It’s Business, But It’s Personal

It’s Business, But It’s Personal

Retail / Your Store

Retaining customers—and reeling in new ones—is an art. These jewelry retailers share their secrets, involving everything from midnight deliveries to birthday treats.

Clienteling is an old-school retail term that’s still relevant to the business of selling jewelry—but it’s rooted in the way business was done decades ago.

“It’s a strategy focused on building long-term, personalized customer relationships,” says Sherry Smith, director of business development at Edge Retail Academy, a consulting firm focused on jewelry retailers. “The goal is not just establishing the relationship but encouraging repeat business.”

For one retailer, the extreme version of clienteling might mean investing in all the latest tech to land as many “whales,” or high-value clients, as possible. For another, it could be as simple as offering superior levels of personalized service so the customer can’t imagine shopping anywhere else—including online.

While marketing campaigns (i.e., radio, billboard, paid media, even signage) bring customers into your store, the real payoff comes when reaching back out to them. When you do, you stand to gain—a lot: “You’re 70 to 90% more likely to close them, and on average they spend about 33% more,” Smith says.

The most efficient way to do this is to utilize data and insights captured at the point of sale. Software tools and systems (like Podium or Lightspeed) allow retailers to analyze buying patterns and communicate with customers accordingly. For example, a store might use data to develop a personalized text messaging campaign that notifies shoppers who have purchased the brand Lagos in the past six months that its newest collection has just arrived in store.

thank you note
(Photo: Getty Images)

More common is an approach to clienteling that combines the expediency and precision targeting of high-tech tools with the intimacy of handwritten notes, birthday flowers, or personal invitations to trunk shows. Sometimes the two work in tandem: When the data reveals, for example, that a high-spending client is celebrating a 50th birthday, an employee can place that flower order and then get back on the sales floor.

It’s probably wise to take a test-and-learn approach to see which clienteling tactics work best. For ideas, consider how some leading retailers are embracing the possibilities.

Above and Beyond

Most of the retailers JCK spoke with for this article favor clienteling tactics that are indistinguishable from providing exceptional service. They understand that a certain kind of customer will keep shopping with a jeweler that consistently goes the extra mile for them.

For family-owned Croghan’s Jewel Box in Charleston, S.C., this approach to customer relationships has been the norm for decades. “I think our mother paved the way for extraordinary service,” says third-generation co-owner Rhett Outten. “Our grandfather was a bench jeweler, and there are many stories of him delivering just-completed Christmas presents after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.”

The tradition continues to this day. “We have been known to deliver packages all over the city to help our customers get what they need on time,” Outten says. “Think last-minute push presents to hospitals, forgotten birthday presents to restaurants, and deliveries to offices where work has lasted longer than expected.”

And sometimes going the extra mile has nothing to do with jewelry. “Since we live in a city that is frequented by visitors, we very often play the part of concierge, helping to secure tours or offer names of popular sites,” Outten says. If it should start to rain—a not uncommon occurrence in Charleston, especially during summer—the store has umbrellas on hand and will even provide transportation back to a client’s hotel.

Rahaminov three stone ring and drop earrings
Ring with 1.01 ct. fancy light pink Movál diamond, white movál-cut diamonds, white diamond melee, and fancy pink diamond melee in platinum and 18k rose gold, $165,000; earrings with 6.42 cts. t.w. mixed-shape diamonds in 18k white gold, $72,000; Rahaminov Diamonds
red licorice
(Photo: Getty Images)

Attention, Please

For designer Constance Polamalu, owner of Bloomstone Jewelers and chief operating officer of Zachary’s Jewelers, both in Annapolis, Md., all clienteling “starts with great listening and looking for ways to demonstrate that you listen and care.”

root beer float
(Photo: Getty Images)

At a minimum, this “listening” should involve recording customers’ jewelry preferences so you know what’s in their jewelry boxes and can make thoughtful suggestions. “We note everything from favorite colors and hobbies to favorite mixed drinks or wines,” Polamalu says. “But the key to extreme clienteling is trusting and empowering your team to find the special moments or opportunities.”

For some sales associates, this might mean following clients on social media and connecting with them through a shared interest, sense of humor, maybe even political beliefs. Others establish a relationship with handwritten notes and cards, phone calls, and text messages. (Remember our earlier discussion about customer relationship management for ways to automate, streamline, and expedite these communications.)

In Greenwich, Conn., Steven Fox, the founder of Steven Fox Jewelry, who specializes in vintage and estate pieces, makes sure he has special clients’ favorite treats waiting for them whenever they come in to shop. For one, it’s red licorice; for another, it’s a root beer float. “We listen to our clients, we’re appreciative of them, and there’s nothing we won’t do,” he says.


Ice bucket champagne glasses
(Photo: Getty Images)

After-Hours Access

The 24/7 convenience of online shopping is attractive to most consumers. You can offer this same convenience with off-hours shopping options for VIP clients with tricky schedules. (Hopefully, they won’t take advantage of your flexibility, but people who are strapped for time tend to be decisive when making purchases—especially when you have taken the time to personally curate a selection for them.)

Outten recalls helping a Croghan’s customer “way after business hours”: The man wanted to propose at the store and let his fiancée pick out a ring on the spot. Staff dressed the window with beautiful diamond rings specifically for this moment and then hid in the store while he got down on one knee and popped the question. Right after she said “yes,” Outten says, the staff “flipped on the lights, opened the store, popped a bottle of Champagne, and helped the couple choose the perfect engagement ring.”

Jade Trau pear shape drop earrings
Scarlett Pear Hooks with 3.17 cts. t.w. round and pear-shape diamonds in 18k yellow gold and platinum, $31,400; Jade Trau
artisanal chocolates
(Photo: Getty Images)

Grand Gestures

To ensure repeat visits and positive word-of-mouth publicity, many retailers strive to create an exceptional experience for each and every client who shops with them. You can make “regular” clients feel like VIPs by offering wine, Champagne, or other beverage options upon arrival. Setting out local chocolate or even homemade cookies also tells clients you value their business and embrace the opportunity to serve them.

purple balloons and cupcakes
(Photo: Getty Images)

More extreme measures involve a little more creativity but create lasting memories that ultimately cement unwavering customer loyalty.

“When someone makes an appointment for an engagement ring or any shopping experience with us, we have a printed sign with their name and a bottle of Champagne chilling just for them,” says Chae Carter, owner and president of Carter’s Collective in Petal, Miss. For a client who made an appointment to start a charm bracelet for her daughter’s birthday, an associate at Croghan’s found out the girl’s favorite color and arranged to have purple cupcakes and balloons waiting for her.

As for your top clients, the sky’s the limit: Von Bargen’s, which has locations in New Hampshire and Vermont, takes clients on trips to visit artist/designer studios in New York, California, Colorado, even Germany, according to designer and store manager Ali Dumont. “The last one was a trip to California to visit Rahaminov Diamonds, but we take several trips a year with clients who are as passionate about jewelry as we are,” she says. “The next one will be to New York City to visit Alex Sepkus and Jade Trau.”

Gifts of Gratitude

By definition, gifts are tokens of appreciation as well as tangible reminders of how someone feels about you. Not surprisingly, many retailers integrate this idea into their clienteling strategies. In fact, at Von Bargen’s, “each team member is given a yearly budget to spend on gifts for clients,” Dumont says. “We send holiday gifts, flowers and cards on birthdays, anniversary cards, and gift certificates to local restaurants.”

bourbon flight
(Photo: Getty Images)

One Christmas, Carter’s Collective gifted clients specialty bottles of bourbon. “It’s important to show clients who choose to shop with you frequently or buy higher-priced pieces that you appreciate them,” Carter says. She focused on a dozen or so male clients she knew were interested in bourbon and invited them to the store for a tasting event with a local purveyor. At the end, each received a bottle to take home.

Carter’s has also gifted customers’ college-age daughters who got into their sororities of choice at Mississippi State University with congratulatory custom-engraved charms. Branded onesies and other baby gifts have likewise proved a popular way to show customers that jewelers celebrate—and are invested in—their family’s happiness.

As Carter says, “I can’t tell you how much going the extra mile means to people.”

(Flowers: Getty Images)

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