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  • Barry Samaha

What Swarovski Is Doing to Modernize and Attract Millennials

Swarovski is synonymous with sparkle. It is, after all, one of the largest purveyors of crystal, and a behemoth in the jewelry industry. But even with these lofty distinctions, it faces the dilemma that befalls all brands: how to attract younger consumers while still keeping to its core aesthetic. The Austrian-based firm has certainly taken great strides in changing with the times—partnering with burgeoning fashion labels (especially in the U.S.), enlisting the talents of known personalities in its campaigns and increasing its online efforts.

“We have strongly enhanced our digital presence to engage with a broader audience in a fresher, more daring way,” said Robert Buchbauer, Swarovski’s CEO. “We feel this is key to get Millennials familiar with the magic versatility of the brand. In addition to social media, we re-shaped our brand website so it is now more editorialized, featuring inspirational stories, behind the scene content, styling tips, etc. We want to share a conversation with our consumers and grant them access to our crystal universe. Lastly, the brand collaborates with a pool of influential talents chosen for their global fashion authority, affinity with our brand’s values and of course, for their ability to appeal and resonate to our wide audience.”

With over 2,000 stores across the globe in differing markets, Swarovski has the reach, visibility and hefty resources to shift the direction of the industry (or, at least the capability to try to) according to its own machinations. However, the mindset of consumers, specifically Millennials, is constantly changing. Even Swarovski has to take note of current shopping habits and adapt—not just with its marketing tactics and digital expansion, but with its designs, too.

Owning to the fact that we live in a trend-driven culture, Swarovski has recently introduced Remix, a new collection that keeps to its classic aesthetic but also has the capacity to evolve and capture the attention of a wide variety of people. It does this by promoting personalization, allowing consumers to pick from a variety of differing charms according to their own specific tastes.

Here, Swarovski’s creative director, Nathalie Colin, elaborates on the Remix collection and how she is constantly looking to modernize the brand.

What is your vision for the brand?

From day one, the vision was to bring modernity. Not only with the materials, but to bring a modern twist to the initial vision of Daniel Swarovski, the founder. The other thing that is very strong in my design approach is diversity. I don’t want to promote a head-to-toe silhouette, a fully coordinated silhouette, but to build individuality, the beauty of individuality in pieces that make them more personal. For example, when I present a family of pieces, I try not to create the same design—like reducing the scale of a ring and blowing up a bangle. I always keep it coordinated, but with a personal mix that makes it more interesting. There are so many ways to do combinations. In fact, I started to promote styling tips every season. We have brand ambassadors that suggest trends, like wearing maxi earrings with a set of bangles.

How would the Swarovski shopper get these styling tips?

We have a magazine that is distributed in the store, and it can be found on the website. These styling tips also act like a training program for all the site ambassadors, telling them the trends of the season, and how to advise consumers on how to combine jewelry.

You talked about making the brand modern. Can you elaborate on that?

Making a brand modern is a job that never stops. If something is outdated, it is taken out of the market, out of the consideration of consumers. Hopefully, it will be something that my successor will also take on their shoulders. Making the brand modern involves many aspects. It first starts with the product. Even with the more classic collections, there must be a twist. There must always be a sense of surprise—something unexpected that gives it modernity.

Can you give an example of this twist?

If we have a very classic flower shape, instead of doing all the petals in pavé, one of them is in polished metal. Or, there will be a little less symmetry in a design. It’s a small detail, but it’s less expected.

Do you think consumers will care about these small details?

I think they will see it as a little story that will gain interest. They’ll see it as something that is almost handmade. Consumers today have clear choices. They want products that speak to them in a unique way—especially when it comes to accessories. Every accessory has a clear story to tell, which is why they pick it.

Is this why Swarovski is branching into customization? And do you think consumers are really interested in this?

I think that the world is recognizing more and more the beauty of individuality. If we push the same look on every single person, the world would be so boring. With my role, I am able to push individuality and celebrate diversity. I want to give women, and consumers in general, ways to pick something that resemble them, and says something about their own personalities. They need to celebrate who they are, which is what I’m interested in. On top of that, women today are so busy and have a speedy life. They’re looking for accessories that can transform, that are versatile; that can accompany different looks in an easy way.

So, how does this affect the business?

With this, women are shifting toward self-purchases as opposed to gift giving. We also have a much broader offering because you cannot do personalization with only three pieces. There has to be enough variety so women can pick and choose what they really like. Otherwise, its not personalization. That’s why we have things that are more classic and things that are super on trend.

Why is Swarovski shying away from the gift-giving model?

We are not shying away. It is a big part of Swarovski’s business. Worldwide, it is almost 50 percent. In the U.S., it is one-third of the business. We feel it is important for us, as a brand, that the more we push trends and seasonal collections, the more fast purchases we’ll attract. In general, consumers prefer giving gifts that are more classic, that don’t have edgy silhouettes or a lot of colors.

Is this how the new Remix collection came about?

Remix is built on the idea of personalization and customization. It’s about a woman transforming herself with her jewelry into different functionalities, or from season to season, she can adapt it to different styles. The principal is a chain bracelet with magnetic closure, where you can attach different crystals or animals. You can also attach two chains with the magnets and create a double bracelet or a choker. And with three, you can create a necklace. There are endless options. You can attach them; combine them. We are launching them this fall and winter season. And for spring and summer, we already have parts that can be combined with the winter collection.

Will Swarovski continue on the Remix collection for years to come?

It’s a capsule line that is a big part of our collection, but it’s not the whole thing. For the initial launch, we have six different sections that can be combined into a million combinations. That’s quite a big offering. Then every season afterwards, we’ll add new designs.

Is Remix meant to attract a younger base?

We do have a lot of fun designs and graphic symbols, like emojis, but we have another part that is made of crystals and balls. This part is much more classic. The other day, I was speaking to some of our markets in Japan, France and The U.S., and I learned that the crystals and balls appeal to a much more mature woman. They just love the idea of combining and recreating different jewelry. There are different styles covering different tastes and age groups.

You also launched a new campaign with Karlie Kloss and other fashion influencers. Can you tell us more about that?

Karlie, for me, is exactly what I like in a young woman. She obviously represents beauty, but she is also brilliant, intelligent and represents this sense of spontaneity. With all the success she has, she remains accessible. I think this is a very important dimension for our brand. We had a lot of fun on the set [of the photo shoot]. We also have Jourdan Dunn, who is absolutely beautiful. She’s also gentle and a mother. And for our holiday campaign, we have a number of celebrities, including Naomi [Campbell], which celebrates diversity. The campaign, overall, represents joy. The brand is about the materials, the crystal, sparkle and a sense of brilliance.

How would you describe Swarovski’s position in the jewelry market as a whole?

Swarovski is positioned in the premium market. In terms of design attributes, we have a signature that is extremely refined, using many of the techniques of fine jewelry. We are accessible, but not as accessible as the high-street [brands]. I think we have a good positioning that we want to continue in the future. And we have great potential as well.

Can you tell us more about this potential, and what else you have in store for the brand?

Despite the fact that we are one of the leading players in the jewelry industry, we still have big growth potential. By building on the diverse station of styles, I’m sure we will further expand the business. On top of jewelry, we have watches, which is 10 percent of our business. We also have accessories, eyewear and crystal creations. We have many complimentary categories, but the core is definitely jewelry.

So, is it fair to say that you don’t have plans on making drastic changes anytime soon?

We have the luxury of having a balanced business model. The U.S. is our number one market; China is number two; and France in number three. We want to preserve the fact that we are truly international and have consumers across the world. I think that the fundamental thing that I want to do in my role is to bring joy, a lot of colors and positive vibe. I want to bring women accessories that have more sparkle and that are more impactful.

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