When Brian Watkins, president of Ritani, signed on with the Seattle-based fine jewelry brand in 2012, he was tasked with evolving the company into a true clicks-and-bricks business.
The former Blue Nile executive oversaw the creation of Ritani.com, which now accounts for roughly half of the company’s revenue and is currently focused on a retailer program that loops technology into the in-store sales pitch.
The brand’s fancy new sales tool, which debuted at JCK’s LUXURY show in Las Vegas yesterday, will—if received well—see Ritani’s roughly 150 retailers using radio frequency identification (RFID) to augment the sales experience.
A screenshot from Ritani’s new in-store app that works with RFID technology
Here’s how it works: A flat RFID strip scanner lays behind a case filled with RFID-tagged Ritani merch. When a salesperson takes the product out of the case, it passes over the scanner—triggering a beacon to a nearby iPad (in the demo, the iPad was mounted on the case). Almost instantly, the iPad displays images of the ring(s) the salesperson is passing to the consumer—through a proprietray app.
The items queue up on the side of the screen, allowing staffers or shoppers to click on each to unfurl multiple pages of information about each style, along with numerous options for altering each ring—including choice of metal and gemstone shape and size.
With a single tap, undecided shoppers can email friends or family a full-color image of a ring, embedded into a message that is cobranded with Ritani and the independent store and includes the salesperson’s name and photo, a map to the shop, and store hours.
The app also leads to education pages detailing the 4Cs and inviting, photo-heavy stories on how Ritani designs and fabricates its collections, which speaks to the millennial generation’s love of all things artisanal.
A home screenshot from Ritani’s new RFID tool/app
For retailers, the app offers back-end analytics that track the success rates of salespeople. For the company, the hard data offers an opportunity to support stores or salespeople who routinely fail to close sales and provide incentives for super sellers. All that info going into the app, via RFID, also presumably grows a database of brand-specific sales activity for each of Ritani’s retailers—a nice thing to have as an omni-channel manufacturer.
The company is still configuring the costs of the RFID rig for retailers, but Watkins says he hopes to roll it out this coming winter in it stores. “We wanted to debut it [at LUXURY] to test it out with our partners,” he says, “and really see what the response will be.”
He adds that while Blue Nile and other e-commerce brands are looking at brick-and-mortar, “We want to work with the independent jeweler—that’s where our focus is.” Also, “it’s expensive to open 400 stores.”