First a brief disclaimer:
This article was written by a retail jeweler operating from an e-commerce platform.
For as long as diamonds have been popular, retail jewelry stores have functioned as the traditional distribution channel for bringing diamonds and jewelry to the masses.
With the advent of the Internet and in 2009, consumers also have the luxury and ability to shop online for diamonds and jewelry, ranging from inexpensive trinkets to pricey diamond rings. With the click of a mouse, consumers can consummate purchases online to the tune of thousands of dollars and from the comfort of their homes and offices.
Much has been written about these two business models, emphasizing their individual strengths and weaknesses.
It is not the focus of this article to further inspect, analyze, or dissect the benefits and liabilities inherent in these business models.
Rather, in this article, I would like to suggest that beyond the shared objective of making sales, there is a common principle that binds these two models and that by adhering to this principle, both models will continue to thrive and coexist and will ultimately stand the test of time.
“Knowledge is Power”
In 2009, all types of sellers need to understand that today’s diamond shoppers are increasingly smart, savvy and educated. This is not to disrespect the consumers of yesteryear, but to assert and point to the obvious empowerment of today’s consumer, due in large measure to the plethora of available scientific data which qualifies and quantifies beauty and cut precision in loose diamonds and diamond jewelry.
Today’s consumers are being educated in stores and online regarding the nuances of precision cut grading and the many aspects of cutting diamonds to achieve maximum light performance. They are being increasingly exposed to the nuances of cut precision vs. weight retention, of light performance vs. light leakage, and of the subtleties inherent in achieving one result over another.
Today’s consumers have been empowered with available tools (including many of the familiar tools promoted on these boards), which provide an intimate view into the internal dynamics and qualities of any given diamond.
Armed with increasing and extensive knowledge, these diamond shoppers will decide on their own where to place their dollars, based upon the sellers’ ability or inability to meet their requirements while satisfying their accumulated information and education.
A Shared Responsibility
Within this context, I would like to suggest that Bricks and Mortar Jewelers and e-commerce jewelers have much more in common than meets the eye.
It can be argued that a specific business model may directly impact the sellers’ prices, profit margins, available inventory and the quality of their merchandise. However, I do not believe that the import of a sellers’ decision to sell jewelry via a specific venue (internet or retail establishment), affects or effects the importance of offering and respecting consumer empowerment through education and information.
The reality is, not every diamond shopper wishes to purchase online and not every diamond shopper wishes to purchase at a local jewelry store. This is an established fact. There will always be consumers looking for deals on the internet and there will always be consumers who will insist on the hands-on approach of seeing, feeling, touching and ultimately purchasing their jewelry at a local jewelry store. There are consumers who enjoy the luxury and rely on the necessity of shopping online from home or work and there are those who enjoy the luxury and rely on the necessity of shopping at a local jewelry store. Some people will browse online and shop locally and some people will browse locally and shop online.
Both business models can converge on and reasonably cater to both of these consumer elements by offering competitive prices, an invitation to visit a store or showroom for a personal inspection, and comprehensive customer service and return policies. In fact, many of today’s internet retailers operate storefronts and many of today’s traditional jewelers have embraced the internet with robust website platforms of their own.
However, where there should be absolutely no room for deviation and rejection is in every businesses obligation to respect today’s diamond shopper and his or her intelligence by offering an education and acknowledging their already assimilated knowledge.
In fact, both business models can only benefit from offering and promoting a comprehensive education, since an educated consumer may very well be a customer for life.
Indeed, today’s diamond sellers, whether they be bricks and mortar, e-commerce, bricks and clicks etc. etc. share this common responsibility and mandate and appropriately so.
The ‘Trust’ Factor
There is an old proverb about a lazy or unremarkable marksman who figured out an easy method for ‘hitting his target’ all of the time. Rather than create the target and shoot for it, he would simply shoot the arrow first and then paint the target around it.
This story is properly applied to a lazy or uneducated salesperson (be it an internet salesperson or a brick & mortar salesperson) who would sooner paint a target around an uninformed customer, rather than invest effort into educating the customer (and perhaps even himself) to shoot his own arrow into the target.
It is certainly true that there is an element of trust when purchasing from a jeweler; any jeweler. The trust factor which is important and present in every purchase is not exclusively applied to an educated or uninformed consumer, nor is it exclusively applied to a local jeweler or internet vendor.
All types of consumers need to develop trust. However, trust works both ways. In the same way that customers will ultimately trust sellers to supply them with the right diamond and according to their needs, all types of sellers need to trust themselves (and their own knowledge) to work in the best interests of the customer.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
Traditional jewelry stores and internet jewelers have more in common than a shared goal of making sales and profits. They also share the responsibility and task of consumer empowerment. Empowering the consumer doesn’t mean dictating to them to purchase only certain diamonds to the exclusion of others. It doesn’t mean dictating to them to look for the variables which the vendor feels are most important. It means educating them on all aspects and factors related to diamonds and enabling the customer to reach his or her own personal decision.
I would like to make several recommendations and suggestions which I believe will benefit all types of salespeople in helping them to earn the respect, trust and ultimately the business of the consumer. Although these are assuredly not the only recommendations, it is nonetheless a good place to start.
Educate yourself, so that you may educate the consumer.
- Be familiar with the latest diamond evaluation tools & technologies
- Instead of summarily and superficially promoting or dismissing certain of the diamond tools, explain your positions clearly.
- Empower the consumer to reach his/her own conclusion.
- Empowering the consumer, means providing information and opinion with the expressed appreciation that these two elements can be mutually exclusive.
- Satisfy every single customer (“there is no competition when you go the extra mile”).
- Place yourself into the shoes of your customers and treat them as you wish to be treated.
- Present with enthusiasm. If you are passionate about what you do, prove it.
- Give the consumer some space. Do not be an overbearing and pushy salesperson.
- Leave your personal life at home. Your customer is not your shrink…or your punching bag.
by Judah Gutwein