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.
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”
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
“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
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.”
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
“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 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.