Competing With the Internet

To compete with the Internet, retailers must continue to promote a sensory approach to certain jewelry and Swiss watches. Being able to touch and feel these products, plus the welcoming presence of a sales professional who can answer technical questions and provide additional services, are lost to those who buy online

Retailers face greater competition from Internet diamond vendors, because their diamond suppliers offer their listings to online vendors who can sell their “virtual” inventory of diamonds for a few percentage points above cost. In addition, for many young clients educated by what’s online, value is defined only by cut, color, clarity, carat weight, and shape. They don’t care where they buy a diamond ring, only that they’re offered better prices.

It’s essential for jewelers to offer private labels, higher quality, and one’s own patented cut diamond. Many clients will gladly pay the price to their local jeweler to get a quality diamond with authentic paperwork and sales professionals who can assure them about their purchase.

Even designer lines are offered for sale online or linked to major department stores on an exclusive basis, affecting independents who carry those same lines. But shoppers will come and spend big money for such luxury items if they feel their local jeweler won’t pressure them to buy and will continue offering them superior service. Also, branded products shouldn’t be offered online. Retailers shouldn’t have to compete with their vendors. Branded products can have Web sites—but only for information and store locations, and we should tell our vendors that.

With recent bad publicity about diamonds and the increase in metal prices, it’s becoming more difficult, even for Internet vendors, to show just the value of the investment. We must continue offering the best-quality product and, above all, highlight the best personal service. Since many clients prefer comparison shopping online, jewelers should have Web sites to show products. We also should look for ways to invite them to shop in our stores and explain to them how important it is to see and touch our products. We all must do a better job communicating the experience and emotion of buying and owning jewelry, and—if a gift—how a recipient feels opening that special box.

Our message must be, “Buying jewelry is all about trust. You can trust your local jeweler. You’re important to him or her as a friend and neighbor. Your jeweler remembers your anniversary and other special occasions, updates you on trends, explains differences in diamond quality, and lets you compare pieces and try on jewelry before buying.”

We must tell them, “If your jeweler cares enough to look carefully at every jewelry piece before buying or making it, you—the consumer—should care where and what you buy.”

The Internet doesn’t offer the interaction, confidence, and the guarantee one gets shopping at an established jeweler with professional salespeople. This is the message we must continue to convey and reinforce.