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Andrea Hill

Reinventing The Engagement Ring Shopping Experience? Now’s The Time

It means abandoning old methods that don’t work as well for today’s shopper.

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THE JEWELRY INDUSTRY has a lot of real estate and training tied up in the sale of engagement rings. We’ve created a ritual that puts the bride-and-groom-to-be in a comfy seat where we parade a series of diamonds in front of them. But what if consumers don’t want to do that anymore?

Oh, I don’t mean at all, but what if they don’t want to do that so much? Even before the pandemic, there was a small but growing trend of younger couples trading the traditional engagement ring buying experience for alternative gemstones, lab-grown diamonds, responsible sources, and a more emotional, less technical, experience. The engagement ring sale is an institution ripe for disruption.

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Consider the shopping experience. Consumers had already moved online for their browsing and research. They no longer rely on salespeople to direct and educate them. The pandemic accelerated this trend — retail analysists suggest that online shopping activity sped through five years of evolution in three short months this spring.

This means your website must offer all the information, images, and persuasion your customers need, because you may not get the opportunity to influence them in person. If what you offer is a page about how great your team is, another page that woodenly describes the 4Cs, a link to a spreadsheet of diamonds sorted by certificate qualities, and another link to your top three mounting vendors, you’ve lost them already. Instead, reimagine for the online experience the conversations, analogies, stories, and encouragements you normally deliver in person. Offer online chat, interactive chat-bots, and other game-like features to build engagement. Make it easy to text or video chat with your team to stimulate a sense of immediacy, and offer plenty of testimonials and customer content to build trust.

Quite a few retailers are working now to create websites that allow buyers to match loose diamonds with mountings. That’s definitely an interactive and fun product experience for some shoppers, but it’s not for everyone. A recent meta-analysis of 99 studies of consumer behavior identified four key factors in causing consumers to become overwhelmed by choice: choice complexity, decision task difficulty, preference uncertainty, and decision goal.

The more of these conditions a consumer faces, the harder it is for them to make a decision, and the more likely they are to walk away.

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One solution? Offer more pre-set engagement rings, which allow the online shopper to focus on size of diamond, style of mounting, and price point, and avoid all the variables associated with diamond quality. This approach is also likely to give retailers slightly more margin.

Now is also the time to offer more selection within your engagement offering. Feature color gemstones as engagement centers, offer a collection of traceable diamonds, collaborate with an organization working directly with artisanal miners, or highlight a selection of previously owned diamonds to respond to emerging consumer demand.

Avoid the trap of trying to make your online bridal sales into a digital version of your physical store. Create a new experience that is consistent with your brand, but appropriate to the channel, and tap into new demand.

Andrea Hill is owner of Hill Management Group, with three brands serving the jewelry industry. Learn more at hill-management.com.

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