35 Tips & Takeaways From the JCK Las Vegas Speeches and Seminars



Missed an educational event (or two or three) at the JCK Las Vegas show? No need to worry—we took notes for you. From Web marketing to mystery shopping to industry issues to bridal sales, we rounded up the best retail and expert advice from seven of our favorite sessions. If only we’d had more time to get to them all! Ah, well…maybe next year.

The Topic

Roadmap to a Successful Online Marketing and Web Presence
Alex Fetanat, president-CEO of ­GemFind, with chief technology officer Tyler Mathews

The Takeaway

  • Don’t treat your website like an extension of your business card. “Your home page should get ­visitors excited,” said Fetanat.
  • Invest in a “responsive website”—one that adapts to the size of whatever device the consumer is using. “Consumers are savvier than they were 10 to 15 years ago and you’re losing market share to your competitors who are online,” said Fetanat. “If you’re investing your money in the Yellow Pages, stop—no one is looking at them.”
  • Devote 7 to 10 percent of revenue to marketing, 25 percent of which should go to online marketing the first year. Fetanat predicted ­jewelers would end up ­spending 70 percent of that budget on online marketing the next year.
  • Refresh your content. “Quality and frequency of your content matters to search engines,” Mathews said. “[It] should answer the question: ‘What do you want your customers to do?’?”
  • Identify 15 keywords that define your business; use them all over your site. “It’s all about ad targeting,” said Mathews. “Facebook is a cheaper ad spend right now and has more targeting than Google.”

The Topic

Understanding the Next Wave of Jewelry Consumers: Social, Engaged, Informed
Ben Smithee, CEO, Spych Market Analytics

The Takeaway

  • We are in a two-screen world; 77 percent of viewers use other devices while watching TV. “People are watching the Oscars and have their laptop out,” said Smithee. He thinks movie theaters will soon encourage patrons to turn cellphones on rather than off.
  • On Facebook: “Likes are cool, comments are better.… Shares are how you make your money.”
  • Retailers’ jobs are changing: “The power of listening on social media way outweighs the power of talking,” he said. “You can get information for your business based on what people are talking about.”
  • Facebook Insights are a “gold mine”: “You can optimize your digital marketing strategy just by looking at those Insights,” he said. What earns likes and responses? (You may need to hire “some data-crunching numbers junkie from college” to figure it out.)
  • Millennial consumers are most interested in the experience they had with a brand, said Smithee: “It doesn’t matter what it looks like. What does it feel like?… People who win in the jewelry market are the people that make me feel good about my purchase.”
  • Younger consumers are brand-loyal. “How many Apple fanboys are there out there?” he asked.
  • Appealing to up-and-coming shoppers “is not about being interesting,” Smithee said. “It’s all about being interested. All you have to do is care.”

The Topic

Shop and Share: Results of Mystery Shopping
Nick Failla, founder of Collected Concepts

The Takeaway

  • Ask for the sale. Failla shared the results of 18 mystery-shopping trips to independent jewelers and said the biggest downfall was that salespeople neglected to simply ask for the sale. “Of the 18 stores we visited, zero sales were captured,” he said, “even when we were obviously ready to buy.”
  • Keep product info accessible. Burying customers in product knowledge—to the point of consumers tuning them out—­happened in several stores, recalled Failla. A GIA-­certified associate “was just vomiting up information,” he said. “The 4 Cs, the whole bit.… She didn’t even notice when we started looking away from her, all over the room.”
  • Maintain a squeaky clean—but fragrant—atmosphere. The acid odor of Mr. Clean ruined many retail romances. “I mean, how long do you want to stay in a store and have your sinuses burned up?” asked Failla. And some displays were so thick with dust “you could write your name in them.”
  • Introduce yourself. “Of the 18 stores, not one got our names,” reported Failla. “We’re worried about the Internet? Are you serious? How are you going to sell an important piece of jewelry without knowing my name?”

“Why do inflated grading reports exist? Because people use them. It’s a problem.”
—Richard Drucker, The Guide

The Topic

Industry Issues and Trends
Richard Drucker, publisher, The Guide

The Takeaway

  • Drucker is hearing “mixed and volatile” reports from the trade. “You have some people that say they are doing great, but not everybody.” 
  • Rubies and sapphires have ­experienced increased prices, so now it’s tougher for retailers to stock them. By contrast, pearls and fancy colored ­diamonds have become more popular, with fancy colored stones in particular seeing record prices at auction.
  • One ongoing issue: inflated lab reports. “Why do inflated grading reports exist?” he added. “They exist because people use them. If you do sell those reports, the customer needs to understand, that lab doesn’t give the same grades as GIA’s. When people come in for appraisals, we usually explain that their ­diamond probably doesn’t have the same grade that is on the report. It’s a problem.”

There’s a story behind this gold and diamond cuff! (Mercury Ring for Rio Tinto’s Diamonds With a Story; mercuryring.com)

The Topic

Organizing and Displaying Your Inventory in Stories to Help It Sell
Larry Johnson, senior vice president, Pacific Northern

The TakeAway

  • Use a vendor display if it’s a product people request by name. “You will have a better chance of closing that sale,” said Johnson.
  • Limit the choices for millennials. Faced with myriad options, they fear making a poor or inaccurate decision, prompting them “to not make a decision at all,” he said. (“Read The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less,” he suggested.)
  • Knowledge is power—and sale bait. Consumers today know where many of their buys come from. An item as common as a banana can be traced to its source. “If I can see where a banana was grown, what can you do for a ­diamond ring?” Johnson asked.
  • Buyers want to know where their jewels are sourced. Get your facts straight; prep ­staffers by placing cheat sheets near displays—index cards containing ­selling benefits, origin info, and treatments.

“Jewelry can be found ­anywhere from J. Crew to Banana ­Republic. It’s about ­providing variety and options.”
—Jennifer Gandia,
Greenwich Jewelers

The Topic

Retail Roundup: Top Issues ­Retailers Face Today
Sean Moore, director of sales, Borsheims Fine Jewelry & Gifts; Jennifer Gandia, co-owner, Greenwich Jewelers; Veronica Mazzarese, co-owner, Mazzarese Jewelers; moderator Victoria Gomelsky, editor-in-chief of JCK magazine

The Takeaway

  • Get client contact info when you can. “I think we used to be afraid to [ask for emails]…like we were being annoying,” said ­Mazzarese. “But what I found was how ­thankful our customers are when we email them. It’s a service, not an intrusion. They’re more than ­willing to give me their cell ­numbers or emails.”
  • Invest time and resources in your employees. Both Gandia ­and Mazzarese attributed increased revenue sales training. “I’ve sent sales people elsewhere to get trained,” said Mazzarese, “and we’ve brought people into the store to train on certain brands.”
  • Consider carrying fashion jewelry or more silver. “We can’t deny that jewelry can be found almost anywhere from J. Crew to Banana Republic,” said Gandia. “We have clients that will wear an Alexis Bittar necklace with a Todd Reed bracelet.… It’s about ­providing variety and options.” Moore recently brought Pandora to his store, which, he said, “allows customers to start their shopping careers with us.”
  • Incorporate storytelling into your sales banter. “We have mostly small brands in our store,” said Gandia, “and storytelling is incredibly important to our business. We train our sales team to know everything there is to know about brands. And if a customer’s into it, we can talk for hours. It turns clients into collectors.”
  • Don’t underestimate the power of print. “Marrying the old school with technology is really what makes a difference,” said Gandia. “We pay a lot of attention to our marketing—we started doing some print this year for bridal, where we had started as digital [only].”

Why not wear this $395 Lucite bracelet (Alexis Bittar; alexisbittar.com) alongside a $39,500 diamond cuff?

“If your website doesn’t look great on a mobile phone, [a bride] might not find you.”
—Laura Cave, The Knot

The Topic

Bridal Intelligence
Laura Cave, director of partner ­promotions for The Knot

The Takeaway

  • Brides do their homework. The ring-buying process starts with research and brides dive right in: About two-thirds surveyed said they were involved with the purchase of their engagement rings. About half of brides do ring research online because it’s a private experience; about 40 percent of women join TheKnot.com community before they get engaged.
  • Today’s brides are mobile. Some 85 percent own a smartphone; 29 percent own an iPad. Plus, 95 percent check ­Facebook two to three times daily, and another 75 percent use ­Pinterest. This all underscores the importance of having an easy-to-­navigate, mobile-friendly website. “If your website doesn’t look great on a mobile phone, she might not find you,” said Cave.
  • Grooms care more about the quality of the center stone. The top concern of brides was style and setting, which ranked second in importance to the guys. And while she has more say in the shape of the stone, he influences its size.
  • Overall, guys look at an average of 24 styles before they select one.
  • Forty percent of men buy the ring from a local independent jeweler; 34 percent buy from a chain store; and 9 percent from an online outlet—despite the long-expressed fears of brick-and-mortar stores that sales would go online only.
  • Shoppers at traditional jewelry stores tend to spend more. “That’s the difference between chain stores and independents—people spend less at the chains,” said Cave, adding that the average cost of an engagement ring is $5,400.
  • Couples who shop together spend upwards of four and a half months looking for the ring. Gents shopping without their better halves hunt for less than three months.
  • Just half of brides hear from retailers after the ring purchase. That’s a big ­disconnect between engagement and ­wedding ring buying. Plus, about half of couples buy center stones separately from mountings. “This business is about relationships with customers, not just with the ­jewelry,” said Cave. “Shoppers will find something great to buy from you, but you need to stay in touch with them.”

Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images
How does your website look on an iPad (or a smartphone)? That’s probably how most brides-to-be are viewing it.