Talking trends with the innovative e-comm company
When Elisha and Andreas Argentinis moved to Savannah, Ga., just more than a decade ago for opportunities in their respective professions—Elisha was in pharmaceutical research and Andreas worked in business systems analysis and online marketing—they didn’t think they’d be in town for long.
“We had an opportunity to move from Connecticut for a career change that I felt was a way to leapfrog to bigger and better things,” says Andreas. “And Elisha would be able to pause her career to raise our family.”
But the charming Southern city had grown on them both, and the couple instead decided to ditch their day jobs and build a business from Elisha’s “accelerated hobby”—making stamped metal jewelry.
Metal Pressions, a customizable jewelry e-commerce site owned and operated by the couple, grew organically from there. “For a few years, Elisha had been asking me to set up a website for her,” recalls Andreas. “We started looking at her small side business as a viable way to stay in Savannah.”
But the site and its offerings go way beyond cookie-cutter customizable stamped jewelry. The brand’s core offerings are robust, and its consumer-facing design software is so slick, Metal Pressions also lends it out to its retail partners.
We caught up with Andreas to chat about the duo’s vision, and where the consumer craze for customized jewelry is heading.
JCK: How did you conceptualize Metal Pressions initially?
Andreas Argentinis: One thing that was very clear [when he and Elisha founded the business] was that making great jewelry would not be enough to be successful. With the rise of marketplaces like Etsy, there is a sea of hand-stampers and artisan jewelers, and we needed to find a way to separate from the herd. While the Internet and online marketplaces have helped repopularize handcrafted items, the traditional shopping experiences were still totally dysfunctional when it came to shopping for custom jewelry. From customers’ detailed written explanations and the drawings they would sketch and text to us, two things were apparent: They wanted to participate in the design process and see that design before they bought.
At the time I thought the Internet had come far enough along that someone would have a tool to design custom jewelry online. When I looked I only found what I call custom modified jewelry shopping solutions. You can change the color of a stone but not the position. You can modify the text, but not move it where you want. It’s like taking a can of soup and adding hot sauce to it and calling it homemade…it’s not, that’s just home modified.
That was the moment that we started to come up with the idea that we could change the way people shop for custom personalized jewelry. We had a vision to create a free form design tool where customers can design their own jewelry online with a goal that we would not only make exceptionally well crafted jewelry, but also make the whole process from start to finish amazing. It was mid-2008 when the idea was born.
JCK: Tell me a little bit about the software you created that lets people customize their designs?
Argentinis: The software has no restrictions. You can drag and drop items from a catalog in any position on your screen. It’s intuitive, simple, and fun. Most items can be customized with text front and back and then embellished with stones, symbols, and other accents. You can do it online yourself, or you can call or chat and we can help you by sharing designs in real time on your screen. If you’re not ready to order, you can save or share the design with a few clicks. It’s a robust solution that’s only limited by your imagination.
JCK: What are the top selling designs/types of jewelry?
Argentinis: That’s a tough one. We have so many different types of customers and products we offer. One week it’s a rimmed silver and gold pendant and then next a cuff bracelet. Regardless of the product that the customization is on, the top designs our customers are coming up with are leaning toward ones that have unique detail and text. I can only speak for us, but at Metal Pressions people are gravitating away from the standard initial charms and name charms. They want designs that are not only unique but personally meaningful.
JCK: How do you share your customized software with other retailers?
Argentinis: Retailers get to use the software at no additional charge when they purchase from us, and we manufacture the jewelry. One of the things we have realized over the years is that Metal Pressions is bridging the gap between maker and customer. It’s really developed into a collaborative experience with our customers. It’s not just fine jewelry, and it’s not just a fancy website.
It’s surprisingly intimate [feeling] to work one-on-one with a customer in this way. I find it extremely powerful. When a customer participates in designing a custom piece of jewelry, it has intrinsically more value and meaning to it. On top of that, we get to develop a strong personal connection with our customers.
The software helps us build trust with our customers and that’s something you need when people share intimate details about life’s precious moments. We have items that range from under $100 to thousands. Think about it this way—we are a relatively small boutique brand, no major national recognition. But a customer will find us online and buy a solid gold bracelet costing thousands sight unseen; they purchase off of the illustration that the software creates.
That’s unprecedented and a testament to what the software can do. We are now branching out to retailers to bring them this same experience in their stores. We have a few on board now, and they are experiencing the same effects. They are selling high-end jewelry directly from the software and creating great relationships along the way! We see higher conversions and customer satisfaction.
JCK: What is it about millennials and customization—why do you think they love it so much?
Argentinis: Were millennials leading the charge with their love of customization because they were born in a digital age where they can customize their phones and online social pages? Did they seek out the same ability to customize all the other things they use and consume? It’s tough for me to pinpoint a good answer. They might be more adept at using the software on their own, but they currently don’t make up the majority of our customer base.
From our perspective we see a broader group of generations embracing the customization of their jewelry and other products rather than just a domination by the millennials. Main Street America has a lot of homogenized options that drove craftsman-made jewelry away from local shopping. I think the combined trend of customization in technology and the resurgence of the maker movement has help people from all generations fall in love with custom jewelry again, and now they are seeking it out. If I had to sum up our customer sentiment in few words it would be “Thank God I found you.”
(Photos courtesy of Metal Pressions)