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
- 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.