Say Hello to Josh Freedman. He possesses all sorts of family trade secrets involving really expensive things. Upon my first visit to Freedman Jewelers, I was given a carefully guided tour of the vault and was able to hold some really large diamonds in the palm of my hand.
As Josh steps up to the role of Chief Marketing Officer at the family owned business in Boston, Massachusetts, I thought it would be a great opportunity to field some questions pertaining loyalty in the luxury goods market. From a loyalty perspective, a jewelry company would approach a loyalty program differently than a Bagel Shop, so I wanted to get an inside scoop on what motivates buyers in the jewelry market. Enter Josh Freedman, the first guest post to be featured in the ClientRocket Insider.
ClientRocket: Hi Josh. Tell me a bit about the jewelry business.
Josh: The jewelry business is a very interesting industry. I have been working in the jewelry business for 2 –1/2 years full time, but have been involved in the store ever since I was a kid. Our business, Freedman Jewelers was founded by my grandfather in 1945 and has been in the same location and in our family ever since. The first thing I noticed was the customer service aspect of the business. It’s extremely customer oriented. Our business is based on relationships & loyalty. Our staff gets to meet entire families and over time learns everything about their family. Where everyone resides, what they’re doing with their lives, when their birthdays are and so on.
ClientRocket: Do loyal customers have a noticeable impact on your bottom line?
Josh: Loyalty is huge in the jewelry industry. Our entire business has been based on loyalty, referrals, and relationship building. Here is a typical situation at our store. A gentlemen in the market for an engagement ring is referred to us by his friend. The gentlemen has a great experience and buys his engagement ring here. A year later, he and his fiancé pick out their wedding bands. A year later, he is picking out his wife’s anniversary present. Three months later, his wife drops off some jewelry items that need repair. Our goal is to form a lifetime relationship with our customers where we can assist them in any way possible whether it be selling them an engagement ring or birthday present to jewelry repairs to even assessing the value of their recently deceased grandmother’s jewelry. For our store to thrive, we rely on customer’s referrals, word of mouth marketing, and forming long-lasting relationships.
Loyal customers greatly affect our bottom line, these are the customers who come in annually for Christmas presents, anniversaries and any other life occasion where jewelry is an appropriate gift.
ClientRocket: Does technology influence buyers in the jewelry market?
Josh: Technology greatly influences buyer in the jewelry market. There are pros & cons to technology’s influence in our industry. The pros are we can use technology to our advantage. Nowadays, there are so many different styles and designs for jewelry, it’s impossible to stock them all. A customer can bring in a picture of something they like that we don’t have in stock and we can design something very similar.
One of the main cons is there are thousands of jewelry websites out there showing a variety of goods. Not all gemstones are created equally. There are varying degrees of quality which cannot be expressed through online images. A lot of these online businesses are selling inferior quality which are selling because the prices are lower.
My main objective is to have an easy, simple presence which gives a prospect the motivation to come to our store. Jewelry is something that needs to be tried on, felt, and seen in person to see how it looks on you and how it sparkles.
ClientRocket: What are some of the trends occurring in the jewelry and luxury goods markets presently?
Josh: The luxury market has been an up and down roller coaster ever since the economy troubles of 2008. Some aspects of the jewelry industry are greatly affected by the economy such as fashion jewelry, high ticket items such as expensive diamond bracelets, heavy gold items etc. Precious metals & commodities such as diamonds, gold & platinum have rocketed up in price. (Due to investors losing faith in US & European currency and opting to invest in actual commodities such as gold, This is a whole other issue As a result of the rise in precious metals we have incorporated alternative metals into our jewelry line such as an increase in silver fashion jewelry and tungsten carbide (man made steel) wedding rings.The engagement and bridal market are recession proof. People may spend less on an engagement ring then they would have several years ago, however they will still get engaged. As a result, we have improved our presence in the bridal market, running a wedding ring trunk show every spring in our store. We still want to maintain our presence in gold, platinum and diamonds to reflect our standards of quality.
ClientRocket: How does Freedman Jewelers distinguish themselves from other jewelry stores in the crowded space?
Josh: Is this the point where I am supposed to sell my product? I believe we have a great thing going. We sell high quality merchandise with an emphasis on customer service and relationships. We won’t compromise on our definite of quality, everything we sell is a reflection of our business. If we sold a diamond that didn’t sparkle well or had a tint of yellow, it would reflect poorly on us. The jewelry business is completely built on trust. People are willing to spend thousands of dollars for items so small (yet so valuable and sparkly) you have to trust the people you are dealing with.
Freedman Jewelers has always been a family owned business. You will always see a familiar face at our store and get a boatload of information about our products and the jewelry industry (maybe information overload) We care more about the relationship with the customer than making a sale so if we feel like we are unable to help you or lack your trust, we’ll turn away your business. Another point that really distinguishes us is that we won’t ever bad rep another jeweler. I’ve noticed many other jewelers doing this: you should always sell yourself, not down the competition. Anyways, I think that’s enough for a sales pitch. Just take a look at our reviews and see for yourself.
ClientRocket: How does e-commerce competition affect Freedman Jewelers and do you think an online store could ever replace a brick and mortar jewelry store?
Josh: E-commerce competition definitely affects our company. It still boggles my mind, but it’s a fact I’ve grown to live with. I’ve always wondered how people can spend mega money on the Internet without seeing and feeling the item in person. E-commerce competition can be a huge issue on expensive purchases such as diamonds & engagement rings. On the internet, a consumer can buy a diamond without paying sales tax. This can range from 5 – 10% depending on the state. In Massachusetts, sales tax is 6.25% so if a customer buys a $5,000 diamond (about the average for our store) they have to pay an additional $312.50 in tax to the state. Usually sales tax is not a big deal on smaller purchases but when you are spending mega money it comes into play. We counter this sales tax handicap by going above and beyond in our customer service. Customers are offered free ring resizing, cleanings, maintenance work, complimentary products for in home jewelry cleaning and so much more.
To answer the second part of your question, I 110% don’t believe an online store could ever replace a brick and mortar jewelry store. An e-commerce store only functions in selling jewelry. Can an online store help you with repairs, show you diamonds in person, and test gold for you? There are so many things that require a jeweler’s attention. There will be always be a need for brick and mortar jewelry stores as people need to trust the person they are leaving their jewelry with.
ClientRocket: Relationships are crucial to the jewelry business. How could you utilize technology to strengthen relationships with your customers?
Josh: Another solid question Dave and something we are currently working on and improving. We recently redesigned our website back in January 2011. Previously, the website was a very first generation website, filled with tons of information, but also very cluttered and not user friendly. I decided our new website needed to be simple yet elegant, user friendly, easy to navigate and engaging (figuratively and literally ) We added a diamond / engagement page briefly discussing the process, a request form and what sets us apart from other jewelry stores. We purposely made this page briefly as we are looking to interact directly with customers whether it be through email, phone or in person. Ideally, we want our customer prospects to come in the store as diamonds are something that need to be seen in person to make an educated buying decision so you can compare in person diamond flaws, differences, size etc. We have easy to browse jewelry pages with high resolution images for each item.
Nowadays, we are able to custom design anything from engagement rings to a new diamond necklace. Even up to 10 years ago, if we did not have a ring already made up it would have been difficult to accommodate that customer. Today, with the help of CAD drawings and wax molds, we can design anything you can dream up. Being able to custom design helps us retain customers even if we don’t have the jewelry piece they are looking for in stock and ultimately strengthens our relationship.
ClientRocket: How does the Freedman Jewelers of today compare with the Freedman Jewelers of generations ago? What are you doing the same and what is different?
Josh: That’s a good question David. The Freedman’s of today has evolved over time, but we have stayed true to the same ideas that the business was built on. Freedman Jewelers was founded in 1945 by my grandfather with the idea of selling beautiful, high quality jewelry at fair prices with attention to service, relationships and integrity. The business began as a completely word of mouth marketing business with no advertising. My grandfather was a larger than life figure, heck our business used to be called David C. Freedman Inc and not Freedman Jewelers. My grandfather and his staff networked through the city and suburbs, which was extremely effective at the time. The business relied on customers coming to the store without any sort of promotion. My grandfather had loyal customers through the store, but he had no way of tracking it whatsoever. There was little to none marketing data being used and little to none customer information actually being written down. (Sure it was harder those days without computers)
Today, we have become more in tune with technology and collecting data. We have a customer portfolio system, we collect all prospective customer’s emails, birthdays, anniversaries, addresses and so on. We send out monthly email newsletters, blog weekly, are involved several forms of social media (Facebook & Twitter, maybe Youtube soon). We are still sticking to our brand’s values and orgins of selling the highest quality jewelry at fair prices, educating our customers on all the aspects of jewelry (4’cs of diamonds, qualities of gold, repair work etc) and the main focus of building a relationship with our customers. The relationship aspect is mutually beneficial. Freedman Jewelers benefits from many purchases and opportunities to help customers while customers have the piece of mind of going to a place they trust and getting a fair price and a product in a timely fashion.