Rapaport Magazine

The case against technology

Many jewelers are wary of taking advantage of the digital age to update their spaces, according to store designer Jesse Balaity.

By Leah Meirovich

Image: Balaity Property Enhancement

Welcome to the digital age, where technology is everywhere — on street corners, in store windows, in workplaces, cars and schools, and in most homes. Plenty of people would agree that it allows the human race to do, see, experience and understand more. But despite all the wonders these tools represent, many jewelers are resistant to implementing them in their shops.

“A jewelry store hired me to design a new vision for its upcoming stores, and they wanted me to push it a bit,” says designer Jesse Balaity of Balaity Property Enhancement. “But everything I presented, their whole team kept coming back and saying ‘no,’ and it just keeps getting more and more conservative in design. It’s like they can’t get out of their own way. I’m trying to drag them an inch forward, and it’s really hard.”

Moving with the times

Balaity has a bevy of ideas for ways to make spaces more exciting and interactive, but all have met with rejection — and not, surprisingly, because of financial considerations.

Video walls, for instance, can show off a business’s custom work, make shoppers aware of products, or display advertising. The visual movement can often grab people’s attention as well. However, that is both a blessing and a curse, store owners argue.

“So many times, jewelers believe the video wall can be a distraction, like if it’s placed behind the showcases,” Balaity notes. “They don’t want distracting things going on behind them when they are meeting with clients, because they want the customer to be focused on what they are trying to sell right in front of them.”

In addition, the need to consistently update walls with new products and marketing creates more work in an already busy schedule, the jewelers feel. Retailers that do implement them often end up plugging in a USB drive with pictures that play on a loop, or loading up presentations by popular brands such as Forevermark on repeat until the companies send a new update. In essence, says Balaity, what should be a live video installation becomes a large, semi-static television.

Education upgrade

One of a company’s strongest selling points is knowledge. Being able to educate the consumer on the different aspects of a diamond, such as cut, clarity, color and story, can help clinch the sale. Often, when Balaity visits a store for a design meeting, he asks the staff to walk him through their bridal presentation as if they are trying to sell him an engagement ring.

“They always pull out these little stand-up information tents with some text that goes through the 4Cs, and they refer to that,” he says. “And when they talk about inclusions, you just kind of have to take their word for how it looks in the diamond, because they don’t usually have high-powered microscopes on hand, or the time to show you.”

Balaity suggests 3D screens that can show customers detailed views of the diamonds, with animation from all angles to illustrate how the light refracts through them. However, jewelers fear that things like this will minimize their contact with customers.

“They want to maximize customer interaction with sales staff, maximize the personal connection, which is what makes buying from a jewelry store different than buying from Costco or online,” he says.

Virtually nonexistent

Providing customers with a virtual try-on, which would allow them to see how off-site inventory or a different stone or metal would look, is another idea Balaity suggests. The problem is, jewelers want to sell what’s in the showcases more than what could be in them.

“The more options they present the customer with that aren’t there, that’s more of their time, and more chance they’re going to lose sales,” he explains. “Jewelers worry that if they don’t have it, they would need to order it, and the customer might want it right away and decide to go elsewhere. It’s really a double-edged sword.”

Custom handiwork

Initially, many businesses were on board with technology like custom-design station Countersketch. This device has a big monitor and software that lets staff design and build the ring together with customers to create a rendering. However, its appeal faded as users realized that a lack of training and talent limited the software’s effectiveness, according to Balaity.

“For jewelers that are adept with the software, it can be pretty useful, but for those that aren’t, it can be kind of frustrating and come out a bit crude. When they sketch by hand, they can send it out for [computer-aided design (CAD)] to a company in China or India that will do it overnight, and get back renderings the next day. It’s cheaper and often looks nicer, and they don’t have the pressure of a customer sitting there waiting for that rendering to happen.”

Often, he says, the design station ends up as a blank computer screen that just takes up space in the store instead of getting used.

A different angle

Once retailers decide that the old-fashioned method works better, it can be hard to disabuse them of the notion. But there are many ways to integrate the technology effectively and still allow the jewelers to have their way, according to Balaity.

“The most important thing about the use of digital technology in jewelry sales is that it [be] complementary to the sales process, not in place of the sales process,” he says.

For instance, video walls can be placed in hallways that lead from one display to the next, or on walls that are not behind showcases, Balaity suggests. Sales associates can use interactive educational materials to enhance rather than replace their conversations with customers. And when a shop doesn’t have a requested item in stock, having a virtual try-on option can create an opportunity that won’t deter the sale of a piece in the showcase.

“I think the reason we don’t see the technology in stores is because there are so many arguments to make the experience more efficient without it, and make it more personal,” he says. “That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be technology. I just think jewelers haven’t found the right way to use it yet.”

“They don’t want distracting things going on behind them...because they want the customer focused on what they are trying to sell right in front of them”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - February 2022. To subscribe click here.

Comment Comment Email Email Print Print Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Share Share