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If I Owned

If Daniel H. Pink Owned a Jewelry Store, It Would Be Unrecognizable to a Time Traveler





Other writers in this space have criticized jewelry stores for looking and feeling like museums.

I don’t think that criticism is fair — to museums.

In the last decade, many museums have become less like mausoleums and have refashioned themselves into engaging spaces where people have memorable experiences.

“Let your products tell their stories.”


Jewelry stores, alas, have not transformed nearly as much. In fact, if we slipped a jeweler from 1950 into a time machine and transported him to a store in 2011, he might be perplexed by the computers and startled by the prices, but everything else — from the hushed, serious tone and the imposing glass cases — would seem familiar.

So if I owned a jewelry store, I’d try to really shake things up and make it almost unrecognizable to that time traveler. Here are three ways I’d begin:

  1. Educate customers, don’t just sell to them. Think about museums again. What’s the feeling you get when you leave a good one? For me, it’s the sense that I’ve learned something that I didn’t know when I walked in. Jewelry stores can evoke that same delicious sensation. Invite a metalsmith in to demonstrate how he makes his pieces. Have a geologist explain the properties and qualities of various gems. Ask a fashion designer to host a session on how to select the right pieces for particular looks, colors, or styles. And you know that Genius Bar at Apple Stores? Try something like that. Clueless customers — guys like me who don’t know their amethyst from their elbow — would flock to ask questions of your jewelry genius.
  2. Let your products tell their stories. One of the most powerful trends in consumer marketing is the rise of the product back story. For instance, next time you’re in a grocery store, check out Dole organic bananas. You’ll likely see a numerical code on its sticker. Then visit the Dole web site, enter that code into the appropriate box, and — voila! — you can see the farm where the bananas were grown along with the farmers who grew them. Jewelers should jump on this train. Show us where the gems came from and whether they were sourced in a sustainable way. Tell us the story of the person made those earrings and display her picture. If last decade was the decade of design, this one is the decade of narrative. Story is the new differentiator.
  3. Turn your salespeople into servicepeople. Pay higher base salaries and don’t make sales commissions a large part of your staff’s compensation. That’s heresy to some. But there’s a ton of social science research that shows that this approach can, paradoxically, lead to higher sales as staff collaborate more and build longer-term relationships with customers. Calculate your team’s compensation based not only on how many watches they sold this quarter, but on customer satisfaction, collaboration and service. And if you really want to motivate them, have them read letters from customers who bought a piece of jewelry that transformed their lives. There’s other research that shows that when you remind workers of the purpose of what they’re doing — in jewelers’ cases, bringing beauty to others’ lives and helping create lasting memories — their performance soars.

Will any of these ideas revolutionize a tough business in a tougher economy? No. But will they surprise that dude from 1950? Absolutely. And that’s a start.

Daniel H. Pink is the author of four provocative books about the changing world of work – including the long-running New York Times bestseller, A Whole New Mind, and the No. 1 New York Times bestseller, Drive. His books have been translated into 32 languages. For more information, visit his website ( or follow him on Twitter (


This story appeared in the September-October 2011 edition of INDESIGN.




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