April 10, 2000
Emotion is the only thing that can't be automated or discounted. Look for retailers to use increasingly
sophisticated tactics to pluck their customers' heartstrings as a means to
reach their wallets, say marketing experts.
One example is Borsheim's, the Omaha, NE, jewelry retailer that regularly posts on its Web site a romantic story revolving around the giving of jewelry. Billed on the homepage as "a real-life story that will warm your heart," the Romantic Reflections stories change weekly.
This past week's story featured a long-married couple on their once-a-year visit to Scottsdale, AZ, where the woman made her annual plea to ride in a horse-drawn carriage. Her husband is allergic to horses. To her surprise, he agreed.
"I sat curled in the comfort of David's arm as we rode through the beautiful
streets, content just to be close and warm with my husband," the wife later
wrote. "David bent down and kissed my forehead, and when I looked up at him I saw that he was holding his hand toward me with something draped across it. It was dark in the carriage so I bent close to look. In his hand was a heart-shaped diamond pendant that I had admired earlier in
the evening while we were window shopping. I didn't even know he'd gone back to the store!"
Simultaneously, Borsheim's pushes price. The home page features links to the store's jewelry, giftware and corporate gifts inventory where each item is displayed with two prices: the prevailing retail price and Borsheim's price, the latter of which is generally 25% to one-third less.
For instance, the site offers a sapphire and diamond band at $525. Borsheim's
claimed it would cost $995 elsewhere. A detailed message from Warren Buffett, chairman of parent company Berkshire Hathaway, explains the difference. He says Borsheim's single location and high volume allow it to operate with only 18.5% overhead, compared to 40% or more at a "typical" jeweler, resulting in lower prices.
In addition to contact information and service policies, the site offers
other less common but useful features. One is an opportunity to create a
personal "wish list" and view such lists created by others provided, of course, they share their passwords.
Borsheim's also offers a search function that allows customers to search by
product type (jewelry or giftware), occasion and price. For example, a
visitor who requested a Mother's Day giftware item costing $200-$300 received six recommendations. These ranged from a Lladro "Friends Forever" sculpture ($210) to a Sabrina "Riccardo" blue and yellow vase ($292).
- by Mark E. Dixon