For subscription jewelry retailer Rocksbox, Instagram does more than build brand awareness for the company’s 104,000 followers. Along with sharing product shots of new items like watches, hoop earrings and statement necklaces, Rocksbox is using Instagram to figure out whitespace in the jewelry market that’s waiting to be filled.
“We use Instagram to understand the user, as well as determine macrotrends,” said Rocksbox founder and CEO Meaghan Rose. “Based on how people engage with a post, we make our buying decisions.”
Rocksbox is a $19-per-month service that sends members three new pieces of jewelry, which retail at around $90 to $200 each, to either borrow for the month and return, or try and buy at a marked-down price. The company is a modern commerce model hybrid of subscription boxes like Birchbox, retail discovery services like Stitch Fix and rental service Rent the Runway. It currently works with brands like House of Harlow, Kendra Scott and Gorjana to fill its boxes.
Rose stressed the importance of offering up items in each monthly delivery that are relevant to customers on an individual basis. If something is trending on Instagram that its partner brands aren’t offering, Rocksbox will make the style in-house. The company currently owns and operates four brands that are exclusive to its customers and centered on specific demands.
“Delicates have been a very popular, Instagram-driven trend, and that was an area that was underserved,” said Rose. “That showed us an opportunity to create a new brand, which we can develop really quickly, and provide more options for her in that space.”
Jewelry, as a category, sees less brand affinity across the board, Rose said, particularly in the mid-market space that targets customers priced out of luxury brands like Tiffany, David Yurman and Cartier. Customers who aren’t investing in their jewelry are more interested in the newness of an item or a trend than they are in the brand it comes from.
“Trendspotting on Instagram is a great place to start for businesses,” said Apu Gupta, CEO of Instagram marketing platform Curalate. “If you can understand street style, [whether] it’s your product or not, you’re gaining insight into how people wear things.”
For fast-fashion jewelry retailer Baublebar, Instagram plays a critical role in the rapid production cycle, as the team’s designers and developers don’t have much time to dwell on new collections. According to co-founder Daniella Yacobovsky, Instagram is one of several touchpoints the brand relies on to determine what jewelry items are trending. However, she said, you can’t open the app and expect an answer to simply fall out of the feed: Baublebar has teams dedicated to tracking consumer engagement and influencer behavior over a series of weeks.
“Instagram is for long tail inspiration,” said Yacobovsky. “You can’t open the app and expect a clear sign to appear that says, ‘This is the color of the season.’ It’s about consistent feedback.”
Baublebar also uses consumer response on Instagram to test the trends they’re seeing themselves. If chokers are trending, Baublebar will post product shots of chokers, ask if people are wearing them in the caption and then gauge reactions. Once it’s determined that a trend is resonating, the production cycle takes just a few weeks to get items on the online store.
“When you put a product into the context of a trend, you’re not just getting engagement; it’s a measurement of that product’s staying power,” said Yan Rozovsky, vp of social strategy at Socialbakers.
For Rocksbox, Instagram helped the company on several fronts beyond the in-house brands. The company encourages its members to use Instagram to flag the products they want to see in their boxes by using the hashtag ‘wishlist’ in Rocksbox comment sections — the team then tracks and uses the information to inform the items in customers’ next boxes. Instagram influencers, which account for a 3,000-person referral network for Rocksbox, once drove 70 percent of monthly membership sign-ups. Rose said that volume is leveling off and added that, after raising an $8.6 million round of Series A funding in March, the next challenge is bringing the retailer’s personalized data to scale.
“Building out our style survey, algorithms and personalized user experience is as important as using data to make sure our products are relevant to customers,” said Rose. “That needs to happen at scale.”