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The app stars: a fresh approach to diamond sales

15 november 2012

The diamond business is one of the most traditional trades in the world, but a burst of new technology that offers jewellers more efficient and competitive ways to sell is transforming the market for the better, Rachael Taylor writes on www.professionaljeweller.com.

Diamonds might be billions of years in the making, but the sales techniques used to sell them are evolving all the time and it has been the area of jewellery retail that has perhaps taken the largest technological leap in recent years as jewellers have embraced iPad-based technology to open up a world of diamonds to their shoppers while keeping them in the snug safety of their store.

Many diamond companies are now using iPad-based systems to offer retailers full use of their diamond ranges without having to hold the stock. Stubbs & Co was one of the first innovators in this section. “I would say on the whole that retailers are generally quite a conservative bunch but anyone that we presented it to was very receptive,” recalls Stubbs & Co managing director David Shem-Tov. “It’s been quite successful.”

The technology allows retailers to sit down in stores with customers, whip our the iPad and then talk them through a huge selection of options, rather than having to rely on physical stock. “It improves the quality of service making it much more powerful and compelling,” says Shem-Tov. “Shoppers are participating and customising the product. It is very easy to deliver. There are 40,000 combinations available, you don’t need to have that amount of actual rings in the shop.”

What is most crucial about this very modern approach to diamond sales is that it allows retailers to open up the world of endless design possibilities and diamond choices, and therefore diamond prices, to shoppers within their store. Not only does this eliminate the need for shoppers to turn to the internet instead of coming into the store, it gives the shoppers the feeling of being given a guided tour of all the possibilities of buying diamonds online from an expert in the field, their local jeweller.

H Chalfen is a diamond wholesale company that is new to iPad technology and has just finished development on its first app, something that sales director Howard Levine says has been a labour of love as the company has worked extra hard to make the app look simple. “There is a differing range of technical abilities in the industry, from older staff to younger staff, and I’m very aware of that which is why we’ve made it very easy to use,” says Levine.

Rather than just a flashy technological trick, Levine says the real driver behind the app is to bring enough choice to the customer that they don’t have to shop elsewhere. “We are trying to get customers involved in picking their own diamonds,” says Levine. “A customer might have looked in the window and seen some physical stock and tried it on but it’s too much money, so they can use the app to look for an alternative.”

The H Chalfen app is linked directly to real time stock levels and the wholesaler has teamed up with a DTC Sight Holder to give retailer and their customers access to 10,000 diamonds through the app. “The internet has made people aware of the choice out there but you couldn’t offer that choice in store until now,” says Levine.

The app is very similar to online diamond sites, so why should shoppers bother to go down to a jewellery store to access technology that they can get from their couch at home? Again, Levine says it’s all about the concept of a guided tour. “Online you can get a list of diamonds and designs but you don’t get a member of staff that’s ben trained in diamonds to talk you through that list,” he enthuses. “I think people would still prefer to buy from a retailer if the margin is not too much.”

Levine adds that the app allows retailers to set their own margins and brand the app with their store’s name and logo, although he does advise retailers to lower their margins if they can in order to stay competitive with mainstream online diamond websites.

The H Chalfen app is still in trial stages at about eight stores but Levine says that it is going well with reports from some retailers that they have been using the system with customers every day.

Ed Burrowes, marketing consultant at technology firm Pursuit, believes that iPad technology in retail is here to stay and that it will only improve with time as jewellers become more confident with it and begin to utilise its full potential and functions.

“The benefit for the retailer is that you have a ready-made sales presentation right there,” he says. “If the customer was to come in the ordinary way and is asked what they are interested in, then the sales assistant goes and gets a couple of pieces and then asks ‘Is this the kind of thing you mean?’ and then they say, ‘No, its more like this but I would like this’ then they have to go back and forth to cabinets and get things out and before you know it they are surrounded with rejected choices all over the place. This gives a very structured quick and easy method of showing all the different choices to the customer.”

Burrowes says that iPad technology also allows for more flexible payment situations. “Point of sale is anywhere in the store so they do the transaction anywhere,” he explains. “Some retailers have little booths that they sit in with customers and it improves the quality of service. The whole store presentation becomes sophisticated and the sales presentation becomes more personal to the customer.”

Back at Stubbs & Co, Shem-Tov is continuing to push its iPad technology forward. “A new feature is that eternity rings, wedding rings, and engagement rings are all catalogued together so that you can go back and forth from each option,” he says. “You can look at the engagement ring and click a drop down and change it to the eternity ring using the same size, same setting, etc. This is something that we will be showcasing at IJL this year.”

With new easy to use systems, iPad-based technology is not as scary as some might fear and by placing a world of diamonds at shoppers fingertips with a qualified member of staff to guide them through it could be a serious threat to online-only diamond experiences and a win for the high street.