Smartphones and Retail Jewelers

I didn’t think too much of it when Blue Nile released its iPhone app way back in April. But it’s become a big deal—at least in the world of Blue Nile…

…more than 25% of the traffic to the company’s Web site now comes through smart phones. The company says mobile
shoppers are spending 10% more on average this holiday than desktop PC Web-based shoppers.

Smartphones give users a computer that they can have with them everywhere. And there is a lot of talk about what that might mean for retailers:

– Smartphones may replace “loyalty cards.” No longer would you have to carry your “club” card in your wallet. Everything will be handled via the phone.

– Smartphones can help with marketing. Working together with location-based
applications like Foursquare, retailers can make special offers to customers who happen to be nearby.

So, for instance, if someone is on Foursquare, he may announce to the world
that he is at the local Best Buy.  (Why the world would want to know this is a question best left for the users of Foursquare.) The jewelry store nearby can send
that person a note, saying that if he stops in, he will get a free bottle of
jewelry cleaner.

– Perhaps more importantly, smartphones might make comparison shopping easier—and not just for Internet companies. EBay just acquired Milo, a local shopping search engine that compares prices among various local retailers. So if you are in New York, and are looking for a diamond ring, it shows you these options.

Those results aren’t too impressive, because it’s still early days for Milo. But in the future, it is not too hard to imagine a day when a consumer looks for a “one-carat G VS1” in their hometown. They plug that information into a Milo app. It instantly spits out what that diamond is selling for at local stores.

No longer would consumers have to visit 10 different stores to compare diamond prices. That information could all be in their hands. It’s another example of the Internet making info more accessible.

Now, I realize that many retailers, already besieged with comparison shoppers, are probably horrified at this prospect. But some smart jewelers are already taking advantage of smartphone-mania.

For instance, David Nygaard Jewelers just released a clever ad built around its mobile app. And Tiffany is among the few big-name jewelers that has its own iPhone app.

One final note: Before you dismiss all this, a recent survey found that customers prefer—by a 73% to 13% margin—to find out sales information from their phone, as opposed to a sales associate. I’ll let you all decide if that’s a sad commentary on the upcoming generation or the quality of some salespeople.

JCK News Director