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The Many Facets of an App

A look into the various ways the diamond and jewelry industry is using mobile applications.

By Ricci Dipshan
RAPAPORT...


Over the past few years, the mobile application market has exploded. According to digital metric firm comScore, in the U.S. alone, the number of smartphone users — those who can readily download and access mobile applications — increased by 55 percent in 2011. The total share of smartphones in the U.S. mobile market rose to 42 percent in 2011, from 27 percent in 2010. Tablet usage has likewise grown. It more than tripled in 2011 to around 35 million users, from 10 million the previous year.

Ways in which consumers are using mobile applications are becoming increasingly geared toward ecommerce and retail. In 2011, the number of users who accessed online retail content on their devices increased 87 percent from the previous year, while the number of those who used their devices as shopping guides increased 67 percent.

The rise of mobile applications has caught the attention of the jewelry and diamond industry. Many companies are not only creating unique apps for their product lines, but are also finding new and innovative ways to engage their buyers and customers. An analysis of five jewelry and diamond apps on the market sheds light on the various and distinct ways the industry is employing these applications to appeal to industry professionals, sell their products, market their brand and educate consumers.


THE DIGITAL TOOL

One of the most novel industry apps on the market is Gemstone Weight Estimator from AnchorCert, the U.K-based diamond and gemstone certification company. “The AnchorCert app is indeed really unique — there is nothing like it available anywhere,” declares Penny J. Parkes, marketing manger for The Birmingham Assay Office, the parent organization of AnchorCert.

The app, which was launched in October 2011 and sells for around $24, functions as a scale. “In a couple of clicks,” explains Parkes, “the Gemstone Weight Estimator can easily calculate the estimated carat weight of diamonds and gemstones from their length, width and depth.”

Alongside its function as a measurement tool, the Gemstone Weight Estimator offers educational features. “The app contains detailed information about each individual gemstone, including its specific gravity, Mohs hardness and refractive index, and explains the meaning of these terms. It also contains a comprehensive database of diamonds and gemstones, as well as a wide selection of shapes and cuts. Each gemstone has a color picture and each shape and cut is illustrated by a separate outline drawing,” says Parkes.

Due to the app’s easy-to-use interface and database of information, it has wide appeal among all sections of the industry. “The app can be used by everyone with an interest in diamonds and gemstones, from students to industry professionals,” notes Parkes. “It is of interest to all jewelry valuers, pawnbrokers and jewelers trading in second-hand pieces, and is also attractive to those who have a personal interest in gemstones.”

Because of this appeal, the app has taken a foothold both at home in the U.K and overseas in the U.S. “The AnchorCert app has been a great success from day one — at the moment sales are around 50 percent in the U.K. and 50 percent in the rest of the world, with large sales in the United States,” says Parkes.


THE EDUCATOR

AnchorCert’s inclusion of educational features in its app represents a growing trend in the jewelry and diamond app market to provide users with the information they need to understand the industry’s products. Yet, while many industry apps have educational features, almost none of them come close to the scope of information offered by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in its “GIA 4Cs Guide” app, which launched in November 2011.

Kathryn Kimmel, GIA’s vice president and chief marketing officer, notes that the app “is part of a larger effort to inform and educate the public to better ensure consumer confidence. Our goal is to provide the public with the knowledge they need to make informed buying decisions.”

“The app is another vehicle for GIA to provide easily accessible diamond knowledge,” continues Kimmel. “Tablet and mobile technologies allow this tool to be an on-the-go resource for any diamond shopper, delivering accurate, unbiased diamond information in a way that is both engaging and fun.”

To accomplish this goal, the app has a multitude of “interactive tools that let users explore the GIA grading scales and learn how color, clarity and cut can affect value, as well as explore information about fluorescence, diamond treatments and synthetics.”

Other information includes a guide to the “anatomy” of a GIA grading report so that users can understand its different elements, along with direct access to “GIA Report Check,” the organization’s online database of grading reports, where users can download PDF versions of the reports directly to their tablets or mobile devices.

Plans are also in motion to add a “Retailer Locator” feature to the app, so that users can find the closest retailer to their location who sells GIA-certified diamonds and jewelry, or has GIA-trained jewelers on staff. GIA is currently offering retailers the chance to be a part of this feature for free by registering through its website.


THE VIRTUAL STORES

“Locator” functions remain a popular feature of most industry apps, especially apps created by manufacturers and wholesalers who want to drive consumers to their certified retailers. More and more of these companies, however, are adding additional features to their applications to not only drive sales of their products, but also simulate “in-store” experiences. 

De Beers Forevermark: The Promise app, launched in November 2011, for example, allows users to view different Forevermark diamonds in 3-D, offers tips on how to buy diamonds and helps them find Forevermark certified retailers.

“The app is designed to help consumers find their dream diamond,” says Adelaide Polk-Bauman, public relations manager for Forevermark U.S. “Our interactive diamond buying guide features everything one needs to know to buy a Forevermark diamond with confidence, and our dynamic store locator lets consumers find their nearest authorized Forevermark jeweler.”

Going one step further, De Beers Jewellery has developed its De Beers Bridal app, launched in April 2012, to not only locate retailers, but also connect consumers directly to individual retailers in real time. “This app is designed to help customers who are looking to find their perfect engagement ring,” explains Selda Bensusan, director of public relations for De Beers Jewellery. One of the highlights of the app, Bensusan adds, is “its ability to locate the nearest De Beers store, and actually book an appointment.”

With the app’s interactive selection tools and videos featuring diamond experts, consumers shopping for bridal jewelry can also research and select products at their own pace and connect with a retailer when they are ready. “We feel the app really complements our in-store experience and encourages people to discover both our products and our expertise in the comfort of their own homes,” says Bensusan.

Other companies have developed apps that add even more “in-store” experience features. Lafayette, Louisiana–based manufacturer Stuller, for example, released its “Live Diamond Try-On” app in June 2009, which has a “virtual try-on” tool.

“This feature allows users to choose the stone size and shape that they would like to place in the ring, select a setting style and metal color and simulate putting that ring on their fingers through the use of the iPhone’s camera,” explains Carol Skarlat, Stuller’s
chief technology officer.

Stuller hopes to further integrate the retail experience into its app in the future by adding an ecommerce component. “What we are looking to do in the future,” says Skarlat, “is connect the ‘Locate a Jeweler’ feature to purchasing right online, so that a person can have products delivered directly to them.”


MARKETING MACHINES

While an app’s primary function may be retail, education or measurement, its secondary function, more often than not, is to serve as a marketing platform that promotes a brand and product.

One of the best examples of this is the Forevermark: The Promise app. The app promotes the aesthetic quality of the Forevermark brand by showcasing its diamonds on the iPad, which can render very detailed and high-definition visuals.

“Our app, like our brand, differs from the competition in that we are truly focused on the diamond,” explains Polk-Bauman. “We wanted to get across just how beautiful and rare every Forevermark diamond is. With its vivid visual capabilities, the iPad comes closer than any other device to capturing the beauty of a Forevermark diamond.”

Polk-Bauman adds that to further promote the brand, the app also has videos explaining the characteristics of a Forevermark stone. “The app takes the users on a journey following a Forevermark diamond from the mine where the rough diamond is first unearthed, through the cutting and polishing process and finally to the moment it sparkles in beautiful jewelry. By the end of the journey, consumers will have gained a deeper understanding of the Forevermark brand.”

Forevermark also launched a sweepstakes campaign to expand the app’s exposure among jewelry consumers, and further promote its brand. “Forevermark: The Promise launched a promotion, which encouraged consumers to download it for a chance to win a trip to Africa,” says Polk-Bauman. “The jewelers who participated in the promotion encouraged their own customer bases to download the app via email campaigns.”


THE NEW CONSUMER

The growing prominence of mobile applications underscores the rise of a new type of consumer — one who is tech-savvy and empowered by information and access through mobile technologies. In this day and age, consumers use applications to not only research and shop, but also to connect directly to brands. Now more than ever, therefore, mobile applications represent pivotal channels through which companies connect to their consumers and buyers, introduce them to their brand, keep them engaged with their products and, in the end, close sales.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2012. To subscribe click here.

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