A young man enters a jewelry store, his sweaty palms clutching his credit card in his pocket. He’s about to buy an engagement ring—and spend the largest amount of money he’s ever spent.
Yet if the retailer gives this man the care and attention he requires, he could be a customer for the next 50 years.
“The wedding is the start of a life together—a life marked with events,” says Steve Smith, partner at Dallas advertising agency Firehouse. “If that first sales experience creates a relationship, customers will come back time and time again.”
Here are six steps you can take to encourage newly engaged couples to return to your store for everything from wedding china to 50th-anniversary gifts.
1. Create a Relationship
Eloise palladium ring with 0.71 ct. black onyx center and diamond double halos and accents; $2,922; Gemvara
“It all comes down to trust,” says Rich Goldberg, president and owner of Safian & Rudolph Jewelers in Philadelphia. “The hardest thing is to get customers in your store the first time. That relationship is the best way to ensure repeat business.”
Get to know your clients and let them get to know you, he says. Let them know you understand the emotions, the finances, the minutia of wedding planning. “The more people feel you understand their situation, the more they’re happy.”
Connecting in this way with your customers makes you less of a commodity and more of a destination, says Jeff Weidauer, vice president of marketing and strategy for Little Rock, Ark.–based retail marketing company Vestcom. “It’s a connection that transcends the practical value,” he adds. “We think we make our choices on where to shop due to practical reasons, but we’re emotional creatures.”
Courtesy of Megan Reynolds
Tamika Russell and Staff Sgt. Ancil Christopher won $5,000 in wedding jewelry at Union Diamond in FOX 5’s “Operation Wedding.”
You can also connect with your customers by listening, says Goldberg. “Hear what they are asking for and show them what they want.” He lives by a piece of advice his father gave him: “Don’t be an order-taker,” because, he says, “customers can experience that anywhere.”
Union Diamond—a mostly online retailer based in Atlanta—keeps a written record of each customer. “They become more whole people and we try to keep as much information as possible,” explains creative director Megan Reynolds. “So if they call five years down the line for a baby gift, we have it all.”
The retailer also has one consultant work with prospective grooms or engaged couples—to provide continuity and to “create a much stronger bond of trust,” she says.
That bond is essential, says Goldberg. “Don’t be afraid to get personal. When you can, create conversation not related to jewelry.” Ask about their family, their vacation, he adds. “Eventually, you become more than just their jeweler—you become their friend.”
Creating these relationships goes back to a fundamental human need, says Steve Rigell, president of consulting firm Preemptis Inc. in Poulsbo, Wash. “Anyone in business needs to realize that’s where business comes from: from relationships.”
2. Educate Clients
Union Diamond’s 2 ct. champagne old European-cut diamond in rose gold with fancy orange brown side stones, $10,000
Many engagement ring shoppers actually have little or no experience in buying jewelry—so the more a retailer can educate them, the more connected they will feel to the store, and the more likely he or she is to return.
“You have to educate the customer in what to look for in diamond buying,” says Paul Khamou, sales manager at Lucido Fine Jewelry in Rochester, Mich. “You don’t want him to feel like you’re taking his hard-earned money and sending him out the door.” This, he says, leads to appreciation on the part of the customer and helps create an emotional connection with the store.
“I let customers find what’s important to them, which makes them appreciate us,” says Rick Antona, owner of Uptown Diamond in Houston. “I don’t just talk about the diamonds; I show them—show them what fluorescence is, show them the different clarity and color grades.”
3. Follow Up
4 ct. square radiant in diamond halo setting with split shank, $55,000
Employees selling engagement rings at Union Diamond always follow up with customers after a proposal, says Reynolds: “We hear the details and then toward the end of the conversation we open it up to questions like: Do you know which type of wedding bands you like? Have you thought about bridesmaid gifts and groomsman gifts?”
After their engagement ring purchase, Safian & Rudolph customers receive a thank-you card accompanied by the offer of a discount on their wedding band purchase. “They then feel comfortable coming back in at any time,” Goldberg says.
4. Bring Customers Back
Lucido Fine Jewelry offers free polishing and cleaning on engagement rings, which “helps promote the relationship,” Khamou says.
“While the ring is being cleaned, they are walking around the store and a lot of them create a wish list in that time,” he says. Around 80 percent of customers fill out wish lists, he adds—which means their husbands are more likely to return, since shopping will be so easy.
“The best time to suggest a wish list is when a couple comes in to pick out their wedding bands,” says Goldberg. “This is often the first time they shop for jewelry together and it may be a while before this opportunity comes around again. The timing is also important, as many men like to give an additional gift on the day of their wedding.”
5. Stay on Their Radar
Coupled up: A holiday party at Safian & Rudolph included not only owner Rich Goldberg (third from l.) and his new wife, Irena (second from l.), but also engaged clients Bethany Swanson and Mark Saxon.
Once you’ve sold an engagement ring, you need to stay top-of-mind with customers. While direct mail and email marketing are easy ways, social media is becoming the go-to source for gently reminding customers that you are there for them.
Online jeweler Gemvara, for example, relies on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter to keep connected with customers. The most vital thing, says director of jewelry curation Callie Smith, is “we’re never salesy on social media.”
Instead, Gemvara posts couples’ wedding stories and pics, quotes about love, contests to win gift certificates, Gemvara-related magazine and newspaper stories, and product info.
At Uptown Diamond, it’s about parties. Three times a year Antona hosts a celebration for 20 or 30 guests; every December he holds an event for 400 in his building lobby. Most surprising about these events? There’s not a display case in sight.
“I don’t make [the parties] about selling anything,” he explains. “Customers will remember the experiences they had and will come back to purchase from me.”
6. Have Fun
Fun is a major mantra at Uptown Diamond and that’s why customers return, says Antona. But how much customers enjoy shopping with you is often in your employees’ hands.
So hire positive people who are likely to infect their colleagues with their enthusiasm and make your store a pleasurable place to shop, says Lior Arussy, CEO of Strativity Group, a Hackensack, N.J., customer experience research firm.
Since they tend to be outgoing and easy to talk to, these are also the types of employees who will connect with customers, he says. But perhaps most important, be a role model, Arussy adds. Let employees see you do something as simple as having an enjoyable conversation with a customer.
A customer’s proposal doesn’t have to lead just to an engagement with the one he loves—it can bring a lifetime engagement with his jewelry store as well.