Jewelers of America recently announced an exclusive partnership with WRCobbOnline, the interactive division of W.R. Cobb Co. Providing retail jewelers with the marketing and technology platforms they need to lower inventory costs and compete with large Internet jewelry sellers, WRCobbOnline has helped more than 3,000 retail locations leverage the digital world alongside brick-and-mortar stores. JCK spoke to Jay Gerber, vice president of sales and marketing, to learn more about the partnership and why Web and mobile should be a retail priority.
JCK: JCK first announced W.R. Cobb’s Web tool for retailers in 2007. How has your e-commerce and Web program grown and changed since then?
Jay Gerber: W.R. Cobb immediately understood how the Internet could transform the shopping experience for consumers and how important it was for the retailers to interact and offer browsing and shopping options for their customers and potential customers online. Over the years, our Web platform has grown to become more and more user-friendly for the retailers to implement as a natural extension of their traditional brick-and-mortar model.
JCK: You recently went mobile. How important should apps be to a retail jeweler?
JG: Everything is mobile now. I just saw a statistic from the Cellular Telephone Industry Association that says there as many active cell phones in the U.S. as there are people! Certainly not all of these phones are smartphones, but at the very least everyone with a phone in his or her pocket has the ability to research, browse, and price compare online—especially for big purchases like jewelry. I think the trend of apps will continue based on consumers’ appetite for iPads and tablets. If that is where your consumers are going, then I think it is important.
JCK: Even if you don’t want a major e-commerce business, how can a robust Web presence successfully drive more customers to your store?
JG: At the very least, time is precious to everyone these days. If you think about today’s bridal consumers, they are mobile and looking at all their options to educate themselves before they walk through your door. The prospective bride may be nudging her boyfriend with ideas on what she may like in a ring. The groom is browsing the Internet to see if the styles his bride is interested in will be in your store. As a retailer, you want to insert yourself into consideration by showcasing your inventory—and virtual inventory—on the Web. If they believe you have great inventory, they will want to come see you in person.
JCK: Explain your partnership with JA and what you are offering.
JG: A large part of our mission is to connect with independent jewelry retailers and provide them with the tools that they need to succeed in a changing marketplace, so a partnership with Jewelers of America was a natural fit. Now, qualified JA members are eligible to receive discounted setup and monthly fees on WRCobbOnline products and services. We created an exclusive package for JA members, which includes our e-commerce platform and access to our massive diamond inventory of more than 60,000 certified stones. Members may also add other a la carte services, including our online design-your-own jewelry configurator, branded-designer modules, and mobile app, all at deeply discounted rates.
JCK: Diamonds and bridal are an evergreen business that you are helping retailers take advantage of. What can you offer in terms of diamond inventory and branded designers?
JG: We’ve spoken with thousands of independent jewelers over the years, and if we’ve learned one thing it’s that nothing is more important to their business than bridal. Oftentimes, an engagement ring is the first significant jewelry purchase a couple will make, so it’s a wonderful chance for retailers to give them a satisfying experience that will, hopefully, convert them into customers for life. We also know that today’s consumer is going online to research and browse before they ever set foot in the store, so jewelers need to show them that they have a huge selection and competitive pricing—otherwise, they’ll just go somewhere else.
We offer retailers several ways to stay competitive and capture these customers at the moment of interest. Our massive diamond inventory lets them leverage a database of more than 60,000 certified stones right from their store’s website—every size, shape, color and price point their customers could want—all available on memo to qualified retailers. Our branded designer modules feature top names like Imperial, David Connolly, Chisel by Quality Gold, IB Goodman, Lieberfarb, Armadani, Efron, Revv, Frederic Duclos, and more. And our Promesa Alloy & CZ collection gives jewelers a way to reduce inventory costs while displaying an impressive case full of beautiful styles and designs in-store. When implemented properly and used to their full potential, WRCobbOnline tools can help any store become the place for bridal in their area.
Interested retailers can log on to wrcobbonline.com for more information.
Author of A Girl’s Guide to Buying Diamonds, Randi Molofsky has covered the fine jewelry and gemstone industries for 12 years. A noted contributor to fashion and business publications ranging from W to New York, and the former fashion editor at National Jeweler, she also serves as a strategic consultant for industry organizations and high-profile designers. Randi muses on personal style and design at pimpsqueak.com.