January 17, 2001
Selling Diamonds Online
Lessons learned from a December report in The Wall Street Journal
In December, The Wall Street Journal published an article online comparing five online diamond retailers: Fortunoff, Ashford, Diamond.com, Blue Nile and Mondera. The writer spent time at all five sites and ordered from each a ring with a plain setting and the best one carat stone within the range of $5,000-$6,000. Once the rings arrived, they were appraised by a jeweler in Manhattan, and the results were shocking.
Besides problems with the various web sites, all but one of the rings were questionable as to their quality. One ring had a large flaw on top that put its GIA grading into question. Another ring was so dirty it had to be scrubbed, and then it turned out to be wrongly priced and worth $2,500 less than was charged. Another had a small table size, and the site didn't explain how that feature can affect a diamond's sparkle. The jeweler would not comment on the Blue Nile diamond because it had an International Gemological Institute certificate, and he only valued Gemological Institute of America certificated-diamonds. The Diamond.com ring was only one the jeweler approved of, and he even estimated its value at $400 more than the writer paid.
Based on the problems the writer experienced with the diamonds and the web sites, here are some lessons learned:
The lessons from this article are important to keep in mind. If not just because they will make your Web store more customer friendly, also because readers of The Journal tend to have more disposable income to spend on items like diamonds. Now they have been warned about possible problems with purchasing diamonds online, so you will need to take extra care to make sure those readers will feel comfortable shopping at your site.
- Make sure your site is organized well enough so customers don't have to spend a lot of time sorting through your products. If they come in with some idea of what they want, they should be able to find it quickly.
- If you don't allow customers to purchase diamonds online, make sure it's clearly marked that they must phone in orders.
- Be good about returns. If the customer isn't happy with the ring (ex. it has a large flaw, is really dirty or she said no), let your client return it, and do your best to make it up to him or her if it was your fault.
- Be able to defend your choice of lab. Customers won't be happy if their local jewelers tell them that only GIA certificates are reliable and the diamonds they bought from you have different certificates.
- Be clear on quality factors. The writer of The Journal's article said the small table size of one diamond was noted on the Web site, but if she had known what that meant, she would have bought a different diamond.
- Be competitive and fair with prices.
- Be careful with return policies. One site had a 10-day return policy, while all the others had a 30-day policy, and the company refused to take the diamond back at first because it had been more than 10 days.
- Some tech-challenged customers don't know what an advanced search is. If you have that searching technology, make it clear how it will help improve their online experience.
- Be careful with the number of promotional e-mails you send after a sale. If a customer buys a diamond from you, you may upset him or her by sending multiple promotional e-mails later.
- by Julia M. Duncan