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A peek inside: De Beers Diamond Jewellers

06 january 2012

While online sales and implementation of mobile technology can enhance sales, they aren’t necessarily a replacement for the in-store experience of buying fine jewelry, the new U.S. CEO of De Beers Diamond Jewellers said in a recent interview to National Jeweler.

Devon Pike took the helm of De Beers Diamond Jewellers’ operations here in mid-May [2011], coming to the retail chain from Juicy Couture, where she was senior vice president of digital for the apparel and accessories retailer. In speaking with National Jeweler, Pike discussed areas in the digital realm where she thinks the retailer has room to grow and future plans for the chain in the United States, which now includes a total of 11 stores.

National Jeweler: You’ve been with De Beers for six months now. What are your impressions so far of the jewelry industry?

Devon Pike: My background is primarily fashion apparel. It’s really amazing how direct and clear the connection with the customer can be when you take that size and fit out of the equation. It sounds like such a funny perception but it really becomes a much closer connection. There’s much less size in the equation. As a result it becomes much more focused on true style preferences and appreciating the quality. Everybody is able to wear the product, and it’s such a positive experience.

NJ: Do you see digital as being a larger part of De Beers’ strategy going forward?

DP: I think digital is a smaller influence, especially digital commerce, right now within the jewelry space, but I think it holds a lot of potential. The customer is there. She is online.

NJ: Are you able to discuss any ideas you’ve had to date on how to improve De Beers’ digital efforts or anything you’re implementing going forward?

DP: We’re still discussing a number of potential ideas. One of the areas we were have opportunity is e-commerce.

NJ: Do you sell online right now?

DP: We do. We sell a limited portion of the line online right now. I’m not sure that we’ll sell everything online but we definitely have that opportunity to expand our offer.

NJ: Are you on FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter?

DP: We have a Facebook page. We are not really participating in FourSquare and we are not yet on Twitter. I think you will see that expand for us.

NJ: Is your site mobile optimized and is there a De Beers Diamond Jewellers application?

DP: It is not optimized for mobile today. It is fully viewable and navigable on mobile. But it is not optimized for mobile. That’s an opportunity for us.

As far as an app we are discussing what might be the right strategy around an app, something that is aligned with our brand and relevant and useful for our consumers. We certainly wouldn’t put an app out there just to put one out there.

You [also] had an interesting question on what is the role of mobile going forward. Mobile can help us really break down that line between the digital experience and the physical experience. It allows customers to really navigate between the digital and the physical. It can be as simple as...most of our customers have [smart]phones and/or tablets. When they bring their phone with them to the store they have a connection to the rest of their personal contacts.

NJ: They can, for example, take a picture of a piece of jewelry and communicate to their friends and family, “I am thinking about buying this ring. What do you think?”

DP: Absolutely.

NJ: Do you have iPads in the store for the sales associates to use to show different product online or for customer use?

DP: We don’t have that today. It’s one of the things we see as an opportunity in the future in helping to facilitate that conversation.

We [do] have technology in our store that is proprietary [the De Beers Iris]. It allows them (customers) to really slow down the effect of the refraction of the light in the diamonds and they can actually see how perfectly symmetrical our diamonds are. It allows the customers to sort of participate in the decision that we made in selecting the diamond.

NJ: According to National Jeweler’s data, De Beers Diamond Jewellers now has 11 stores, up from 10 last year. What are the plans for store openings for the rest of the year, if any?

DP: We’ll finish out 2011 with 11 stores. There are no store openings in the next couple of months. We’re really focused on refining our strategy and then start to build up on that.

NJ: Will you be opening or closing any stores in 2012?

DP: Like all retail brands we continually review our network to adapt and upgrade it where necessary and we do so in all markets, including the U.S. This is part of our ongoing efforts to enhance the shopping experience and ensure our stores are the most effective showcases for our brand. No decisions have yet been made in the U.S.

NJ: Looking at the future of retail in general do you see fewer brick-and-mortar stores and more online communication and sales?

DP: No. I really passionately believe that the in-store experience will continue to be very important particularly in the fine jewelry business. I think of digital as an additional...channel and enhancer to the whole experience of fine jewelry.

NJ: Was there ever a target number De Beers had in mind for stores in the U.S. (i.e., a certain amount of stores by a certain date)?

DP: I wouldn’t put a number on it per se. We definitely see more opportunities in key markets.

NJ: Are there any items in particular that have been especially popular for De Beers Diamond Jewellers?

DP: We’ve had success across all of our categories, bridal, fashion and high-end. What’s particularly interesting is a huge appetite for our fashion categories right now and we’re seeing that in both self-purchase as well as gifting.

NJ: What will be your ratio of traditional (print, radio etc.) advertising to digital advertising in the fourth quarter?

DP: It’s definitely more digital this year than last year because we weren’t running online display ads last year at all. Traditional is still the larger share of our marketing budget. But there is a nice increase in digital because we definitely are seeing traction there.