CIBJO's purely virtual congress draws to end with session looking at handling, regulation and securing of digital data

NOVEMBER 18, 2021

The exclusively online portion of CIBJO’s first virtual congress has concluded, fittingly with session that considered the increasingly digital environment in which the jewellery business is now operating. More specifically, it looked at the implications, opportunities and potential dangers of working with big data, particularly where it is related to consumers at the retail end of the distribution chain.

The session was the second of two open online events hosted jointly by CIBJO’s Marketing & Education Commission and Ethics Commission. As with the first session, it was again moderated by the commissions’  presidents, respectively Jonathan Kendall and Tiffany Stevens. It was prepared together with CIBJO’s Technology Committee, whose chair, Stephane Fischler, was also a panellist.

With online trading platforms, artificial intelligence and experiential shopping and marketing fast being adopted by players in the industry, the jewellery business is being transformed. The panel discussed issues surrounding consumer data which, although it has become a valuable commodity, there has been little discussion to date about how it should be collected, securely stored and used.

The panel began with Mr. Kendall asking Miya Owens, Associate Counsel and Mediation Director, Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), about how the jewellery business goes about collecting consumer data. She, together with Ms. Stevens, had authored the just-released Ethics Commission Special Report, entitled “Traversing the ethical and legal minefield associated with collecting and handling personal data,” which can be downloaded by CLICKING HERE.

Ms. Owens said that retail jewellers collect data which directly identifies people with their names, IP addresses, and other identifiers when people visit websites. Some jewellery stores also install beacon devices to see where people drawn to and, and who which helps tell them decide on staffing needs and the most popular periods of the day for customer visits.

She said that jewellery businesses should be aware of data protection laws and their legal obligations in collecting and using data, adding that consulting with specialist lawyers would give a higher degree of protection.

She warned about the cost to retailers of not protecting if they are hacked, as well as the reputational hit to the company. “Make sure to do regular audits. Survey the data you are collecting and if there is a valid reason for having it, where you store it, and who has access to the data in your firm,” she said, adding that retailers should also consider insurance.

Mr. Fischler said it was important to note the difference between consent and trust, such as where people are asked to provide consent when visiting a website. “To really earn the trust of consumers there must be an assurance that the data be completely guarded.”

He suggested segmenting all of the company’s departments to make data more secure. “Talk to your competitors to see how they are handling the issue of data, and to Internet and security providers so you are able to stay on top of the data. Regarding the risk of a breach of data, I would advise keeping copies of your data offline. You need to be focused on the data and not allow huge caches of data to fall victim to ransomware.”

Erich Jacobs, President, Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT), described how the increasing use of data is allowing retailers to more effectively plan their inventory.

Meanwhile, Michael Donaldson, Facilitator, National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) JET Business Network, described his previous experience in the consumer goods sector in securing and analyzing data. “Market share is the battleground for retailers. They use it to guide decisions. Data is gold dust when used effectively; if not, it is just dust. An opinion without data is just an opinion, and if you don’t use data that you have collected, then it’s just data.”

Mr. Donaldson said he had been involved in the jewelry industry for the past 20 years and had been shocked at the lack of independent data available. “There was no appetite for jewellery data. There were many missed opportunities. There was no hard data outside of the big retailers with their electronic point of sale information.”

Mr. Jacobs spoke about the key opportunities for American jewellers in using data. “We are seeing the ability to manage inventory, and to better target your marketing.”

In answer to a question on what to do when you have too much data and how to prioritise it, Mr. Fischler replied: “It’s not an easy task. It’s up to you how to apply it to your business. I would advise never to be shy and to ask for advice. A lot of people have been afraid to get into data because they didn’t know how to use it. You have to use the data that your business produces, but you have to use it wisely.”

Mr. Donaldson pointed out that data does not always have to be of the most sophisticated type. “There are many types of data. Look at your stock and see how much of it you sold in years one, two and three and draw conclusions from that. Even DIY data can work. Know what you want from the data and your key performance indicators, but don’t have too many. Make sure to focus on your main points. Above all, don’t make the data support a preconceived idea.”

Asked what factors would lead to a reduction in data collection, Mr. Jacobs said that changing regulations would have an effect because they will get tighter. “There will also be changes in how cyber insurance is being underwritten; it will also become tighter with more demands by the insurance companies and reduced coverage.”

Looking to the future, Mr. Donaldson said: “There will be a degree of reversal from online to bricks and mortar operations, as is happening at Blue Nile and Amazon because people making an emotional purchase want to see, hold and feel jewellery before purchasing. I also think that old fashioned jewellery retailers need to pay attention to the fact that affluent baby boomers are very different to Millennials and Gen Z who have grown up in a digital world and have different values. They expect retailers to have an opinion on sustainability and related issues. They won’t accept any excuses, and that is not going to decline in the future due to the march of technology.”

Similarly, Mr. Fischler commented that the new and younger generation of consumers have a different view on privacy. “There will be an explosion of information being collected by retailers and they will have to carefully decide how they use it,” he said.

The session closed with final words being delivered by CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri. Declaring the virtual congress to have been an unmitigated success, which allowed for the participation of hundreds who otherwise might not have attended the event, he said that, in the future, in-person congresses will return, but the virtual elements would need to be maintained as well, so as to provide as many delegates from around the world as possible the opportunity to participate as they did in 2021.

Dr. Cavalieri thanked, by name, the heads of all CIBJO commissions, committees and sectors, whose hard work and preparation he said played a critical role in success of the congress.

He then declared that the CIBJO General Assembly was now open. It will be formally be concluded at a hybrid in-person/streaming gathering in Vicenza, Italy, in the first quarter of 2022, hosted by the Italian Exhibition Group.

View the video recording of the open session of the CIBJO Marketing & Education Commission and CIBJO Ethics Commission, together with the CIBJO Technology Committee, on November 18, 2021.

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