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Deck the halls? In October?

Do these things to super-charge your performance in the busy season ahead.

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If you can’t quite wrap your head around the fact that the holidays are around the corner, take this advice from retailers we surveyed, who suggest taking a long weekend break now to regroup and watch Hallmark Channel holiday-themed movies. Then come back and stock up on vitamin C.“Sometimes it’s hard to garner the necessary enthusiasm,” says one INSTORE Brain Squad tipster who recommends movies as inspiration. “Most of it is mental preparation. Watching Hallmark Channel movies can help you remember the simple things first, and love above all.”So get in the right frame of mind — whatever it takes.Then get serious. Says Nicole Shannon of Keir Fine Jewelry, Whistler, British Columbia: “Our year end is Oct. 31, so we are prepped and in control of what we need and what we have. Then we hold our breath and jump!” Before you take that leap, make a to-do list for the next four weeks and start spreading that all-important holiday cheer.

WEEK 1

ENVIRONMENT

BUY SUPPLIES  // “Stocking boxes, bags, ink, paper and supplies for no-hassle holiday bliss for my crew during the Christmas crush rush” is where Denise Oros, owner of Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL, begins.

CONSIDER CURB APPEAL // “Sit outside your store and think, ‘How does this look to me?’” says Keely Grice of Grice Showcase and Display. Have a good customer join you in your scrutiny. Then, spruce up the exterior by rolling out some plants, and, if possible, adding seating, such as a bench to the exterior scene. Paint the curbs, if you can, and stencil your store’s name on them.

PAINT THE WALLS // You still have time for a new coat of paint, says Grice: “Change the tone and hue of the store in the early fall, before the Christmas rush.” Tone your bland white walls with a softer color. Maybe there’s a place on one of your walls that looks kind of dead. Take a 10-by-10 foot section of your store wall and paint it a different color. Add wall art or a light box. Christine Matlack of E.G. Landis Jewelers in Boyertown, PA, keeps the store looking fresh by making one large improvement each fall. This year it’s new carpeting.

MARKETING & PROMOTION

DESIGN HOLIDAY BROCHURES // For Mark Snyder, owner of Snyder Jewelers in Weymouth, MA, his full-color, eight-page brochure is the key to holiday success. “Our annual gift guide is huge,” he says. “Men come in with items circled in the book.” First, he gets the gift guide printed with images of new items and gets it out in the mail, as well as by email. Then he makes sure every single item is in stock by Dec. 1 and that fast sellers are reordered immediately. Social media posts revolve around gifts and emotions of the holidays. He also extends his normal, 30-day return policy to Jan. 30, so early shoppers aren’t penalized.

CLEAN UP YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINT // “Most independents are still struggling with digital footprints. Their websites are antiquated, their content is static, and social media engagement is very poor,” says Marty Hurwitz of MVI Marketing. “Digital is the front porch of your business now. If a consumer is shopping this year, especially a 25 to 40 year old, the first place they’re going to go is digital; if you’re not there or you look like crap, you’ll lose them and you’ll never get them back.” Start with your website. Blog. Change the content frequently to keep it fresh and it’ll rise to the top of search engines.

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PLACE AD BUYS // “We purchase our TV ad time in advance to get the best deal,” says Elizabeth Kittell of Pretty In Patina in Omaha, NE. Because Black Friday sales have been lackluster in the past, Kittell is planning a sales event around the 40-block downtown tree lighting ceremony. She’ll also host several small events serving hot chocolate and Bailey’s.

STAFFING & TRAINING

KEEP FOCUSED // It’s not only your books you need to keep balanced through December, it’s your blood sugar as well. “Research studies say that low blood sugar levels are associated with lower overall blood flow to the brain, which means bad decisions,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution. To keep your blood sugar stable, he suggests eating a nutritious breakfast with some protein like eggs, protein shake or nut butters. Then have smaller meals throughout the day. Eat every three to four hours, being sure to include protein with each snack or meal (lean animal protein, nuts, seeds or beans).

ADD HOLIDAY STAFF // Begin plans for hiring extra help. Says Tonia Ulsh of Mountz Jewelers in Camp Hill, PA: “We make sure we have enough team members so everyone can stay healthy and happy during the busy time. We provide food and games to ensure our team stays motivated, which results in a happy environment, which creates more sales.”

Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts says the most sensible and cost effective approach to seasonal hiring is to begin the process in early- to mid-October, with new hires brought on board no later than Nov. 1. An early start gives employers a wider range of options for quality people, and allows for reasonable training time as well as team assimilation. The additional payroll up front (paying new hires to work before they are needed) is a small investment when compared with the potential sales gain brought by well-trained associates functioning as part of a high functioning team.

Before you hire anyone — at any time — take an inventory of the skills and abilities you have and determine what you really need. Ask yourself what your best people do best. Set up a schedule that puts them in position to do those things and hire help for the rest.

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Background and reference checks are essential for every hire, every time.

Be creative. What can you do through the holidays to enhance the consumer experience in your store — and who do you need to hire to help you do those things?

DISPLAY & INVENTORY

ORDER INVENTORY // Find the right balance between basics and trends. Make sure you’re well supplied with core pieces like stud earrings, solitaire pendants and diamond bands, while also leaving room for trending fashion. Mark Clodius of Clodius & Co. places calls to well-connected vendors to find out what they think will be hot this year, while Pamela Hecht of Pamations in Calumet, MI, works to create as much new jewelry as possible so she won’t have to “work like a crazy elf” at the last minute, when she should be selling and not making jewelry.

USE SIGNAGE // Providing select information inside the showcases can help sell jewelry, says Larry Johnson, display consultant and author of The Complete Guide To Effective Jewelry Display. For example, don’t just post a sign indicating financing is available. Use signs in your showcase to spell out monthly payments for select pieces. Use signage to indicate that a particular piece is a staff member’s favorite. As for pricing, select half a dozen pieces in each case that represent “bang for the buck” and use signage to indicate the price. That way, the case won’t be cluttered with price tags, but customers can get an idea of what they can expect without having to ask.

WEEK 2

ENVIRONMENT

CLEAN CASES // Make sure all the cases in the store are cleaned thoroughly inside and out. Sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be. Take one case each day starting today, totally empty the display area and remove the built-up clutter in the storage area. Make the display area shine. “As you are cleaning the cases thoroughly, move all of your inventory around the store to new locations. Your regular customers will notice the change and think you have new inventory,” Grice says. Larry Johnson recommends using Simple Green, a biodegradable organic cleaner developed for coffee pots. Let it sit for 30 seconds, then wipe gently. “It’ll take out everything except ballpoint pen,” he says.

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SET THE SCENE WITH WINDOW DISPLAYS // Morgan Bartel of Susann’s Custom Jewelers in Corpus Christi, TX, uses window displays to create buzz. “We take great effort and care to map out our holiday window displays. It’s critical to have something captivating and memorable.” Once the windows are in place, Bartel has been able to attract the attention of local media outlets by sending press releases about them. “You’d be surprised how many will respond,” she says.

ADD A COFFEE BAR // It’s not too late to introduce a coffee bar and integrate pleasing scents in the form of chocolate chip cookies, vanilla or cinnamon. “A scent like that stirs up memories and can make you crazy happy,” says Grice.

SHED SOME LIGHT // Get rid of old, improper and misdirected lighting in and over your showcases, says Johnson. The price of LED lights is coming down and proper lighting is critical. Consider a mix of 4000 Kelvin lights for gold and silver jewelry and 5000 K lights in bridal. “You want bridal to look brighter and more alive than other areas of the store,” he says. “Use only true commercial grade lights and insist on a five-year warranty. Lighting the store correctly can pay for itself in one or two sales.”

MARKETING & PROMOTION

REACH OUT TO CUSTOMERS // Send gifts to your best customers. Says Elysia Demers of Barnhardt Jewelers, Spencer, NC: “Send gifts, even small ones to your big purchasers from the year. For us, it’s mostly men, so come Christmas they are surprised to get a gift box — one year we did three months of the Dollar Shave Club, a hand made wooden shaving brush and custom-blended shaving cream bar — and they were super-excited and thankful.”

Denise Oros starts her outreach with ordering Christmas cards in September, handwriting and loading them in October and including $100, $250 or $500 off coupons. “Give out Christmas coupons to your best customers. It’s the single best piece of traffic building advice I ever put to use. I was sweating bullets when I sent my best 200 customers $100 off coupons in their Christmas cards, but that year my Christmas sales were up by 30 percent.”

Tom Ozment Jr. of Fincher & Ozment Jewelers in Tuscaloosa, AL, sends a direct mail upgrade offer to customers who’ve purchased diamond studs. He also offers a discount on earring jackets for customers who do upgrade.

Ragnar Bertelsen of Ragnar Jewellers, Vancouver, British Columbia, used to feature items for less than $200 on the back of the Christmas brochure. Five years ago, he decided to feature items up to $500 instead. “And what happened? Instead of selling $195 items, we sold the same amount of $495 items — a nice change!” Bertelsen says.

DISPLAY & INVENTORY

DISPLAY POPULAR HOLIDAY ITEMS // Rethink your store’s space allocation for two months, says Larry Johnson. So during the regular part of the year, if, for example, your store has 6 feet of case space devoted to pearls, but you know pearls do not sell well for you during the holidays, shrink the space allocated to your pearls to 18 inches. Convert the majority of that formerly pearl-centric case to more popular holiday items until Jan. 1.

CHANGE FOCUS FROM REPAIR TO CUSTOM // Linda McEathron, Design House, Waco, TX, begins to slow repair intake to have time for custom work and focuses advertising and social media on the category.

DUMP YOUR DOGS // Otherwise, you’re hiding all the good, salable merchandise among the proven non-sellers. “If you have had it that long, it just isn’t going to sell. If it doesn’t sell in 12 months, it has a 90 percent chance of not selling at all, even if you give it five years,” Johnson says.

STAFFING & TRAINING

DEPLOY STAFF // Remember that there is always more than one way to get things done, says luxury-brand consultant Andrea Hill of Hill Management Group. It takes time to train an effective salesperson. But it takes very little time to train someone to set up cases properly in the morning, tear them down in the evening, write beautiful thank-you notes, and cover a variety of administrative tasks that salespeople do. If you need to hire in a pinch, hire someone who can take the less-skilled tasks off your salespeople, so your salespeople can stay on the floor (or online chats, online video, etc.) interacting with customers. “You may even find that some of the things you always wish would get done actually get done,” says Hill.

James Degroot offers 300 10-minute training videos to help your staff get quickly up to holiday speed.

WEEK 3

ENVIRONMENT

DEPLOY YOUR MONITORS

// Use the store’s wall-mounted monitors to build sales, says Johnson. “Turn it into a selling aid with pictures of custom pieces, lists of services, facts and photos of customers.” (Johnson offers to handle this service for you at mystoremonitor.com.)

MARKETING & PROMOTION

CALL CUSTOMERS // “We always call our favorite customers when the new inventory hits the floor for first pick and Christmas layaway options,” says Oros.

TRY A PROMOTION // Erica Tague of Michael & Sons in Reno, NV, says their holiday tradition is a spin-the-wheel sale. “We are in a gambling town and thought this idea would fit well. We have a large, Jeopardy-like wheel in the store that has discounts from 30 to 70 percent off in 5 percent increments. The only rule is that the wheel has to complete at least one full rotation. Whatever the customer lands on is their discount for their entire purchase. We run this sale for an entire week, and we have customers practically lined up at the door to spin the wheel.”

ARE YOU MOBILE FRIENDLY? // Ensure that your website is truly mobile friendly, without having to squint or pinch to zoom in. “What you produce on the mobile website needs to be fast; you need to be able to navigate using the edge of your thumb. New advances in technology allow your website to be tablet friendly as well,” says Matthew Perosi, mobile marketing expert. “You’ve got to have three different, workable versions of your website.”

STAFFING & TRAINING

TRY 10-MINUTE TRAINING // James Degroot, the Jewelry Marketing Guy, has launched a video production company that provides regular access to 300 10-minute training videos that can be viewed as needed. Most of his clients plan a regular weekly meeting to watch a video and discuss it. Others ask staff to watch it on their phones. Beginning Nov. 1, new releases are holiday-themed. There’s also a six-video basic-training series that’s a good resource for new hires that includes such topics as how to take in a repair, how to dress properly, and how to show up for work on time. “The old modality of people sitting in a conference room for hours and getting a tsunami of information just does not work,” Degroot says.

ENSURE CONSISTENCY  // In eight out of 10 businesses, says Andrea Hill, people are doing one task multiple ways. This doesn’t just ring alarm bells for quality; it also means you’re spending more time and money training new people. “Make sure your staff agrees on the one way to do things and does each task that one way,” says Hill. “Don’t confuse new people by exposing them to two or three different ways to do each task.”

INVENTORY & DISPLAY

SIMPLIFY SHOPPING // Pre-choose 12 jewelry items you’d like to designate as holiday gift suggestions and place them in your showcases with gift-wrapped boxes, says Johnson. Be sure the suggested items cover all merchandise categories and range in price from high to low. You’ll sell more of these items, so price them at full margin. Obviously, restock them quickly when they sell.

Arrange your entrance to include a decompression zone that allows visitors to adjust to the lighting and refocus their attention, as illustrated by this elegant example from Dianna Rae Jewelry in Lafayette, LA.

WEEK 4

ENVIRONMENT

CHECK YOUR ENTRY // Pay attention to your store’s decompression zone, according to VEND, the global cloud-based POS and retail management provider. The decompression zone is the first few feet of your shop. Shoppers who are in this part of your store are prone to distractions, which is why most experts agree that retailers should keep the decompression zone simple and uncluttered. In addition, having greeters in your store makes people more aware of their surroundings and helps them focus.

CLEAR OUT THE CLUTTER  // Make sure the glass tops of your showcases are completely clear of clutter, says Grice. “You want them to focus on jewelry and not something blocking their view.” Clear the entire store of “visual clutter,” such as plastic flowers and excessive window coverings.

DECORATE WITH DECORUM  // Decorate the store for the holidays, but not the inside of the showcases, says Johnson. Placing holiday décor inside the showcases has a tendency to make the case appear cluttered and confusing. The negative impact is even worse if the décor inside the case is shinier than the merchandise. Never use shiny trim inside the case. If you can’t resist, use matte spray on any in-case props to avoid a conflict with the merchandise.

MARKETING & PROMOTION

TUNE UP YOUR WEBSITE // Shane O’Neill, VP of Fruchtman Marketing, suggests curating a selection of holiday gifts to populate your website. “Focus on products that are for the most part under $500 gift items and push those hard on your social channels. Allow for purchase on your website.”

SOCIALIZE // Go to as many parties and events as you’re invited to in order to get your store’s name out there and remind people of the gift solutions you offer. But be sure to get lots of sleep, too. Cutting back on your Zs is a false trade-off if you’re trying to be more productive.

SEND REMINDERS // “I email forgetful spouses to remind them that the holidays are getting close and they need to think about the gifts they want to give,” says James Doggett, Doggett Jewelry, Kingston, NH.

BOOST POSTS // “Money talks,” says Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and special events for Jewelers of America, “and a little bit of money can still go a long way when it comes to social media advertising.” Boost your social-media posts for as little as $3. But target your audience, rather than just agreeing to an audience suggested by the platform. Consider who within your company you can build up to do the posting and what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want to boost sales, drive discovery, generate leads, increase engagement?

GO LIVE! // Next step, go Live on Facebook or Instagram. It can be a two-minute announcement or an hour for an in-store event. People can comment directly and you can answer questions. If you’re running a contest, you can go live to reveal the winner. There’s little room for error when you’re live, so practice. Make sure you know what you want to say and have someone read the questions to you as they appear online. If you’re not comfortable live, of course, you can use videos.

INVENTORY & DISPLAY

CALL ATTENTION TO THE BEST // Place the “best” items on individual displays near the back center of each case, says Johnson. Do not display them in a tray with 11 other rings. After you place the “best” items on individual displays, use trays that hold three or five pieces for “better” pieces and trays that hold seven, nine, or 12 for the (least expensive) “good” items.

STAFFING & TRAINING

MAKE THE MOST OF DOWNTIME // When you start getting busy, it’s easy to let the floor take over and dictate your behavior throughout the day, says Hill. Even though salespeople have considerable downtime between clients, they still fall into the mode of waiting for the next guest. But there are many other things to be attentive to during the busy season, such as follow-ups, clienteling, and product research for specific customers. Posting visual reminders attached to goals in the sales area (away from customers) is a good way to promote focus on the “non-floor” activities during the busy season.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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THE INSTORE DESIGN AWARDS 2019 – Winners Announced!

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Jewelry design is the lifeblood of our industry, and those on its forefront are constantly challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries in creativity and wowing jewelry lovers with their skill and passion. These are the creators we seek to honor with the INSTORE Design Awards.

For 2019, we expanded our categories from eight to 25, allowing designers more freedom to enter the best category for each piece. And we received more than 171 entries as a result. In order to determine the best of the best, we recruited a judges panel composed of nine retailers, all of whose businesses carry multiple designer lines, to vote on their favorite jewelry in a “blind voting” process. We also opened voting to all North American jewelry retailers online at instoremag.com, where more than 9,300 votes were cast to decide the “Retailer’s Choice” winner in each category.

And finally, as we have since our competition began, we recognize one up-and-coming designer who embodies the inventive spirit so long encouraged by our former colleague Cindy Edelstein, who passed away in 2016.

Now, turn the page and see the very best that our industry has to offer. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your next hot-selling line right here in this story!

Best Men’s Jewelry

Best Statement Piece

THE JUDGES

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Cover Stories

3 Simple Ways a “Good-Better-Best” Display Can Make You More Money

The success of these pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute.

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The success of thoughtfully implemented “Good-Better-Best” (G-B-B) pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute. Look around. Airlines offer coach class seats with variable options. Allstate offers auto batteries with warranties ranging from 12-48 months at prices that vary disproportionately. Heating oil suppliers sell plans based on a monthly fluctuating rate as well as a “premium” package in which the rate is fixed for the season.

I read a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (“The Good-Better-Best Approach to Pricing,” by Rafi Mohammed) that made me wonder why retail jewelers were not taking full advantage of this strategy in their stores.

Twenty years ago, Allstate conducted research to determine just how much price really mattered to their insurance customers. They learned that drivers are very concerned that if they are involved in an auto accident, their rates will go up. They introduced three new policy levels to add to their “Standard” level policy. They have a “Basic” policy at 5 percent below “Standard,” a “Gold” policy (6 percent higher price), and a “Platinum” level policy (15 percent higher price). Last year, only 10 percent of their customers downgraded to “Basic,” while a whopping 23 percent upgraded from “Standard” to “Gold” or “Platinum.”

So what can we do in a retail jewelry store to take advantage of this tendency of consumers to move up in price when given attractive options?

Implementing a “Good-Better-Best” plan in your store has three benefits. One, it can entice new and existing customers to spend more. Two, it allows you to compete directly with lower-priced competitors, including Internet shops. And three, a G-B-B strategy will change your customers’ actions through consumer psychology.

Successfully offering a G-B-B option depends on the following considerations:

  1. The price level of the “Good” option should be no more than 25 percent below the price of the “Better” option. The “Best” option should be no more than 50 percent higher than the “Better” option. For example, if we have a $1,000 “Better” item, the “Good” option should be about $800, and the “Best” option about $1,400.
  2. There should be a perceived important difference between the “Good” and “Better” options that motivate the customer to opt up for the “Better” selection. Limit the number of features in your “Good” option to improve the perceived value of the “Better” option.
  3. Each option should be explained in four attributes that differentiate it from the lower-priced option.
  4. Signage should clearly explain the differences and costs of each option. Name each option intelligently. Don’t use descriptions that confuse the merchandise. There is nothing wrong with simply using “Good, Better, Best.”

When you are determining the price points for your G-B-B offerings, consult your “inventory performance by category” report in your inventory management software. This will tell you the average selling price of your current sales for each different category and style of merchandise. Your goal is obviously to sell more at higher prices, so consider a price about 10 percent higher than your current average sale as your “Better” option. For example, if your average diamond stud earring sale is $1,000 now, make your price points $899, $1,099 and $1,399.

Retail jewelers should benefit from the thoughtful implementation of the G-B-B principles. Here are some display suggestions for your store.

Diamond stud earrings and anniversary bands

Offer three grades of earrings in the most popular styles. The differences in stud earring prices are obviously predicated by diamond size and quality as well as mounting material.
Start with 14K white gold mountings with round diamonds in sizes ranging from one-eighth, one-quarter, one-third, one-half, three-quarters and one-carat sizes. Develop a source (internally or externally) that can provide three different qualities in all six sizes. Obtain a display arrangement that allows the three qualities and sizes to be shown with descriptions, as well as prices and monthly payment options. Add signage that explains each of the four differentiating points between the qualities offered. Put in place a reorder procedure that quickly refills the empty space when sales occur.

Bridal

Make your most popular styles of engagement rings (halos, solitaires, sets, three-stone, etc.) and create a display with a G-B-B variation of each in a single tray. If you can, include several of these in each showcase. If you can direct your customer to those trays, you stand a better chance of easily up-selling the customer to a bigger size. Feature payment amounts to make it easier for your staff to sell up.

I am a big believer in organizing your bridal showcase by style, not by vendor brand (unless it is a very recognizable national brand) or diamond size. That is how your customer shops. With all your halo choices collected together in a single part of the showcase, you’ll find it much easier to move up in price and keep your customer from having to visit several showcases in order to see your selection.

Other merchandise

Follow this same strategy. Choose your most popular designs and identify what you can do to that item to be able to sell it at 25 percent less. Maybe it is a smaller stone or a metal change to silver. Make that new item your “Good” selection. Now revisit the original piece and ask what you can add to the design to make it worth 25 percent more. Make that your “Best” choice, and display them all together with prices and payments.

If you are successful with such a strategy, it could make both your customer and you very happy. Your store would be easier for your customer to shop, and your inventory could shrink to fewer pieces offered since your sales are more concentrated in your G-B-B offerings.

Give it a try and see what happens to your average sale. If it works, expand it. If it doesn’t, try something else. Be sure you track the results of your efforts to know what has worked and what has not.

Retail jewelry is hard enough without leaving money on the table when the customer is already in your store and poised to buy. Implementing this strategy might just move your results from “Good” to “Better” to “Best.”

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E-Commerce for Everyone: Let Your Customers Buy Something Where & When They Want To

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E-commerce has been vilified by many independent retail jewelers as an under-cutting, price-conscious evil entity intent on stealing hard-earned business from brick-and-mortar stores while ripping their profit margins to shreds.

At this point, though, it’s more or less a matter of if you can’t beat them the way you’ve been operating, you’d better consider joining them.

It’s time to rethink e-commerce as a viable option for you, the independent brick-and-mortar-based jeweler, but also to understand what it takes in dollars and time to drive traffic to a website, says Ben Smithee, digital-marketing expert and CEO of The Smithee Group. The big online players didn’t get where they are without investing considerable time and money into marketing, social media and search-engine optimization.

In other words, simply enabling e-commerce is not like flipping a switch and watching the money pour in. Instead, imagine you’re opening a second store. How much planning and preparation would you put into that? You’d work with a store designer. You’d hire more staff. You’d invest in advertising.

“Most people grossly underestimate what it takes for advertising to send people to the site,” Smithee says. “A lot of them expect to have overnight sales. Start with realistic expectations — they should be thinking about selling one, two, three things a week or a month to start and ramping up from there. Without realistic expectations, they will decide it doesn’t work and will quit,” Smithee says.

Independent jewelers like Tim Wright of Simply Unique Jewelry Designs in Yorktown, VA, have been reluctant converts in recent years. Wright says he realized in the past year that his company has to be searchable and sell its wares online. If not, he says, “We will go away like other independents in our area.”

It took time for Wright to wrap his head around the idea. “I cannot imagine people ordering jewelry, especially our one-of-a-kind pieces, off the Internet, but we are working on a new website to be more searchable and to be able to sell off of it. The basics we all have survived on over the years are not selling in the store anymore because of the Internet.”

Shane O’Neill, vice-president of Fruchtman Marketing, advises independent jewelers to temper their expectations when they turn to e-commerce.

Most jewelers are not going to see significant amounts of e-commerce, he says, because the marketing perspective is much different between traditional stores and online stores. “If they are marketing around a 20-mile radius, we still know that people want to touch and feel the jewelry,” says O’Neill. Plus the data that millennials don’t shop in stores isn’t necessarily true. They shop in bigger numbers than Gen X or baby boomers do. But they shop online with the idea of browsing and checking out pricing, and so they expect a shopping experience with all of the details revealed, O’Neill says.

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The preparation it takes to be ready for e-commerce almost certainly will result in increased sales in the store.

“They probably have checked all the boxes in terms of a good user experience, descriptions, photos, categories of metal type and have galleries of multiple products,” O’Neill says. “When someone comes to the website and they have the ability to have a great browsing experience, they make purchasing decisions based on that. When they stop in the store, you should have a higher closing rate. To me, that’s an e-commerce transaction, too.”

The website should be like your second store, O’Neill says, in terms of how you relate to the customer online: “How you flow people through your site is like what a sales associate does in the store.”

For Janne Etz of Contemporary Concepts in Cocoa, FL, e-commerce has grown steadily over the past two years from 35 percent of her business to a solid 50 percent. “You have to pay serious attention to it,” she says. “It is not a set-it-and-forget-it operation. What works with e-commerce this month will evolve into something else next month. It’s a constant learning process. I continue to study and learn and implement the newest techniques, so I can continue to grow!”

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, AZ, says an e-commerce-enabled website seems like a huge project, and it can be. But start somewhere, she says. “Just do it, or just do something,” she says. “Get ready to flip that switch. Take on little bits and pieces at a time and set goals. I am so far from anywhere near where I want to be, but my marketing department and I sat down and made a monthly calendar so that we could plan all of our marketing, social media, blogs etc.” Bjorkman’s team also worked on posting pieces for sale in groups of 24 at a time.

If even this seems like too much, start with making time for your own social media. Friend your top 100 clients and start from there.

“I think you need to make a plan, then work your plan,” Bjorkman says. “You can begin by doing this in the evening when you get home. Or have one of your employees spend an hour a day on it. The first step is that every day you should be posting on social media. Post real pictures and start creating your online image. Connect your posts to your website and tell them how to buy.”


Borsheims

E-Commerce Continues to Evolve in an Omni-Channel World

Borsheims of Omaha, NE, has been selling online since 1998 and today has seven associates dedicated to e-commerce.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the channel,” says Adrienne Fay, director of marketing and business sales — a 40 percent increase year over year in online sales for the past two years. This year that trend continued with a huge lift in January and February. The e-commerce staff is involved in navigation, digital photography, answering questions and virtually holding hands as needed. They also fulfill the orders — 99.9 percent of the inventory is in the store already.

In March 2018, the company introduced a new website that made online purchases easier on all devices, while updating their ring-builder tool to make it both more user-friendly and more luxurious-looking, says Andrew Brabec, director of e-commerce. “A lot of our customers will utilize their mobile device first and then make a purchase on their desktop. They prefer the process on the mobile device; it’s easier, faster.” Chat is used more than ever by customers looking for a promo code or to ask a quick question, but few purchases take much hand-holding.
One reason for that is that the new website is designed to anticipate questions that shoppers might have. Photographing jewelry items next to coins, for example, allows customers to gauge the size of the piece quickly and easily. “The main questions we get are: What size is this? And how does it look on someone?” Brabec says. One goal is to provide more views of each product.

“We try to replicate our customer service online,” says Fay. “It’s a strategic investment. We look at shoppers in an omni-channel fashion. Not as an e-commerce customer, not as a store customer. Simply a customer. We want to be able to knock their socks off in all channels.”

Shoppers who convert to online sales represent a wide demographic — established customers, gift shoppers, fine jewelry shoppers. Average order fluctuates, but recently it was $263. “We definitely have sold items that retail in the tens of thousands. Not every day, but it’s not unusual,” Fay says. Customers log in from all over the U.S. and the world; international checkout is available with exact pricing.

What’s next? Borsheims is testing out products to provide shoppers with 360-degree views of products, a technology that is increasingly common in other industries. Another huge goal is to get 97 percent of their products visible online; currently that number is about 74 percent. “We want to see more items in the cart, too, so we’re working on ways to up-sell in the cart by showing related products,” Brabec says. “In addition, we are going to evaluate pages to make them faster and more effective.”

The year 2020 represents Borsheims 150th anniversary. “And you don’t survive that long if you don’t evolve and grow and roll with the punches,” Fay says. “We used to say we at Borsheims are going to tell you as customers what you need to buy. Now we respond to what they are looking for with content and expertise and education.”


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Ringcrush

Growing Fast on Etsy

Bailey Lehrer founded Ringcrush, a start-up online jewelry store, selling $30 to $60 jewelry items on Etsy. She started the business with $700 and turned a profit immediately.
“We were able to grow in two years really quickly,” Lehrer says. “I did a little under $1 million on Etsy and another $300,000 on Amazon. It made sense for me to start up online. Etsy is really friendly to people who want to experiment.”

Lehrer says that while high-end diamond solitaires aren’t the norm on Etsy, moissanite rings are moving fast, as are other non-traditional types of diamond engagement rings, usually with an artisan design or a unique setting. “Etsy is primarily for 25- to 35-year-old women,” she says. “A lot of them still want that look and they can swap out the stone later. One of the most popular rings looks like a hand-carved band with a diamond solitaire in the center.”

Bailey Lehrer, founder of Ringcrush

The process of opening a shop on Etsy is easy, Lehrer says, because they hold your hand through the whole process. Still, there’s more to it than just opening. “You have to understand your competition and price point. It can be cutthroat with common items, and there are people from other countries selling items with razor-thin margins. You need something unique. That way you can raise your price.”

Her point of differentiation is pieces of raw gemstones. “So I still focus on precious stones like emerald and sapphire, but I’m able to sell them at $60 because I get them uncut. They’re still blue if it’s a sapphire; still green if it’s emerald. It’s kind of a unique aesthetic, so it’s easy to stand out.”

Another thing to keep in mind, Lehrer says, is that there is clear evidence shoppers will convert to making a purchase if the product is photographed on a white background. “Know how to take great pictures,” she says.


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Mullen Bros.

They Want to Be Your Local Jeweler, No Matter Where You Are

Bob Mullen is owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy, as well as an owner of the family business, Mullen Bros. Jewelers in Swansea, MA.

For several years, Mullen and his family pondered the “what ifs” and the concerns they imagined would come with e-commerce while they experimented with product catalogs on their website. “What about stock? What about if we sell things that are sold out? What about fraud? But it’s like having children: If you wait till you’re ready, you’re never going to do it.” In 2014, they began selling online through Shopify and realized $100,000 in revenue the first year.

“In terms of problems, the same things that I thought in my mind would be problems DID happen, but it was not that big of a deal to overcome them. In terms of inventory, it was about keeping things on the site that would be accessible and in stock, unless it’s something like bridal. We only work with designers who have products available that we can get quickly.
“Like anything else, there is no one thing that made it happen. It’s like Jim Collins wrote in the book Good To Great. You build momentum, and it gets easier and easier. It’s the trial and error of learning our audience, learning what they respond to, and looking at Google Analytics.”

Now Mullen, a marketing major in college, is working with other retailers on e-commerce goals. Digital Jewelers Academy, in partnership with Gemsone, administers a private Facebook group with instructional videos and an online posting service. “It’s about e-commerce, creating engaging content, Facebook ads, email strategy, website conversion.”

How much time does e-commerce take? “If you’re budgeting 10 to 15 hours a week of someone’s time, you can make a lot of progress if you know what you’re doing. You can be much more efficient in three hours knowing what you’re doing than 10 hours wandering around.”

Bob Mullen, owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy

“The No. 1 question I’m asked is regarding differences in inventory and pricing between the website and physical store. A lot of jewelers feel like they should treat the website like a separate store with lower prices to attract business. But unless you’re trying to build a nine-figure company, you should target a customer most like your own.

Mullen’s average ticket online is around $600, which is higher than in his store. “Our biggest sale was $17,000 and it goes down to $99 here and there. The sweet spot, like anything in jewelry sales, is $200 or $300. But the idea that people are just going online and plunking down 10 grand is a myth.”

The key to success is to provide the same level of service you do in your store. “In my opinion, I can service people a lot better than whoever is manning the call center at Blue Nile,” says Mullen. “You can sell an engagement ring in 10 minutes or have multiple visits over four hours in the store; online, it might take three to six emails. It’s about being proactive and being prompt about responding when people email.”

Local limits mean little when it comes to e-commerce, Mullen contends. “People respond nationally to the same things people respond to locally. Our industry loses 1,000 stores a year. When their jeweler closes, people have to go online or find another local store. More and more people are going online as a result, and are happy to work with a local jeweler, wherever you are. Meet them where they are.”


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SAMI’S FINE JEWELRY

“We Are Definitely on Our Way to Our Goal”

Last year, Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry decided that her website and online sales needed to be a priority. But she also knew it was tough, if not impossible, to find time to own the store, work with vendors, manage employees, pay bills, oversee marketing and launch e-commerce.
So she hired one person and then a second person to make it happen.

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry

“The only way I could do this was to have a dedicated person to take pics, write descriptions, update events, blogs, social media and more. What is really scary is that I see such an importance in this job, I have already hired her an assistant.”

It hasn’t necessarily “worked” just yet, says Bjorkman. But it is working. “Since I hired devoted staff members, I have seen a 30 percent increase in online sales, along with tons of daily mentions in the store. All of this proves that in the end, having a marketing person is well worth it.”

Online, Bjorkman sells branded items, including her own Animal Rockz line, a custom sterling-silver line of jewelry available in 38 different pet breed varieties. “My store is full of animal lovers, so this is easy for us to be passionate about. We seem to sell at least one of these a day. Prices range from $35-$60 plus shipping. The magic numbers seem to be in the $250-$500 average range. But, with that said, I sold a $30,000 diamond off my website and a $25,000 estate diamond from my e-blast.”

Sales are considered and tracked as “online sales” if everything is done online.

“If you do sell it 100 percent online, you need to handle them like any other client. Answer quickly, make them feel special. We do chat by phone, by social media messengers, text them, and even send them videos. It is a lot of work, but the good news is that it works.

“Our e-commerce actual sales do not currently represent a large amount of my overall business. A two-year goal for me is to sell as much as having a second store. E-commerce also represents the best type of marketing you can do for your business. Long before you advertise in a newspaper, magazine, etc., you should take time to do your online marketing, social media, e-blasts and blogs.”

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