When Sujan Doshi, founder and CEO of LuvMyJewelry (LMJ) reached out to the Independent Jewelers Organization (IJO) to inquire about speaking opportunities at their next conference, which took place last week in Washington D.C., he had a specific topic in mind: The nuances—and specific needs—of the Gen-Z demographic, and what the jewelry industry needs to do in order to engage and convert them. (Just to note: Gen-Z is defined as a cohort of 72 million people born between 1997 and 2012, which puts the oldest of these folks at 25).
“As a millennial with a younger Gen-Z brother, I have firsthand experience into how different our generations are from our Gen-X and Baby Boomer predecessors,” says Doshi, who founded LMJ in 2017 and is currently represented in 50 retail doors. “At LuvMyJewelry, we spend a lot of time understanding what Gen-Z values are, and how their values correlate with our own. We are also trend-obsessed and do our very best to stay in-the-know on the latest jewelry and fashion trends. Both help us design collections that strike a chord with Gen-Z.”
Doshi descends from a family jewelry and diamond wholesale business and, after graduating from Northwestern University, he first worked in management consulting and corporate finance. But his right brain urged him to heed the call of his two innermost passions: composing poetry and designing jewelry. With that, LMJ was born.
Each collection starts with a poem that Doshi composes; from there, bits and pieces and imagery from the text are extracted to inform design elements that adhere to a specific theme. “I thought if I leaned in on my love for writing and paired my poetry with the collections I designed, I could add my distinctive touch to the jewelry buying experience,” said Doshi, whose company is based in New York City.
We asked him for his advice and opinions on Gen-Z for jewelry retailers:
The Zing Report: What do you think is the biggest misconception elder jewelers—and let’s remember that some millennials are approaching 40!—have about Gen Z?
Sujan Doshi: I think they underestimate their relevance. They say, ‘Let’s wait before we address them’ but Gen Z is already changing the world around us, influencing how we interact with technology, businesses and each other. Gen Z is the largest population in the U.S. today, at about 86 million. Gen Z may not have the disposable income to spend significant dollars. However, the question store owners need to ask themselves is whether they’d like this cohort to walk into their store and buy an engagement ring down the line? If the answer is yes, investing in marketing dollars to engage Gen Z is totally worth it.
What are leading jewelry brands doing wrong when it comes to engaging Gen-Z?
When engaging Gen Z, many leading jewelry brands are still in the “presentation culture” mindset. Presentation culture refers to presenting on social platforms as opposed to being real and authentic—their voices seem edited, filtered and way too politically correct. This approach doesn’t help you win with Gen Z— they see right through it. For example, brands need to commit to inclusion initiatives year-round. Talk about LGBTQ+ issues outside of June [Pride Month] on your social platforms. The brands that are unafraid to speak their minds and show a year-round commitment to relevant causes (i.e. LGBTQ+ inclusivity, sustainability, philanthropy) are the ones that ultimately find a place in the hearts of young customers. Nike & ASOS crush it with their messaging and overall Gen Z appeal.
What else does Gen-Z value in a brand?
They want the brand to be real, relatable, not aspirational and to know what you stand for. Gen-Z customers are focused on sustainability, in particular sustainable manufacturing. They want to know where materials come from, how products are made, and whether the people involved are treated fairly. They resonate with brands and stores that show their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and reveal the working conditions and supply chain of their behind-the-scenes production.
How does Luv My Jewelry reflect Gen-Z values?
Having grown up around my family’s business, I saw that many jewelry companies offered beautiful products and competed on price, but I found myself unable to relate to them. Before starting LMJ, I took a lot of inspiration from the retail revolution that was underway in the apparel category at the time. Companies like Bonobos and Rent the Runway made it clear to me that personalizing the shopping experience and offering customers a compelling connection beyond product and price would be important.
So today, I feel LMJ is a hit with Gen-Z because we understand and speak their language. Our designs are fresh takes on the latest trends, but deeply rooted in stories that mean something to us. Since the brand’s inception, we’ve enjoyed working with traditional jewelry retailers who were looking to appeal to younger customers, and lately, we’ve seen a new group of retailers focused on hip-hop jewelry buying into LMJ as a way to attract Gen-Z. Also my entire social media and marketing team is made up of incredible Gen Z’ers which is important for relatability.
Yes, we’ve heard that investing in Gen Z staff is critical for jewelry businesses who hope compete in this market. Clearly you agree—why?
Relatability builds trust and forges stronger relationships. If a younger 16 or 17-year-old walks into a traditional jewelry store, they are more likely to connect with someone closer in age as opposed to a Gen-X/Boomer owner. With Gen-Z staff onboard, small business owners are more likely to cultivate stronger relationships with a younger population. The business will eventually follow.