From natural diamonds to one-of-a-kind objects and brands, consumer demand for ‘authenticity’ is more than a trend.  That statement is backed up with research from a new study, released just in time for the holidays, and authored by Yale University professor and psychologist Dr. George E. Newman. The study, titled “Consumer Preference for Authenticity and Naturalness,” examines the psychology behind which holiday gifts mean the most and why, and provides proof of consumer affinity for merchandise that is ‘Authentic.’

Consumers say authenticity — actually being as described — is not just a trend. The research echoes previous authenticity studies where neuroscientists have found that the pleasure people report when viewing authentic works of art is correlated with activation within the brain.

In discussing the results of the survey, Dr. Newman said, “In today’s online marketplace, people are deluged with more choices than ever before.”  He continued, “But from natural diamonds to authentic brands, such as Apple or North Face, people are drawn to items because of their authenticity.”

The study, commissioned by the Diamond Producers Association, delivered key findings and interesting facts that pertain to the luxury market.  “Objects can radiate authenticity in many ways, from natural materials or traditional craftsmanship that compose an item, to the origin of the item’s production or heritage of its brand story.” said Kristina Buckley Kayel, Managing Director of DPA North America. “The common theme found throughout authentic products, however, is their capacity to bestow emotional and sentimental value, whether purchased for one’s self or as a gift for a loved one.”

According to the study, an item can be authentic in several ways:

• Materials: A cashmere sweater is more authentic than a synthetic replica.

• Origin: A Louis Vuitton handbag manufactured in the company’s original workshop in Paris is valued as more authentic than an identical bag manufactured in the company’s California workshop.

• History: A painting that was physically created by Pablo Picasso is worth millions of dollars, while a replica (that was never touched by Picasso) is virtually worthless.

Key findings from Dr. Newman’s Consumer Preference for Authenticity and Naturalness include:

• Authenticity is appreciated by all ages: This was true for consumers, grouped by ages that spanned from 18-80.

• Consumers most appreciated specific authentic items: Of the 8 categories studied, frequently cited in consumer gift studies, the top gifts consumers appreciated were:

o An authentic branded product—such as a North Face jacket (93%) or an Apple Watch (86%),

o A natural diamond ring (86%), or

o A product made with authentic quality materials, such as a cashmere sweater (88%). • Inauthentic products are disappointing: Some of the items people were most disappointed in receiving included lab-grown diamonds (31%) and knock off shoes (36%).

• People would rather receive something else entirely, instead of a knockoff or fake: In place of a cashmere sweater, people would rather receive a wool sweater as a gift than a sweater with synthetic composition mimicking cashmere.

• Naturalness: Natural diamonds formed by the earth three billion years ago are valued as more authentic than synthetic replicas created in factories for commercial purposes.

One additional finding highlighted that for identical authentic items, the origin or the history of the item’s story significantly influenced preference. When evaluating the importance of qualities such as rarity, origin and value over time, natural diamonds patterned closer to one-of-a-kind authentic items, such as a Babe Ruth autographed baseball, than luxury items. Meanwhile, lab-grown diamonds patterned closer to cubic zirconia. An item can also be valued as authentic because it is produced by a trusted, authentic brand.

I think there is a lot of truth and validity to this study, and the findings by Dr. Newman, as they pattern all of the trends I have been studying that relate to the jewelry industry and the luxury market.   As I wrote in my blog, Beyond 2020: Get Ready for the 2030 Retail Experience a few months back in the section that covers personalization and differentiation, “It’s no secret that today’s shoppers want their favorite retailers to tailor promotions and communications to their individual purchasing habits. That expectation will only increase as changes in the marketplace advance leading up to the year 2030.  In fact, according to Infosys, 86% of consumers — and 96% of retailers — said personalization has at least some impact on their purchasing decisions, and the same study also found that almost one third (31%) of consumers wanted more personalization in their shopping experiences.”

The key to success is always knowing your market, your customers and your brand  Selling merchandise that works for your market and your customers while still remaining true to your brand can sometimes be a challenge, but with trends growing towards more specialized goods and services, I am confident that you can make it all work for you, and your customers!

Want to know more about how you can keep it real for the holidays, have questions about this article, or want to suggest a topic for me to cover in future blogs? I’d love to hear from you! Email me at today!

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