The CEO of famed bridal website, TheKnot.com, shares his idea for creating the perfect jewelry store.

[span class=note]David Liu is cofounder and CEO of The Knot Inc. (www.theknot.com), the premier media company devoted to weddings, pregnancy and everything in between. The Knot Wedding Network has become the nation’s No. 1 wedding resource and most trafficked online wedding destination. You can hear more from Liu at The SMART Jewelry Show in Chicago, April 2-4. [/span]

[dropcap cap=A]s a media entrepreneur, I view a jewelry store as an opportunity to provide a service. My service would be “Surprise and Delight.” [/dropcap]

You can surprise your customer only if you have information about your customer. The more information you have, the more chances you will surprise her, and the more she will be delighted and inclined to purchase.

At The Knot, we surprise our audience with our knowledge of them, they are delighted with the information and services we promote, and they, in turn, reward us by purchasing services from our partners. It’s a cycle that starts with the amount and quality of the information we capture.

I would apply the same principles to the shopping experience in my store.

When a customer first enters my store, my sales associate would immediately approach her, thank her for visiting and reward the potential customer for making the effort.

I would hand her a special business card with a private URL to an area on my store website accessible only to visitors of my physical store. I want her to feel special. The only piece of data I require to enable her to sign in to this private area is her e-mail address.

I would then enter it into my tablet and start a file on her. If she asks for pricing or exhibits any design, brand or pricing preferences as she browses the store, I would make a note of it in her file. For an affordable CRM database, I would set up a souped-up Filemaker database with radio buttons and checkboxes to make data entry a breeze.

I would continue to build a rapport with my customers and ask their names, the occasion they are buying for, their birthday, personal interests and the date of the occasion they are shopping for. Then, I would populate the information in their customer files. If possible, I would even set up a kiosk or customer tablet where I could ask them to enter the information. Based on their answers, I would search my inventory for the most appropriate gift ideas.

[blockquote class=orange]Technology enables you to treat everyone as special as your best customer. — DAVID LIU[/blockquote]

I would try to capture all this information in-store, but if they wanted to, they could visit my website at another time. The easiest and least invasive way would be to equip sellers with iPads (which could have a dual purpose as a sexy, simple way to show off the website and catalog to customers). I would then explain to the customer that when she logs in and visits the special area in my website, she will have access to offers tailored to her personal interests that are not available to the general public.

While I would make note of what customers are interested in, it’s also important to keep track of what they aren’t interested in. The goal here is to slowly gain as much information about the consumer as possible while maintaining a positive relationship.

We all know the names and product preferences of our best customers. Technology now enables you to treat everyone as special as your best customer. Harness the technology well, and all communication you have with your email list would feel more like friend-to-friend advice instead of another amazing too good to be true marketing offer.

By capturing the e-mail, basic product preferences and key dates in your customer database for as many customers as possible, you have the opportunity to start the “Surprise, Delight and Deliver” cycle with each customer.

[span class=note]This story appeared in the March-April 2011 edition of INDESIGN. [/span]

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