By  , Thursday, September 14, 2006

 

GIA Symposium 2006

On Tuesday morning of the Symposium Nacy Brewer, president of Nancy B & Co moderated a symposium panel consisting of Catherine Coquillard from QVC, Grag Fant from eBay, Beryl Raff of JC Penney and Ofer Azrielant of Jewelry.com. Discussion centered around new philosophies and observations now that manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and e-tailers are all able to reach customers via the internet.

Catherine Coquillard told the audience that QVC, which reaches approximately 140 million homes worldwide, is not a foe to retailers. She offered that for every 5000 orders placed there are 1.5 million people watching during that portion of an hour who do not order anything. She says those people are window shopping, and have the potential to be driven to stores for similar products. Ms. Coquillard observed that QVC is combining sales and pop culture because pop culture and celebrities dictate fashion.

Beryl Raff encouraged people not to view the internet as new medium, but rather as a retail innovation which has increased shopping transparency for all consumers. She warned retailers that the internet is here to stay, predicting 71% of all households online by 2010. Raff further advised that 80% of consumers under the age of 35 are already online today. With only 3.5% of market share, the jewelry market is one of the late online bloomers with a very high future ceiling (estimates at the Symposium varied from 3.5 - 5.5%).

Raff cited the '3 Rs' of online consumer use as "Research, research and research." She said the normal consumer journey entails pre-shopping, narrowing product options, selecting stores to visit, comparing prices and then, possibly, making the purchase online - though that result is not always the intent. She showed a video presentation featuring a couple who used 'The Knot' as a jumping-off place for research. From there they discovered Blue Nile, weddingring.com, the Diamond Exchange and Dallas Gold & Silver online. The couple said "We learned the color cut clarity thing, got an idea of price range and found what we were looking for." Raff says, 27% of all retail sales are currently influenced by websites and 55% of consumers have cross-channel shopped.

In developing a website Raff encouraged retailers to advertise their level of expertise and authority (this was reinforced by many of the presenters). She closed her presentation, saying "The bottom line is that if you are a retail jeweler, a jewelry supplier or a jewelry manufacturer you need an online presence. If you can’t beat ‘em maybe you can join ‘em."

Ofer Azrielant of Jewelry.com came to America in 1981. He said he got the ‘lay of the land’ and saw that independents made up the largest share of market. He watched in the mid 1980s as CVN, QVC and HSN started up. In the 1990s a number of online stores started up and in 2000 he launched the company. Azrielant believes the internet is more about "facilitating commerce than transacting commerce." His figures were similar to Raff's; jewelry sales are up to 3.5% in 2005 (figures vary), grown from 1.4% in 2000. For every $1 spent online he said another $6 are spent offline that are influenced by the internet and anticipates that by 2010 almost half of all retail sales will be influenced one way or the other by the internet.

He attributed Jewlery.com's success to education, knowing celebrity fashion trends, and his partnership with national mall retailers (JCP, Zales, Sears, etc.). For instance, at Jewelry.com if you ID a piece you can either go to the Zales store and buy it or just buy it from the sales page. He highlighted the effectiveness of 'Idea Branding,' which makes use of timely slogans. For instance, 'May is Gold Month,' or 'October is RHR Month.' Using the RHR campaign as an example he said that Idea Branding via celebrity endorsements and in-store advertising with partner stores increased sales among participating retailers from 16-53% and consumer awareness grew from 40-70%. With regard to competition, Azrielant said that it should not be a battle between online and offline. He said the collective goal should be to harness the magic of the internet to increase jewelry market share within the luxury world.

Azrielant was asked several questions at the end of the session. Among them; 'how does Jewelry.com make money if selling others' jewelry?' He said his company benefits from peripheral sales. Another question concerned Google rankings, where Jewelry.com used to be in first or second place but has now vanished. Azrielant said he was not aware of that statistic and said most of his current traffic does not come from google, but through other retailers.

Greg Fant discussed eBay's progression. Beginning in the US in 1995, the company offered simple items at first and expanded categories and coverage of the years, acquiring PayPal and Skype as sister companies. Now eBay is in 24 countries and over 1.5 million sellers worldwide use the platform as their primary or secondary source of income. Fant said eBay is the #1 jewelry site in terms of unique visitors and page views. 2 watches sell each minute and a diamond ring sells every 2 minutes.

The majority of questions at the session's end were addressed to Fant and concerned misrepresentation of products, fraud and usage issues with eBay. Noted appraiser Richard Drucker stated that his company appraises many online-purchased items with great success but has constant problems with misrepresented eBay-purchased jewelry. Other attendees added concerns about such misrepresentation and expressed frustration as entrepreneurs on the site trying to find a live person at eBay to assist them. There was an additional question about eBay drop-off stores. Fant said these drop-off stores are not eBay sanctioned; people have just started 'doing it.' Regarding misrepresentation, he said the answer is active policing. To that end, eBay is planning to increase the investment in such policing, will be putting more resources into it and focusing on specific categories like jewelry. He admitted it is an area eBay needs to learn more about.

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