How Retail Jewelers Can Capitalize on Smartphone Selling

With the ubiquity of mobile phones—and their inevitable distractions—­jewelers may be tempted to remove them from the sales floor altogether. But savvy retailers and designers know smartphones can work to their advantage when text messages, email, and picture-sharing are used to spark sales. Whether or not your store has a dedicated e-commerce website, real-time communication with existing customers on mobile devices can bring in business that otherwise would not exist.

At Christensen & Rafferty in San Mateo, Calif., contacting clients on their mobile phones is commonplace. “Connecting with our existing customers directly can start a conversation that might not have otherwise existed,” says owner Colleen Rafferty. “We take pride in knowing our clients well enough to be able to send them very targeted, very personal selections.”

She also sends customers photos directly from the trade show floor. “Even if we’re only able to see the piece for a fleeting second, it’s our responsibility to find our clients new things and to give them that access,” she says. One year, an email from a Baselworld booth ended with a $40,000 brooch sale.

According to New York City–based jeweler Donald Huber, his business at fine department stores has increased because of sales tactics employing mobile phones. “Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus encourage selling via smartphones, especially if the clients are busy and don’t have the time to come in and shop,” Huber says.

In December, Huber sold a $200,000 suite of jewelry to a customer who learned about him via mobile phone.

“I was at Neiman Marcus in Dallas, and one of the associates wanted to introduce my work to a client that lives in another state,” Huber says. “It can take a lot of follow-up and negotiating, but the sale was finalized that month. The same associate sold a $45,000 onyx and diamond bracelet of mine from an iPhone picture.”

Steven McClure of ­SMMcConsulting, which specializes in sales and merchandising training for retailers and designers, agrees that iPhones and iPads have changed the game for savvy stores. “Texts and emails at trunk shows have been super-successful for selling pieces to clients that associates know well,” he says. “But that’s the important factor: Sales associates need to have solid relationships with their clients, know what they like, not send too many pictures, and be respectful.”

If it’s a new customer, McClure ­suggests proceeding carefully. Otherwise, you risk losing respect and interest by flooding them with images.

Even an ultra-luxury watch brand like New York City–based Tiret sells its gemstone-encrusted watches via handheld instant message. “Because you can’t find Tiret in many stores, I get a lot of inquiries through the website,” says managing partner Sonya Goldberg. “I’ll answer clients from wherever I am in the world, and usually send them images with specific details about the watch via smartphone.” Tiret can take credit cards via email and will ship around the globe (adding local duties). That’s how Goldberg recently sold a $39,990 Moments timepiece.

But remember: Building a virtual relationship with a client takes time. “The tip is to be smart, strategic, and honest,” McClure says. “Know where you stand before you contact them.