a large share of its business being bought over by Titan in 2016. "Our sales are really getting better and we are ensuring that our designs are constantly updated," says Sharma. "A GRT or a Prince Jewellery cater to a different group of customers. Their mainstay is more bridal and we focus on a different group of people. The demographic we look at, though not limited to, is women between 25-45," he explains.
But despite the online space for jewellery growing, Carat Lane has opened 25 stores across the country, with 11 inaugurated in 2017 alone. Their second store in Chennai was launched at Phoenix Mall in Velachery was in fact set up in early September.
"So what we noticed was that while people loved seeing designs online and even adding them to the cart, but they were not pressing the buy button," reveals Sharma. "When we called them for feedback they made it clear that they would actually like to see the jewellery before buying it," he adds.
So, clearly, stores cannot be done away with in the future?
"Perhaps but what happens in our stores is that customers already know what they want," he explains. "They have already seen the designs and prices online. It is only the final transaction that takes place. The manpower is lesser and we do not need huge showrooms," he adds.
As of now, Carat Lane says the sale online and offline are at a 50-50 ratio.