The New Diamond Customers

June 1998


The New Diamond Customers

They may be savvy, but they're easy to sell if you understand the way they think

If Rip Van Winkle was a jeweler and awoke today from a 10-year nap, he'd probably furrow his brow at the puzzling '90s diamond customer. That's because the psychology and demographics of customers have evolved so much that even jewelers hard at work for the past decade are puzzled from time to time. At a recent training seminar for diamond manufacturer Di-Star in Boston, MA, Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts, a sales training firm in Olympia, WA, brainstormed with jewelers to present guidelines for understanding today's diamond consumer. Here's a synopsis:

  • They're more educated, or think they are. Customers spend hours doing their homework before they walk into a jewelry store, but it's often in the form of "asking around" – at department store counters (where the sales associates may have just moved from the underwear department), from friends (among whom information travels precariously like a child's game of Telephone) and from the Internet (where self-proclaimed experts post Web pages with half-truths or incomplete information). Customers also depend heavily on education provided by home shopping networks. "They can leave the room to get a snack, miss a portion of the broadcast, but still connect the pieces of what they heard and think they have the whole picture," says Peterson. To win over your "educated customers," she emphasizes the importance of engaging them in conversation, then subtly teaching them what they don't already know. Exclaim how nice it is to work with such knowledgeable customers, and never suggest they're not as smart as they think they are.
  • They're status-conscious. Just as they demand the new subdivisions of half-million-dollar homes that are spreading through U.S. suburbs, many consumers look for diamond rings that will make their friends insanely jealous. "Think about what her friends will say!" is a good way to sell up to a lone male customer who is eager to please.
  • They're willing to spend more. Consumers have higher levels of disposable income than ever, says Peterson. While they may not know it when they walk into your store, they're also increasingly aware of the need to pay a little extra for quality. "It costs too much" can have several meanings so listen closely; you may simply need to convince customers of value to get them to raise their price.
  • They're more demanding. Peterson calls this decade The Age of the Vigilante Consumer. "It used to be that if something wasn't right, customers would stuff it in a drawer and just not wear it," she says. "Now they're in your face demanding a refund. They know what they want and stop at nothing to get it." Liberal return policies, warranties, repairs and excellent customer service are crucial to winning over these strong-willed shoppers.
  • They place importance on the quality of the experience. Shoppers are spoiled, it's true. When they leave the house to shop, they often do so with expectations created by superstores: that they can buy their sneakers, gardening tools, breakfast cereal and hair spray under the same roof. More and more, however, they're becoming agitated with the lack of personal attention inherent in some of these environments. There's also a difference between how customers shop for necessities (like they do at Wal-Mart and Home Depot) and how they shop for luxury items - and that's where the jeweler finds a niche.
  • They shop according to perceived value. Think of the way infomercials on TV sell those handy-dandy kitchen appliances. They list all the things an item can do – it slices, it dices – then ask "How much do you think you should pay for such an amazing appliance: $99.99? $79.99?" Imagine viewers' surprise when the machine is only $19.99! "Value in the eyes of the customer is the difference between what they expect to pay and what they actually pay," says Peterson. Customers will pay for value they can see, feel and touch at the point of sale (the sparkle of a diamond, a well-made setting), and you must glorify such features before you ever mention price. When a shopper finally perceives the quality, beauty and service that comes with a product from your store, the price undoubtedly will seem fair.

by Stacey King

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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