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Small Stores, Big Reach

How to think big no matter the size of your market.

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Ready to expand your horizons? 

No matter what you consider your traditional market to be, it’s easier than ever before to reach beyond geographic boundaries and create a following. 

“The whole world is a village at the moment,” says David Brown, president of the Edge Retail Academy. He adds that it’s not a matter any longer of adapting to local circumstances, but rather deciding how to position yourself. Get the message out that you have a unique offering and people will come to you, from far afield via the Internet or from a neighboring town.

Rather than fear the change brought about by the Internet, successful stores view it as an opportunity. “There’s too much negativity associated with the fact that we are living in dynamic and changing times,” Brown says. “Fewer stores are carving up a bigger pie. The jewelry sector is still growing. It’s still solid.”

 

On the following pages, we’ll explore the answers to the following frequently asked questions:

  1. What does it mean to be a destination store? And why are reviews so important to make that work?
  2. Why do I have to change the way I’ve always approached marketing? 
  3. Does social media really make a difference?
  4. How can I best reach out to neighboring communities?
  5. What can I do that will grow my business locally as well as nationally? 

The first step, says marketing expert Ben Smithee, CEO of the Smithee Group, is to take a good, hard look at your website, which will likely be shoppers’ introduction to you. Your home page should have more content about you than about the brands that you carry. What separates you from everybody else? Are there actual people shown on the staff page? What is your brand?

The second step is to make sure every customer is satisfied. Earning excellent reviews will not only reinforce your reputation but can also benefit your business in unexpected ways. Yaf Sparkle on the Lower East Side of New York City is admittedly in a huge market. Yet it’s a small operation that manages to reach well beyond Manhattan by becoming a tourist magnet. It’s been rated No. 1 for shopping experiences on tripadvisor.com based on outstanding reviews, and currently still sits at No. 4 out of 874 retail experiences in all of New York City. It has 114 reviews on Trip Advisor, with an average of 5 stars. Shoppers attest to the fantastic experience, personalized service, approachable owners and beautiful jewelry. What visitor wouldn’t want to check it out?

Third, create an authentic experience. Are you in a market that attracts a flood of seasonal visitors? According to smallbiztrends.com, “Instead of checking famous sights off a list in a guidebook, they’re seeking out the local artists, authentic foods and hidden gems recommended by friends and fellow travelers.” These are the people you want to be cross-marketing with. Yaf Sparkle owners Torsten Flaegel and Yaf Boye-Flaegel, for example, promote and cooperate with neighboring businesses. They’ve teamed up with 20 other local merchants to brainstorm on marketing and event ideas that benefit the whole coalition. 

Yaf Sparkle in New York City teams with other local merchants for cross-promotion.

Ashley Porter of Porter Lyons in New Orleans — a city that attracted close to 11 million visitors in 2017 — has found a way to compete with myriad jewelry stores in the tourist-dominated French Quarter by setting her product apart. She offers jewelry that oozes local flavor without climbing on the bandwagon to sell ubiquitous fleur de lis pendant souvenirs. One of her popular collections is based on an alligator’s backbone and the skull of a coypu, or giant water rat. Another collection has a voodoo theme. New people find her store every day and about 15 percent of her business is e-commerce.

Half of the customers at Croghan’s Jewelry Box in Charleston, SC, are from out of town. Their Goldbug collection of cockroach-themed jewelry has garnered attention from Southern Living Magazine, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Brides, Luxe Magazine and vogue.com, among other outlets. The Palmetto bug line was designed by fourth-generation jeweler Mini Hay, a sculpture and art major, who was challenged with coming up with a fun item that would be collected by locals and tourists alike. The Goldbug collection is also sold wholesale to more than 25 stores across the country. 

Ashley Porter and her “greeter,” Gaston, promote New Orleans-flavored jewelry without being cheesy.

Fourth, find a specialty. “Often retail jewelers become generalists, doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that — from bridal to repairs,” says Brown. They kind of dabble as opposed to specializing. Don’t try to be all things to all people.”


Retailers become generalists, doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that … Don’t try to be all things to all people.”
— David Brown

Louise Rogers of Rogers Gallery in Mattapoisette, MA (pop. 6,045) created a tribe of followers by becoming Trollbeads central in the United States. Not only is she an authority on the brand, but she’s preparing to host her ninth annual national Trollbeads Festival, which draws visitors from all over the country. To get there, she gave it her all — 12 hours a day, seven days a week spent on Twitter, Facebook, the website and then, finally, a forum she started for fans of the brand — trollbeadsgalleryforum.ning.com. It doesn’t stop with the fest, though. Rogers Gallery has the largest selection of Trollbeads in any one gallery and specializes in unique and retired Trollbeads. Collectors are loyal to the store and the website, which is updated daily.

Fifth, consider whether there’s anything special about your area and tie it in with something people can relate to. Sarini Fine Jewelry is an accidental tourist attraction in the small town of Vulcan, Alberta, Canada. Sandra Locken’s building is located next to the bust of Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock from Star Trek, who was a Vulcan). “We always go out and offer to take photos for visitors next to the bust, and we’ve met people from all over the world who came to visit Spock.” They’ve even delivered jewelry (and spoken Klingon) for a Star Trek-themed wedding.

 

FAQ: Reaching Your Store’s Full Potential

 

I hear about digital marketing every time I turn around, from consultants, experts and even my peers, but can it really make a significant difference in my bottom line? 

Before Kevin Mays of John Mays Jewelers in Fort Smith, AR (pop. 87,400) met marketing consultant Ben Smithee at the American Gem Society Conclave a couple of years ago, Mays Jewelers didn’t have an Instagram page, its website was weak and Facebook was in limbo, Mays admits.

Smithee challenged him to start doing a couple of things immediately that would cost him nothing: Post daily to two social media platforms he already had toyed with, and focus on relevant local hashtags. “That’s all I did,” Mays says. “I didn’t spend a penny.” And still, within six months, John Mays Jewelers had picked up an extra month’s worth of business. When the family-owned business began putting some marketing dollars behind their digital presence last year, they picked up an extra quarter of business.

The change is noticeable. Every week, someone comes by to show them a post or a digital ad depicting a piece of jewelry they’d like to see in person. More and more business is done over the phone from far-flung locales. And Mays recently sold his first 3-carat diamond via text.

“Our main goal is to get people into the store and get them interested in what they see in the store,” Mays says, but there’s been a bonus effect. Since he began concentrating on digital marketing, he’s drawn customers from all over the world. He has followers in New York, Dallas and LA. And, although Mays has not introduced e-commerce, out-of-towners don’t seem to mind picking up the phone. “They call and we’ll get it sent to them,” Mays says.

Every year, serious collectors of Trollbeads converge on Rogers Gallery in Mattapoisette, MA, for the Trollbeads Festival.

All of this represented a big change for the business, which opened in 1999. “We stuck to traditional things,” Mays says. “But recently, those things were not playing out and they were costing more and more. It took a while to convince my father that you can make money on mobile phones.” Once everyone was on board, it became clear it was time to revamp the marketing budget. All of Mays’ vendors have high quality photos and videos, so he takes advantage of that. He’s also started shooting his own videos.

“The learning curve never ends,” Mays says. “It’s pretty steep if you ask me. But Ben and his team have taught me you’ve got to keep it fun and interesting. It’s not necessarily about posting all day long. It’s about when you post and what you post and having a constant presence. Every dollar counts and how you spend it counts.”

There’s still a place for traditional advertising, from billboards to TV and newspaper. Mays also writes a column for a local magazine. “You have to balance your budget accordingly. Digital has vastly improved our whole marketing campaign. You can instantly track it and see results. You don’t have to wait till the end of the fourth quarter to see how many eyeballs you had.”

Mariana Ramsay Hay and Rhett Ramsay Outten own Croghan’s Jewel Box, where cockroach-themed jewelry is a big hit.

But not everyone has been as receptive as Mays to what consultants like Smithee are saying. “People are seeing digital as something they have to do, rather than as a new opportunity,” Smithee says. “It’s not the future; it’s today. But it almost seems like 50 percent of our industry feels like it’s a nuisance or an evil thing.”

Smithee advises clients to take the next step with e-commerce. “E-commerce is the future. And not just for finished jewelry but for custom, too, so you need a seamless experiences online,” he says. “If it’s not on your radar, you’re asleep at the wheel.”

Retail jewelers in markets of any size can learn something about the value of both social media marketing and custom e-commerce from Tim Andre, sole proprietor of Emma Parker Diamonds in Lynnwood, WA (pop. 38,000). 

Although he’s just about 17 miles from Seattle, he has no walk-in traffic and he’s not looking for it. As a solo act, he relies on appointments and the Internet to sell customizable engagement rings all over the world. “It’s just me, so there’s no way I can deal with walk-ins while I have appointments,” Andre explains. The 20 percent of clients who make an appointment are usually sold before they walk in. One customer who made an appointment asked to see one diamond ring and immediately handed Andre his credit card. Still, if they want to linger, they’re invited to relax, view options and enjoy a Scotch or a glass of wine.

How is this possible? “It’s a dance of social media and a really captivating website with a lot of options. But the biggest thing is just being flexible. There’s pretty much nothing we won’t try to do for a client, from working on a custom design to answering 10,000 questions” to offering popular options like lab-created diamonds. Rather than buying into jewelry lines, he works with boutique suppliers who realize that the way to do business with him is to help him get exactly what customers want, rather than forcing him to commit to certain standard settings that might languish on a shelf.

Online design tools simplify ring buying for clients of Emma Parker near Seattle.

Pinterest is the driving force. He posts seven to 12 pins every day with the volunteer help of his wife, Tara, and his pins get 300,000 views in a month. On the other hand, his 28,000 Facebook followers seem to have little impact on his business. “Pinterest is everywhere and reviews are king,” he says. “We have 150 five star reviews and two four stars, which I’m very upset about. But we have zero bad reviews anywhere — The Knot, Yelp, Google, Wedding Wire. When I have a customer who has something go wrong, we will move heaven and earth to make sure they are satisfied at the end of the day. One bad review could cost you $100,000 over 10 years!”

Whatever you try with social, be consistent, Andre advises. “I could put up the most brilliant sets of posts, but if I don’t do it regularly, it can make zero impact.”

Sandra Locken of Sarini Fine Jewellery has a 750 square foot shop in Vulcan, (pop 19,000) a rural area of Alberta. In 2010, she and her husband purchased and gutted one of Vulcan’s first bank buildings and transformed it into a boutique. In 2016, she stopped nearly all traditional marketing. It felt risky, partly because her main two competitors battle it out to see who can own traditional local media. “We re-evaluated how much money we were spending and our rate of return and decided there was a lot of money going out the door to advertise, but it was our social media and relationships that were bringing people in the door,” Locken says.

Kim and Russ Kathol and daughter DeAnne take their jewelry store on the road twice a year.

“It was super scary at first.” Immediately, though, she realized a 24 percent increase in sales during an economic downtown. The custom side of the business increased by 150 percent within a year. By fall 2017, Locken was selling jewelry on Instagram and her audience had expanded well beyond her town. “With social media, we’re reaching customers we wouldn’t normally think of. We’ve had three custom jobs from clients in Texas.” 

 

How can I reach out more effectively to surrounding communities that may not have a jeweler of their own?

Russ Kathol of Main Street Jewelers in Plattsmouth, NE (pop 6,000) has grown a secondary market with a pop-up shop 180 miles away from Plattsmouth in Russ’ hometown, a rural community with a population of 1,400 that hasn’t had its own jewelry store in 25 years. Every April and November, Russ, Kim and daughter DeAnne pack up the truck and trailer and make the journey with as much inventory as their insurance policy will allow packed into portable jewelry cases. They rent a storefront, offer custom design and jewelry repair and build up trust one consultation at a time.

Russ was inspired to try it because every time he made the trip home to visit family, people stopped by anyway to consult with him about repairs, an upcoming special occasion, or the value of inherited jewelry. It helps that Russ grew up there. He says he is often recognized either as “an ornery former student” by teachers or a trustworthy family friend. One purpose of their visit is to provide six-month jewelry checks. The first time they made the trip, they were inundated with customers; repairs and follow-up sales brought in $50,000. Now each trip represents at least $100,000 in revenue, eventually, if not on the spot.


Nobody ever leaves us feeling like they don’t have anything of value. We’ll run costume jewelry through the cleaner when we can.” — Russ Kathol

“It’s mostly a repair event; the closest jeweler is 40 miles away and maintenance is often an issue,” he says. “Often, things haven’t been checked or cleaned in years.” It’s also about helping sort out, evaluate and discuss remounting estate jewelry. A staff member returns to the town two weeks later and delivers 50 to 60 repair items door to door, which saves money on shipping.

The rural community can represent wealth in farmland and real estate, so it’s not uncommon to make some impressive sales, particularly in November, after the crops have come in. If someone is going to make a significant purchase — $15,000 or $20,000 — Russ sets up a separate appointment with them at a later date.

They make time for everyone, no matter the value of their estate jewelry. The event has an element of Antiques Roadshow to it, because many people have no idea what their jewelry might be worth. “I’ve seen a 3.5-carat European cut diamond ring, and they have no clue what they have. If a dishonest person went in there, they could offer the owner $300; we gave her $30,000 for it.”

On the opposite end of the monetary value spectrum with off-the-charts sentimental value was a 1940s-era engagement ring. A man in his 90s pulled out a vintage ring box and said the ring had never been worn. His brother bought it overseas during World War II but his girlfriend dumped him. He put it in a safe deposit box for the rest of his life and his brother inherited it. Kathol bought it, and although it had a retail value of only about $600, one of his customers bought it for its story and put it in a safe deposit box. “It’s amazing how people value this stuff,” Kathol says. “These people own many millions of dollars of farmland, and they keep inherited pieces of jewelry worth less than $1,000 in safe deposit boxes. But nobody ever leaves us feeling like they don’t have anything of value. We’ll run costume jewelry through the cleaner when we can.”

Twenty-five percent of Leonard Jewelry’s sales represent collegiate-themed jewelry, from the subtle to the more obvious.

Next time they return, they’ll rent a larger facility and invite complementary businesses, like a winery and a boutique, to join them. 

Back home in Plattsmouth they draw customers from Omaha, 12 miles away, who are looking for small-town service. They’ve diversified their business to include 3,000 square feet of giftware and a separate gun shop. They rent tuxedoes, which attracts a large majority of the community’s youth, come prom time. “They come into the store three times — to get measured, pick up the tux and return it. They find out that it’s not intimidating to come to the jewelry store. We’re growing with the younger families.”

Mark Snyder of Snyder Jewelers of Weymouth, MA (pop. 55,000) didn’t have to look far to find opportunity. The town of Abington, MA, is a few miles down the road and it hasn’t had its own jewelry store in 20 years. He hired a marketing expert from Abington who made it her mission to introduce Snyder to Abington. Snyder sponsored local sports, music and high school programs, partnered with a high school to create lapel pins for its hall of fame program, and marched in parades. They reached out to first responders, invited residents to all of their in-store events and offered a first-time shoppers’ discount. They gave away watches to male high school hall of famers and charm bracelets to the girls. They also targeted Facebook advertising to the zip codes and demographics they wanted to reach and sent direct mail and thank-you cards using their EDGE program.


Collegiate jewelry is the step into the store, but the attraction becomes buying our jewelry in general over time.” — Annette Kinzie

It worked. Since they started the campaign a few years ago, they’ve added 300 loyal Abington customers to their database. He’s also targeted his hometown and a couple of other towns in the area. “We’re as busy as we’ve ever been,” he says.

 

What can I do to promote my store locally as well as grow a following outside of my town?

For Leonard Jewelry in Stillwater, OK (pop. 49,500), football was key. About nine years ago, Annette Kinzie of Leonard Jewelry was invited by a supplier to begin promoting and selling collegiate jewelry for the local state university. Kinzie and company ran with the concept and made it their own by creating fine custom jewelry in OSU’s colors, essentially offering something for every fan at every price point. And they set up shop in the stadium on game days, advertised in the football guide, and created monthly store videos to promote their endeavor. “It’s put us in touch with alumni all over the United States,” she says. 

About 25 percent of their business is collegiate jewelry focused on football season. Some of what they sell is licensed OSU jewelry, but Kinzie combines the symbols, logos and colors with other jewelry styles to customize them. While some customers want the jewelry to spell out OSU, others want a more subtle statement — the colors in a wide range of orange gemstones (such as sapphires, spessartite garnet and orange chalcedony), black and white gemstones or CZs. 

Leonard Jewelry’s Annette Kinzie poses in front of the store’s collegiate jewelry displays.

The fact that so much of their OSU jewelry is exclusive to their business makes a big difference. “We continue to offer new things and keep it fresh, and also just promote the heck out of it,” Kinzie says. When shoppers realize the jewelry is sterling silver or gold, they generally embrace the product along with the price. “They’re excited because it’s different than anything they have seen before. It’s unique and it shows their school pride.”

Each year on the Friday before the homecoming game, Stillwater hosts a “walk-around” that attracts thousands of people to view fraternity house decorations. So they set up a booth during that event and then again Saturday at the game. “We have gained some excellent customers who would have never walked into our store otherwise, because they live in different cities or out of state,” Kinzie says. “Collegiate jewelry is the step into the store, but the attraction becomes buying our jewelry in general over time.”

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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