Cutting-edge tech can create meaningful connections between customers and stones — if jewelers are willing to use it.
The diamond industry is based on personal relationships and hands-on connections. But in the past few years, new technologies have developed that can actually help retailers connect with customers on levels that were previously not possible. Is the industry ready to embrace what technology has to offer? Not fully, it seems.
“Jewelry is the only industry in the retail space lagging behind in technology,” says Sundar Moorthi, CEO and founder of Augmentes, a company that provides digital solutions to the jewelry trade. “In order to survive in the consumer space, the tools [must be] digital.”
The latest retail technology includes augmented reality (AR) and virtual try-on tools; near-field-communication (NFC) beacons, banners and billboards; apps; and of course, social media.
AR may be the most promising, according to Moorthi. “The virtual tryon is one of the best ways to bring the shopping experience to the jewelry customer,” he says. “Customers can use an AR scanner to see a ring on their finger and share their experience.” AR also allows customization and can facilitate sales, he notes. “When you see a product in print, online, on a billboard, or even if you see someone wearing it, in three clicks you can buy the product or find it in the nearest store.”
ONLINE AND OFF: BRILLIANT EARTH
Brilliant Earth, an ethically sourced diamond bridal jewelry retailer, first opened online in 2005. While it has since expanded into brick and mortar, with seven showrooms nationwide, technology is still key for this digitally native company.
“We’ve implemented a range of tools that focus on connecting with customers,” says Kathryn Money, Brilliant Earth’s vice president of
strategy and merchandising. For example, the company’s virtual “create your own ring” feature allows customers to change a stone’s shape or size, switchout diamonds for gemstones, or change the metal of a ring’s setting.
In addition, it recently introduced a 360-degree interactive video online, which lets clients see their ring design at every angle and adjust the virtual skin tone so
they can visualize the ring on their own hand.
Although Brilliant Earth doesn’t currently have an app, its website is optimized for mobile, and the brand’s social media engagement allows it to build further customer connections on- and off line.
“The opportunity to serve the customer where and how they want to shop is enabled by technology,” says Money. “Some of it is customer-facing, and some of it is backend.”
The goal is to create a shopping journey that feels fun and joyful, and which instills trust, she continues.
“Visualization tools help customers see the beauty and uniqueness of a diamond, and make it easy to complete a purchase. Everything works together
to create confidence.”
Check out brilliantearth.com
NFC technology, which lets digital devices communicate with each other via magnetic field induction, can also help stores connect with customers, according to Deborah Weinswig, managing director of retail think tank Fung Global Retail & Technology.
“In the case of diamonds, NFC tags could link the customer or potential customer to content that tells the story behind the brand or even behind each diamond.”
Technology can also enhance the storytelling. For example, retailers can tell the stories of individual stones using rough-to-polished “diamond journey” reports, which are provided under the Sarine Profile umbrella of products. This includes visuals of the diamond-cutting process for each of the tens of millions of rough stones polished with Sarine technology.
Enhancing, not replacing
While Weinswig says retail technology isn’t as widespread as it could be, she points to Signet Jewelers as a notable early adopter, citing its “proprietary diamond display technology that enables their customers to look at diamonds in 360-degree HD, at a magnification of 40x. They also have a mobile website with a virtual try-on feature.”
Even though Moorthi provides omnichannel technology to South Dakota based chain Riddle’s Jewelry and is in talks with other retailers and brands, he believes technology should enhance, not replace, traditional sales tools.
“We’re trying to make paper certificates and warranties digital in the mobile app, so customers don’t need to worry about keeping them safe,” he says. But this is still just part of a larger strategy. “You cannot replace salespeople,” states Moorthi. “But all these tools can make salespeople more effective.”
Image: Adobe stock