The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted every aspect of fine jewelry retailer Brilliant Earth LLC’s business, says Kathryn Money senior vice president of merchandising and retail expansion. And that disruption has forced the consumer brand manufacturer to invest in connecting with online consumers, who represent a key part of its business.
“Virtually every aspect has been impacted by the pandemic,” Money says. “Now more than ever we are seeking innovative ways to connect digitally with customers.”
Spurred by the pandemic, Brilliant Earth launched virtual appointments in March, expanded its virtual try-on tool and launched a product-matching tool in the summer, Money says. These investments paid off, especially when it comes to conversion, she says.
“Customers who use our set of digital tools–virtual try-on, virtual appointments, find my matching wedding band–convert at a rate of about three to five times higher than those who don’t,” Money says.
Brilliant Earth, No. 264 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, operates eight showrooms where shoppers with an appointment can meet with jewelry experts. When those showrooms closed for a period during the pandemic, the retailer quickly adapted its appointment-booking service to allow shoppers to book digital appointments.
The online scheduling tool allows a shopper to book in advance and also collects information about her budget and products she is interested in, such as diamond-setting style. That allows the retailer’s employee to get the appropriate content ready for the call. The appointments are similar to Zoom calls, which many U.S. businesses and consumers have embraced during the pandemic. The shopper and the jewelry expert engage in a one-on-one video chat while browsing the BrilliantEarth.com website together.
“Overall, we’re really pleased with the response,” Money says about the appointments, without providing specific results. As Brilliant Earth reopened showrooms, it’s continued to offer the digital appointments as it allows the retailer to connect in a personalized way with shoppers who don’t live near any of its eight showrooms, she says. Other retailers, such as cosmetics retailer Benefit and custom suit merchant Indochino, also added virtual appointments during the pandemic and continue to offer them as stores reopen.
Wedding band matching and try-on
Another way the retailer enhanced its digital offerings is with its virtual try-on feature. Brilliant Earth first launched this tool in 2019 with engagement rings and expanded it this year to include wedding bands so shoppers can see both rings together.
After a shopper uploads a photo of her hand, she can see a superimposed image of the ring she chooses on her hand. She can change the ring’s size and color, add more rings and stack rings to see different looks on her hand.
For now, the tool works only on smartphones, as smartphones are the primary driver of traffic to BrilliantEarth.com. 88% of Brilliant Earth’s traffic is from mobile, according to SimilarWeb data between Sept. 2019-Aug. 2020. Plus, the camera in a smartphone makes it easy to capture the required image of the consumer’s hand, Money says.
After the shopper plays around with the feature, she can save the image, email the image with the product information to her significant other or share it with a Brilliant Earth employee.
The wedding band virtual try-on feature pairs well with the retailer’s newly launched “find my matching wedding band” tool. Once a shopper has her engagement ring, she typically wants to know which wedding band will go with it. Brilliant Earth now has a tool that will surface the “perfect match” ring, which is the wedding band Brilliant Earth made to go with the engagement ring. The tool also shows rings that other shoppers who own that engagement ring bought, plus more rings that sell well, Money says.
The tool allows shoppers to see all the ring styles side-by-side, which helps the shopper visually see how the rings look together. She can then easily virtually try both rings on. Brilliant Earth’s in-house web and technology team developed this feature, Money says.
Brilliant Earth introduced these new capabilities during a period when many couples opted to postpone or downsize their upcoming weddings because of the pandemic. This wedding industry slowdown shows up in Brilliant Earth’s website traffic, according to SimilarWeb data. Traffic is down 33.8% year over year at 4.7 million visits in August 2020 from 7.1 million visits in August 2019.
Money would not say how the coronavirus outbreak has impacted sales but says the retailer is still planning for a strong holiday season.
“People are still getting engaged and married, which we are excited to see,” Money says. “People are still celebrating life’s special moments.”
Plus, Brilliant Earth plans to launch its ninth showroom this year in Atlanta, which Money describes as a strong market for the company. “We are finding customers are still coming to the showrooms,” she says. “We’re encouraged by the increase in demand for showroom appointments.”
Often, merchants with a small store footprint will use their online sales to guide where to open stores. One in three digitally native vertically integrated brands in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 operate at least one store, according to the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Omnichannel Report.
Often, a city that contributes an outsized share of sales is one where the brand has achieved high consumer awareness, and adding a physical presence can increase both online and offline sales, merchants report. For example, furniture brand Interior Define (No. 653 in the Top 1000) finds that when it opens a store in a market its total sales for that area—both online and in-store—increase 200%, Jill John, chief customer officer at Interior Define, tells Digital Commerce 360.Favorite