How to Make a Customer Out of an Internet Shopper

In-depth
30/05/2015 08:43

Times have changed. Remember when a retail jeweler was the first and only stop when purchasing a diamond? Today, the traditional retailer competes with more than just other jewelry stores for the diamond sale. It seems that everyone is now in the diamond business, from big box stores to department stores to countless Internet sites. Add to this challenge shrinking margins and the increasing number of shoppers willing to make a big purchase online and it makes a bricks-and-mortar jewelry store owner almost want to hang it up. But, there are ways to reclaim diamond sales, and one way simply involves the way you interact with your customers. Let’s use a young man who is about to become engaged as our example…

Our customer, John, is in his mid-20s, a millennial if you will. He comes into your store armed with information that he has gathered from the web and proceeds to tell you exactly what he is looking for: a G, VS-2, 1.50 carat round brilliant diamond. And he mentions a price range that is more in line with your cost for a diamond in that size and quality range!

What’s a retailer to do? Before you think, “Oh, here we go again” and resign yourself to losing another sale to the Internet, you must face the fact that this scenario will absolutely continue to be a reality. The sooner you can turn this to your advantage, the sooner you will reclaim these sales. 

Your first step? Do NOT show him what he just asked for! If you immediately show John your G, VS-2 1.50ct. diamond, you are keeping him in the “commodity” mindset. And he will likely ask you the price, make a note, and leave your store—forever. If this remains strictly about price, you will never beat the Internet! Also, don’t get right to business. Ask John if he would like a beverage. Remember, you want to foster a relationship with this prospect. There will be plenty of time to show diamonds, but you need to get some key information from this shopper first.

Your first step is to ask John what special occasion is coming up that has him shopping for a diamond. Even if you’re certain this is a soon-to-be engagement, never assume. Also, by asking him the question, he will then need to speak the words, “I’m about to get engaged.” Now you have the chance to congratulate him, ask about his significant other, and various other details surrounding the pending engagement. In essence, you’ve helped to raise the emotional level of your conversation with John.

Next, make him feel good about the “research” he has done. Ask where he has been to look at diamonds. You may find out that he has only “seen” diamonds on the Internet. Many shoppers actually believe they can look at a diamond grading report and make an informed decision based solely on numbers and letters (and likely a plot)—without ever seeing the diamond! Now it’s time for you to show your expertise and give John a short tutorial on diamonds and lab reports.

You might want to say something like, “John, would you have known that Nina was going to be ‘the one’ for you simply by looking at her driver’s license?” Of course he’ll say no! You can use this simple analogy to explain that, although a lab report provides important information about a diamond, the only way to get a true sense of the diamond’s beauty and personality is by looking at the actual diamond! Now say something that puts John “in the moment”—of proposing, or of Nina showing off her new diamond engagement ring to her friends.  “How do you want Nina to react when she sees her diamond for the first time?” John will likely respond with a thoughtful, emotional comment: “I want her to love it” or “I want her to be proud to wear it” or “I want her to say ‘yes’!”

If you sell a premium, branded diamond, this is the time to introduce it. If you don’t carry brands, you should still lead with your most beautiful diamonds (i.e. top make). Now is the time to discuss light performance, or how a diamond handles light. (John will pay attention to the term “light performance” as guys in general relate to performance…cars, sports, etc. Yes, it’s true.) Top light performance is what allows a diamond to be noticed from across the room, even if it’s not the largest diamond in the room! John will have no choice but to think about Nina wearing her engagement ring, and no doubt will want to find her the most beautiful diamond he can afford. Now it’s not about finding the cheapest diamond, it’s about finding a beautiful diamond (which involves actually looking at diamonds in person).

Of course, color, clarity and carat weight will need to be addressed at some point, but John needs to understand that the most important factor regarding beauty is CUT. If you possess any number of instruments that help demonstrate cut, this is a good time to utilize them in your diamond presentation. Remember, you want to convey to John that YOU are the diamond expert (not him!). But, don’t get too technical by discussing crown angles, table percentages, pavilion depths and so on. This type of conversation takes us away from the emotional state we’ve created up till now.  Actually, some instruments can help distill all the technical details down to a visual image that will show John how well a particular diamond is cut (i.e. a Hearts & Arrows viewer or the AGS ASET device).

Here are a few other suggestions that can help convert an Internet shopper to a loyal customer: 

1. Be aware that some websites use the term “ideal” to describe the cut of some of the diamonds posted, even if those diamonds were graded by laboratories that don’t even use “ideal” as a cut grade category. If a customer mentions that he saw an “ideal cut” online for much less than your diamond, ask questions. Ask which lab issued the report. If it’s other than the American Gem Society Lab (who developed the term “ideal cut” and has strict criteria for its usage), clarify this discrepancy. Mention that the GIA Gem Trade Lab, for example, uses Excellent as the highest category in its system. Your knowledge and explanation will be appreciated, and may compel an Internet shopper to make the purchase from you. 

2. Ask questions about the “online diamond” (aka the one the customer is using as a benchmark for price shopping). You’ll want to ask about the online diamond’s possible fluorescence. As we jewelry professionals know, fluorescence in a diamond may have a neutral or positive effect on some diamonds, but in others it can negatively affect the color and/or transparency. Explain this feature to the customer in order for him to understand that buying a diamond simply by looking at a lab report may not be the wisest thing to do. In addition, ask the customer if he knows whether or not the online diamond has been treated. This may come as a surprise to your customer. Explain what laser treatment is used for (lightening a dark inclusion to improve apparent clarity) and further explain other treatments used to improve the appearance of diamonds. Planting a seed of doubt in online shoppers is not dishonest. These diamond customers need your expertise and guidance! 

3. Tell your story. How long you’ve been in business, how you purchase diamonds for your store (Do you travel to cutting centers? Do you use state-of-the-art technology to assess each diamond before it goes into inventory? Are you or some of your staff trained gemologists?) Talk about your experienced staff, your fantastic service department, and your great trade-up policy. Make your customers realize that they need a jeweler, just as they need a doctor or any other professional. If you haven’t done so already, create a 30-second presentation that explains who you are and establishes why you are the best choice when it comes to making a diamond or any other jewelry-related purchase. 

4. Promise to follow up. Make sure your customer knows that you’re on his “team.” Reach out after the celebration to see how everything went. Invite the couple back in for a champagne toast. Track how long the piece has been worn so you can schedule a 3- or 6-month check. Following up will help you foster relationships with your customers, which will generate future sales.

DEBBIE HISS has specialized in all aspects of sales and product training, retail training programs, negotiating and planning training events, and writing product education articles for over 35 years. A graduate and former instructor at the Gemological Institute of America, she also served as the Manager of Association Training for the Institute. She has worked as the Director of Sales Training at Lazare Kaplan International, a Global Trainer for the Hearts On Fire Company, a training specialist for Forevermark and currently consults for several companies and organizations, including the American Gem Society. She has served as the NW Regional Director and Trade Associations Manager for the Diamond Promotion Service, working closely with jewelry organizations on advertising campaigns and initiatives, and also spent two years as the West Coast Editor for the prestigious trade magazine, Jewelers Circular-Keystone.
Debbie Hiss conducts in-store product and sales training for the jewelry industry. She can be reached at: dhiss@comcast.net, 206.283.4507