JamesAllen.com understands that shopping for an engagement ring can be intimidating.
That’s why it uses spinning images and virtual-try on features to make shopping more approachable. These highly-used features have helped more than 150,000 shoppers buy a ring within the retailer’s lifetime, JamesAllen.com says.
Signet Jewelers Ltd., No. 112 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000, owns JamesAllen.com, as well as Kay.com, Zales.com and Jared.com. Signet is the second-largest engagement ring seller among the 24 such retailers Internet Retailer tracks in the Top 1000 and Next 1000, growing its online sales 12.0% year over year in 2018. Internet Retailer tracks 42 total jewelry retailers (including the 24 engagement ring-specific retailers) and Signet Jewelers still comes in second when adding in the others. The 42 jewelry retailers generated more than $5 billion in online sales in 2018. This represented 15.4% of the total retail sales in the jewelry category, up from 14.6% ecommerce penetration in 2017.
Signet is still on an ecommerce growth curve, with U.S. ecommerce sales increasing 9.9% during its second fiscal quarter 2020 ended Aug. 3. JamesAllen.com, however, is not growing its ecommerce sales. JamesAllen.com’s U.S. revenue was down 1.5% for the second fiscal quarter 2020 ended Aug. 3, and down 2.4% in its first fiscal quarter 2020 ended May 4.
As an online-mostly retailer, JamesAllen.com prior to 2018 was not required to collect sales tax on most purchases because it didn’t have a physical presence in the state. The 2018 Supreme Court ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair changed all that, as the ruling allows states to collect sales tax from online retailers that don’t have a physical presence in the state. Not charging customers sales tax was a differentiating factor that JamesAllen.com no longer has. Sales tax is a significant factor for engagement rings, because sales tax is often proportional to an order’s value and higher-priced items like jewelry have higher sales tax totals. For example, for the 13 fine jewelry retailers within the Top 1000, the median average order value (AOV) is $274, compared with the Top 1000 median AOV of $150.
JamesAllen.com focuses on more diamonds, more site features
Instead, JamesAllen.com is using enhanced site features and a large selection of diamonds to lure shoppers. For example, in addition to its naturally-mined diamonds, it recently started selling lab-created diamonds.
“Lab-created diamonds allow you to maximize your budget, giving up to 30% more size for the same cost,” JamesAllen.com says.
A 2019 report released by the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA) found that lab-grown diamonds are typically 35% less at retail than their natural counterparts. Plus, 66% of those surveyed in September 2018 by MVI Marketing said they were interested in buying this type of diamond, with 23% certain they would make such a purchase. MVI surveyed 1,710 consumers.
In conjunction with the lower price, younger consumers are interested in lab-grown diamonds because they are environmentally sound—meaning they produce little waste and byproduct—and because these diamonds are conflict-free, according to the report. Conflict-free means the diamond was ethically mined and sold. With lab-grown diamonds there is no question of it being conflict-free, because the diamond was created in a lab.
“[Millennials] avoid goods coming from places with questionable human rights histories and they aren’t keen about the impact of mined diamonds,” according to the IGDA report.
James Allen also sells diamonds and gemstones to be customized into other jewelry pieces, such as bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Everything is sold through JamesAllen.com or at its Washington D.C. bricks-and-mortar location. It also has a showroom in New York City but it does not sell any products here; however, shoppers can try on items.
The engagement ring retailer also added more robust customizations to its website so shoppers can design their engagement ring on JamesAllen.com. Shoppers can choose a ring setting, such as solitaire, three stone and vintage, along with the metal type, including 18K white, rose gold and platinum. From there, shoppers can choose a diamond based on such criteria as shape, color, clarity, cut and carat and then add an inscription.
During the product selection, shoppers can view 360-degree high-definition images of all its 200,000-plus diamonds that are magnified up to 40 times—a feature it added a few years ago. The image will slowly rotate on its own, or shoppers can use their mouse to manipulate the image in a 360-degree fashion. “It allows you to see all angles and facets even better than how you would through a traditional jeweler’s loupe (small magnifying glass) in-person,” says a spokesperson for James Allen.
The 360-degree ring-spin feature is used 4,200 times per day, according to the retailer.
On its website, mobile site and mobile app, JamesAllen.com also has a virtual try-on, or its “ring size wizard,” feature that allows consumers to photograph their hand and place the ring of their choice on their finger to see how it looks.
The online retailer doesn’t plan to expand to selling through other retailers or online marketplaces because it wants to own the customer experience and offer shoppers customer service, the spokesperson says.
Tabitha Cassidy and April Berthene contributed to this report.