The Diamond Store is a £5 million+ pure play online jewellery retail brand. They have gained a huge customer-base and following with 50,000 customers (and counting) since their inception in 2006. The Diamond Store are two time UK Jewellery Awards winners for “Jewellery E-tailer of the Year”.
As at 2011 (3 years ago) their revenue was about £2 million ($3 million). They introduced product videos in 2012 and today revenue today is well over the £5 million ($7.9 million) mark.
This podcast interview with their founder and CEO, Gary Ingram, discusses the growth path, customer acquisition, customer service and the future.
How The Diamond Store Brand Has Been Built
- 07:25: Have a great supply line – promise and deliver products
- 08:04: Offer a real idea of the product with Video (prior to that great images)
- 08:10: The third big thing is customer service – which includes Reviews, Response and Honesty
3 Most Important Customer Acquisition Channels:
- 11:30: Organic traffic, pay per click and retargeting
- 12:49: You cannot build your business on Organic Traffic alone neither can you build a brand from PPC traffic only
- Retargeting seems to be working really well.
- Traditional advertising has it’s place – other forms of media are not so easy to measure
- 15:04: Affiliate marketing ended up with voucher codes BUT didn’t work. Voucher codes were parasitical….have TDS paying twice
- 16:25: We’ve realised the value of content marketing – whenever someone has a question that fits around the area of your expertise, then you SHOULD be there to answer that question
- 19:05: 1,800 videos – The Diamond Store built a video studio – Key changing moment to get a real feel of the products.
- Video helps us sell a lot more jewellery
- Reduced returns
3 Pillars of Customer Service:
- Wide Product Range
- Price – Great Prices
- Backed Up by Quality of Customer Service
“Repeat customers are important to any business because once you’ve built up momentum your peak customers can cover a huge chunk of your cost base every year. It is important to have repeat customers”
Start of Audio
Host: Welcome to the 2X ecommerce podcast show where we interview founders of fast growing seven, and eight figure ecommerce businesses, and ecommerce experts. They’ll tell their stories, share how they 2X their businesses, and inspire you to take action in your own online retail business today.
Now, he is, the man in the mix Kunle Campbell.
Kunle Campbell: Hi, 2Xs. Welcome to the 2X ecommerce podcast show. I’m your host Kunle Campbell, and this is the podcast where I interview ecommerce entrepreneurs, and online retail marketing experts, who help, and cover new ecommerce marketing tactics, and strategies to help you, my fellow 2Xs, and listeners, double specific ecommerce growth metrics in your online stores.
If you’re looking to double metrics or like conversions, average order value, repeat customers, traffic, and automate these sales, you’re in the right place.
On today’s show I have a very experienced online retail entrepreneur. He is here to share about how his store doubled sales after the introduction of videos. Product videos basically, to be specific. It’s a very insightful show, or talk/discussion I have with him, and it really shows how impactful videos are on conversions if they’re done the right way.
I’d advise you to take a lot of notes while you’re listening to this. Some of you might be running, and some of you might be in your cars, so that might be impractical. However, if you are able to take notes over this show, please do. It’s quite interesting, and I know there’ll be some golden nuggets, and things of value in there.
Without further ado, I would like to introduce to the podcast Gary Ingram. He is the founder and MD of The Diamond Store. The URL actually is thediamondstore.co.uk. It’s a British store. It’s a UK store. Gary is a quite interesting individual. He’s a serial entrepreneur which he’s going to share with you. I’ll just tell you more about The Diamond Store.
It’s Britain’s first pure play jewellery online retail store. They’re multi-award winners. They won the Retailer of the Year Award for two years running in the prestigious watch and jewellery awards in Britain, and the Diamond Store actually has 50,000 happy customers, and counting, with a simple mission statement, “Luxury with Confidence.”
I welcome you Gary to the show. Please introduce yourself, 30 seconds, or one minute to tell the people about you, and your background.
Gary Ingram: Hi, my name’s Gary Ingram. Thanks for having me on the podcast Kunle. The Diamond Store, as you alluded to, is one of the UK’s first online pure play jewellery stores. We’ve been in business … This’ll be out eighth Christmas, so we’ve been in business for seven years, and we’re leading up to our eighth Christmas. We simply want to be a force to be reckoned with in the online jewellery sector.
Kunle: Very, very interesting. You’ve been around for about seven, eight years, now this’ll be your eighth Christmas, and how has business been so far?
Gary: Okay. Yeah, very good. We did have a little bumpy patch, as did everybody else when Lehman Brothers had their issues. I think that was four years ago now. Yeah, five years ago, six, but everybody did, and since then we have grown from strength to strength. It’s not an easy journey, as any business is never an easy journey, but it’s fun, and we’re still growing.
Kunle: Good, good. Can you recall your first sale Gary?
Gary: It was a pair of stud earrings. I don’t remember where they went to, and I don’t remember … I think the value was about £300.
Kunle: Not bad for a first sale.
Gary: Yeah, and it was … We’re also in a different place now Kunle, in the sense that the concept of buying jewellery online today in 2014 doesn’t sound too alien, but actually when we launched back in 2006, 2007, a lot of people would say, “What? People really buy things like that online?” People had bought flights. They’ve rented a car for their holiday, and they’ve done those things, but not many people were buying clothes, not many people were buying jewellery or high ticket items. Now it seems fairly common place that we do those things.
Kunle: It’s second nature now. I guess people started up with virtual items like tickets in the past, and now they’re more inclined to buying goods. It’s second nature. It’s interesting how far we’ve come in ecommerce over the years. Very, very interesting.
What’s been your most memorable sale in The Diamond Store? Do you have any special thoughts, and memories you could share with us in regards to a sale that sticks in your mind?
Gary: Yeah actually, and it isn’t because it was last year, and it’s fresh in my mind, although obviously that sways it slightly. We had a guy call us last year, and he was doing a rally from the UK to Mongolia. He was either in the army, or … I can’t remember now. Anyway, he was about five days away from the finish line, and he’d got it into his mind that when he got to the finish line he’d love to have a ring to propose to his girlfriend who was meeting him at the finish line. He’s been travelling for a month or so.
We managed to get the ring to Mongolia via FEDEX, at the finish line, for him to give to his girlfriend and actually it got into the newspapers, and things. That was a great sale because we had to rise to the challenge, and we had to rise to the occasion, and we did, and it’s great. It’s great to be part of a story.
Kunle: Fantastic. Do you have photos of him proposing in Mongolia?
Gary: Yeah. Actually, I don’t know if we have the photos of him proposing. We’ve definitely got lots of photos. I don’t know if we’ve got the moment, because we weren’t there, but we have got photos, yeah.
Kunle: I’ll probably, I’ll share it in the show notes here, if you’re able to send it to me. It’d be great.
Kunle: Okay. Let’s move onto the next stage of interviews really. My first question has to do with how you managed to build a pure play online retail jewellery brand over the years. You stocked to, you saw a niche no one had actually entered, and you stocked to it, you got in there, stocked to it, and you’ve been quite successful as compared to others in the market. How have you managed to build this brand?
The other thing I noticed, using similar web’s tool, is one of your most high … Your highest referral of search traffic is your brand, which is fantastic. Which just shows you have lots of repeat customers, and people have heard about you from other channels. Could you share how you’ve managed to build your brand online over the years?
Gary: The first thing, and some of these things might sound very obvious, but the first thing you’ve got to do is have a great supply line. You’ve got to be able to … If you’re going to promise that you’re going to send product, you’ve got to be able to do that, number one. It is actually very, very easy to fall down on that first stage.
Secondly, you’ve got to be able to offer customers a real idea of the item. We’ve been lucky in the last couple of years because technology’s moved on to a level in smartphones where we can … We always wanted to get into video, but the speeds of the Internet, and web design etcetera, didn’t really favour it, but now where we’ve … 4G is common on most phones, and our broadband speeds at home are really fast, videos have really helped us.
Before that it was product images. You’ve got to have great images from all angles. You’ve got to not put any doubt in the customer’s mind.
The third big thing, of course, is customer service, which includes reviews, and all those other things, but essentially you’ve got to be able to be honest with your customers if you want to build a brand. Just be honest with them, what you can do, and how you can do it.
Kunle: Okay. To rehash what you just said, the first really is delivering your products which really is the fulfilment.
Kunle; Giving your clients exactly … your customers, exactly what they ordered for, the expectation. It’s quite critical. Imagine you’re about to get married, and you know the date. You’ve set everything in place, and your ring doesn’t arrive on time. Horrible. Yes, for delivering, and then word of mouth off the back of your deliverability is key. Then also making sure the photographs which they interact with on your website’s exactly what they get, or even better. Then it’s sort of is in their memory really. It’s quite interesting. Okay. Then the third?
Gary: The third thing was the customer service. If people have a question. We pay an awful lot of money to get traffic to our website, so if people take the time to call us, or email us, we’ve got to respond as quickly as we can, and as thoroughly as we can.
Actually that’s something we worked on a lot over the last two or three years is …
Kunle: You have a live chat facility on the website?
Gary: We’ve tried everything. I’ve tried live chat. I’m not a lover of live chat because as we’re quite a small team the problem is that … The thing I personally hate about live chat, is if you go onto live chat you have to wait an age for somebody to answer you. The only way you can get around that really is to dedicate someone to do live chat, and I’ve never found that that was viable.
What we do, we try and offer a much better service if someone emails or calls in, we definitely have the time to speak to them, and deal with it that way.
Kunle: You’ve got really strong customer service - helplines really?
Kunle Okay. What about interaction? When people are trying to … Because buying rings, I’ve been there. Buying an engagement ring for my wife was … I did a lot of research. It took a while. I think it took me about six to eight weeks to decide exactly what I was going to get her. How do you help with the education bit? It takes quite a while to … I know some people that know exactly what they want, but a vast majority of us would tinker around, and think and think and think before we make a decision. How do you come up with that education? You make them trust you so to speak, so it’s more educative markets rather than just going for the hard sell?
Gary: No two people are the same, so you make take six weeks, and another guy this morning, because it popped in his head on the way to work. What we’ve got to try and do is … and it’s very difficult on a product page not to end up with a cluttered page, where you can answer all the questions somebody has. For example, and this is a very generic statement, but guys want detail, so they want to know things like the colour of the diamond, and the colour. Real detail.
Actually if you ask most girls, they just want to know, “Is it really going to sparkle when I put it on,” and you’ve got to try and answer … You’ve got to think about both lots of people, and tailor all your content to both lots of people. Sometimes you can do that well, and sometimes you fail a little, and you learn, and you tweak and you change. And that’s the key.
Kunle: I guess the only constant would be the visuals which would have to represent exactly what you’re selling. Okay. We would move onto my next question really. What are your three most important cost and acquisition channels at the moment for the last 12 months?
Gary: The same ones that have been constant throughout the whole time. The first two is organic traffic, pay per click traffic, and … Actually I’d say the third most important one nowadays is probably retargeting, because it’s quite a powerful tool.
Kunle: Okay. What about the inconsistencies with organic? What have you found? What’s been your experience with organic traffic?
Gary: Do you know? I can only talk from my own experience, and I don’t know how everyone else is. I mean we’ve always gone for a very wide base of organic key words that we wanted to rank for, and we’ve always built the base where we wanted people to land on specific pages rather than funnel everything through the home page.
What I’m trying to say, is we wanted to get people … When they click an organic listing, if they’re looking for an emerald ring, they see emerald rings immediately after they’ve clicked the organic ranking. Yeah, and we’ve done that from the word go, and I don’t think a lot of other retailers did that. They do that more now, but it wasn’t the done thing from the word go.
If you do that, then consistency comes and goes, but you can’t rely on any one thing, so it’s no good relying on organic traffic because that will go up and down, and we have no control over that. None at all. Because we’re beholden to Google or Bing, or Yahoo, or whoever the flavour of the month is, and we cannot control that. So you can’t build your business on organic traffic alone.
PPC, pay per click can pick up a lot of the slack where you’re missing out on organic, but it also can complement your organic traffic. You can have two results in the top ten rather than one. You can’t build your business alone from pay per click either.
Then with retargeting, we say, “Okay, well if we can pull people in from organic traffic, and we can pull people in from pay per click traffic, then we can reoffer it to them at a later time to remind them of us, then that’s a very powerful tool, and that’s the one we use.
Kunle: Yes, and I find it re-enforces your brand, so when they go to various websites, they see your brand over and over again, and it just helps with the conversion. It sounds very good.
It looks like your core three cost and acquisition channels are around search, apart from retargeting really, which is kind of connected to search. Do you see any other channels actually in the future … It could be even device like mobiles for instance, like a dedicated mobile app, or social media, coming into the fore for cost and acquisition going forward?
Gary: Yeah, and we do all those things now, but they don’t have as much of a direct impact. I think traditional advertising equally has got its place, but we’re a little bit spoilt because we’ve always gone down the route of being very analytical about all our visitors. We know every pound we spend, where the money goes, and what we get back for it.
Actually when you get into other forms of media, TV and things like that, it’s not so easy to measure, and we haven’t grown enough to do those things yet.
Kunle: I attended a … It was an event at Saïd Business School, because I’m based here in Oxford, and the CEO of moonpeak.com [?] came in, and he said, the game change in moment of his business, of moonpeak.com was when they tried to have TV advertising, and that’s just doubled, tripled, and kept them running over. It was like it was the best kept secret for online businesses.
Gary: You’ve got to be a certain size to get there.
Gary: Moonfigure are a huge … Well they sold, didn’t they? But they were a huge company, and I mean you’ve got to have big profits to do TV.
Kunle: I think there was £300,000 was showing in the negative at the time, so he gave it his last shot.
Gary: Okay, interesting. Maybe I should learn from that then.
Kunle: Okay. Yeah, so do you do voucher codes? Do you have a voucher code strategy at the moment?
Gary: We’ve played with affiliate marketing which ended up being mostly voucher code websites anyway. We’re quite keenly priced, so a lot of our items we’re trying to get them to the customer for as good a price as we can possibly get. That strategy didn’t really sit very well with voucher codes, and affiliate marketing because in a sense we found that voucher codes were … Sorry, if I’m going to talk out of turn here … but we found that they were slightly parasitical in the sense that we would get the customer, and then they’d go and search for a voucher code, and then we’d have to pay a commission to a voucher code website, when actually they were already on our website anyway.
Rather than inflate the price to be able to pay the voucher code website, we were happier just simply giving the discount in the first place, and that’s how we keep our prices keen.
Kunle: Outside of voucher code websites, do you give existing customers voucher codes? Say come Christmas you entice them or …
Gary: Yes. Yeah, of course, and on their birthdays and things as well.
Kunle: Okay. What about content marketing? It’s been a buzz word for the last two years. People would purport it’s been the new SEO. What are your thoughts, and what are you doing content marketing wise to drive in traffic, and get new customers?
Gary: I don’t want to blow my own trumpet. We have always done content marketing because we realised its value a long, long time ago, and in fact maybe I should have put that as one of the main acquisition channels perhaps, I don’t know. Because it’s like the forgotten hero. I just put that in with organic.
I think there’s a Google book called Zealot and it points to the fact that whenever somebody’s got a question, if it’s around the area of your expertise, then you should be there to answer that question. So we’ve always kind of believed in that, and that encapsulates finding out your ring size, how to care for your jewellery, the meaning of eternity rings. All those kind of little things, that if you type into Google we are there somewhere as well, and we’ve always built that from the word, go. We’ve always built with the content strategy in mind.
Kunle: I take it you have an evergreen content strategy from the content marketing standpoint. What about …
Gary: In a perfect world yeah, but it doesn’t always work that way, but yeah in a perfect world.
Kunle: What about … Well going on the wave, what a lot of bloggers would do, so if … I don’t know if a celebrity for instance got engaged, they look for photographs. A lot of entertainment. Do you do that to get some traffic? Do you look for current affairs, or news, latest trends, and then jump off the back of it if it’s related to weddings, jewellery, and the like to your products?
Gary: Yeah, the problem at the moment is that a lot of the big media companies are doing that as well, so you can invest an awful lot of time in chasing tat content, but you’ve got a problem ranking nowadays because the competition’s huge on those things, I mean massive.
We were doing that a long, long time ago. I mean I think it’s called X Factor now, but before it was Popeye, and we were life blogging Popeye, before Daily Mail, before anyone were doing it. We were getting 10,000 people a day onto the website with Popeyed or related searches, and things like that. What jewellery people were wearing etcetera.
But nowadays … It didn’t convert very well, the honest truth, for that sort of traffic, and nowadays a lot of those kind of opportunistic things like Kim Kardashian wearing a ring or whatever. There’s too many big hitters in front of you, [crosstalk].
Kunle: Yeah, it’s a crowded market at the minute.
Kunle: Now, this is a big question I have for you. I was reading some research prior to this interview, and I realised your YouTube, trying to analyse 1,800 videos. I also checked … I found out they were linked … A vast majority of them were linked to your products pages. There has to be a strategy behind this, and a reasoning behind this. Could you share, or shed some more light in terms to why you have 1,800 videos, and the importance of visuals, and videos in selling high to get high to get high term Swatches jewellery online?
Gary: It’s really simple. We built a video studio, and we work hard to video every product we’re selling. It’s really hard work, and it takes a lot of effort, because we’ve got to make the jewellery, number one, for it to be videoed, organise the models etcetera.
For us I was a key changing moment because we didn’t want to open a store, because the costs of stocking a jewellery store is huge, but we wanted people who lived wherever they are, Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, Spain, France wherever, to get a real feel for the products we’re selling, or the jewellery we’re selling. We felt the only true way we could do that was through video, and that’s really driven our video strategy.
It’s also … It’s done two things actually. It’s helped to sell a lot more jewellery because people can understand what they’re buying, and they can get a sense of it. Secondly, it’s reduced the returns.
Kunle: Okay. That’s quite interesting. When did you start … When did you go fully into video? When did video become a core part of your strategy?
Gary: About two and a half years ago.
Kunle: Two and a half. What’s been the impact on conversions and percentage terms?
Gary: I wouldn’t say it’s particularly lifted conversions to a level that we stopped, and went wow! Everything’s slow burning in online jewellery, and we just know that it plays an important part.
We know that if speak to a lot of customers who’ve bought an item that they refer to the video. If we chat to them, and say, “Look in the video this, or in the video I saw this,” so we know it plays an important part.
Kunle: That’s very, very interesting. It helps with conversions too, and I think what’s most interesting is the fact that it reduces returns, so it meets their expectations really. Okay, that’s very, very interesting.
Kunle: Would you advise other fashion and jewellery retailers … Generally in fashion obviously (In Jewellery, they’ll be your competition), but in fashion in general where … In the fashion industry would you make this mandatory if you start up a fashion business, and you sell clothing online, or clothing accessories, would you have videos as a core from day one?
Gary: I think it has to play a part somewhere along the line. If you look at Zappos which is a beacon of fashion websites, they have video on every product, and I think that says it all really.
Kunle: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. Okay, the next set of questions has to do with customer retention, and loyalty. The first one really has to do with customer service. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos says or purports that customer service is the only way to ecommerce, do you agree or disagree?
Gary: I think it’s probably what … There are three main important parts. One is range of items that you have, one is price of items you have. For example you can have fantastic customer service, but if you’ve got three items for sale it doesn’t really make any difference. You can have fantastic customer service, but if your prices are three times higher than anyone else, it doesn’t make any difference.
You can put that either way with those three points. It’s the range of items you have for sale, the price that you’re able to offer them at, and then backed up by good customer service. I think the three things go hand in hand, they don’t stand alone
Kunle: Very, very interesting. On the pillars of customer service, range, price, and the quality of customer service. In terms of customer service is it email mainly, or do you extend the forms of what they get initially to after sales?
Gary: We’re happy to talk to anyone at any time by phone, or by email. However they want to communicate. Facebook as well. People communicate to us via Facebook, although not so much anymore. In the sense if they’ve got a question or whatever.
Because of the nature of the item we’re selling, we’re selling something … Jewellery is an item that people buy for special occasions. You said you bought an engagement ring. Really there are key times when people are buying our type of jewellery, and that’s engagements, birth of a child, important birthdays, anniversaries. They’re quite landmark occasions. They’re important events in people’s lives, and they don’t want to make a wrong decision or a wrong choice.
Also it’s probably one of the highest value purchases they make online, so they want to be reassured that they’re making the right decision. An awful lot of our customers will call, and have a chat, just because they want to make sure they’re doing the right thing. Should they buy this one, or this one, and what’s the difference between this one, and this one?
Equally an awful lot of people will contact us via email. Also, I think they just want to confirm that we’re there to help.
Kunle: Yes, yes indeed. What’s been the impact of it on customer service, on repeat customers to your business?
Gary: Repeat customers are important to any business because once you’ve built up momentum your peak customers can cover a huge chunk of your cost base every year. It is important to have repeat customers.
Kunle: Is there any connection of good customer service, and your customers, do you see a trend?
Gary: It’s symbiotic. If you give bad customer service you won’t get repeat customers, it’s that simple. It’s a bit like the other things, the two things have to work together, and it is important to make sure the customers come back to you when they have another special moment.
Kunle: Price, diverse products, and good customer service. Good, okay, all right. I mean this is a very, very obvious question, but what are you doing differently in email marketing, as compared to competition? Do you have any marketing automation in place, or do you just go straight … Do you just blast out emails just to your data base?
Gary: It’s a mixture of both. We’d like to be slightly more focused on the email marketing, and that’s something we’re working towards. It could get quite mind boggling when you start looking at. We also do try and tailor it to around what people have purchased before, what type of gem stones etcetera, but it’s difficult, it’s difficult.
We’re setting up a series of things at the moment so people can choose perhaps when they want to be spoken to via newsletter. Because a lot of people, like yourself … I don’t know if you’ve bought anything since you bought an engagement ring, but people don’t buy jewellery … it’s not something they buy every month, so we have to be careful that we don’t just send newsletters willy nilly because what’s the point.
Kunle: Absolutely. I guess ‘says it all’ emails wouldn’t really hurt, probably Mothers’ Day, or Christmas and Valentines.
Gary: Yeah, Valentines and Christmas. Christmas is huge because jewellery is a great gift if you’re in a relationship, or for your parents or whatever, is a fantastic gift to give at Christmas.
Kunle: My wife wouldn’t mind a necklace this Christmas. Okay, a bit of a curve ball question here in regards to traffic, and conversion rates, optimisation, which is more important from your perspective, coming to 8 years in the eCommerce game in the game, which would you value more at this point. Would you like more traffic? Or would you prefer conversion rate optimisation, or converting better on the customer traffic you have because you have enough traffic?
Gary: I’m going to give you curve ball answers. I’d always hanker after more traffic because then that would pressurise us to get better conversions. You can never have too much traffic on a website.
Kunle: Never have too much traffic. Yeah, having more traffic always equals more sales really at the end of the day. Okay, right. That will wrap up our customer retention, and customer loyalty section, and next we’re going to talk about average order value. The first question I have is with clients to reviews, customer reviews. What strategy would you recommend, what customer review strategy would you recommend retailers say under a million pounds in revenue at the moment to pursue? How should they go about giving a success with customer reviews?
Gary: It has to be an open one. So it has to be believable, and that’s why we went to … if you look on our site we go with Feefo, and the reason we do that is because they look after the reviews for us, so if somebody has a bad experience, and wants to write about that, there’s nothing we can do about that.
We can learn from it, and we can grow from it, and all those things, but we can’t stop the person voicing how they feel. That’s how it should be. Because when people read your reviews, they’ve got to read that it’s believable, and so the thing I would never do is encourage people just to make up a few reviews just to get it going. I would never do that.
I think it is important as well to have a plan in place to ask every person who buys anything off you to review your business. It does many things. It helps you understand what people like or dislike about your business, and it also gives your customers a voice in which they can tell you you’re doing great things, and/or bad things.
Kunle: Interesting. Good. Feefo seems to be very popular in the UK at the minute. They’re a UK based company, like I have spoken to their team, they’re a very, very friendly bunch of people. A very good point that you made. It’s good feedback for the business in terms of performance, and it’s great to have the platform for customers to voice their opinion.
Okay, yes. That’s really good. Does platform matter in your customer review? I know there are about five major players.
Gary: Yeah, I don’t think so. I think so long as it’s one of the main players. I mean we chose Feefo because they were a dominant UK review company. Yeah, so we chose them because of that. We’d looked at a lot, but there’s Bazarvoice, Trustpilot, there’s a few others. I don’t think it matters that much as long as it’s real. Yeah.
Kunle: Okay, right. Now down to average order value, obviously I realise your business … I came across a press release about your business in terms of … and the core message there was the fact that you guarantee ethical conflict free diamond. Those are core ethics, and core values of the company which are really good, which I know support you. How does this reflect in new people ordering [inaudible 00:32:39] is there a connection between your ethics as a business, and the customers, and the response from customers? How do they go hand in hand?
Gary: First of all any brand has to have trust, brand trust, especially with jewellery because it’s quite a scary purchase as we talked about a couple of times already in the interview, that people are a bit nervous, a bit hesitant, and they have to believe that the company that they’re buying from truly has their interests at heart.
Diamonds are quite an emotive purchase for many reasons, but one is people don’t really know where they come from, they don’t know are they real, are they what they’re paying for, are they all those things? So we have to be sure to guarantee that our customers get ethical source diamonds that we can prove providence on.
We’ve gone one step further than that with Canadian diamonds, which for me are the ultimate ethical, and when we sell a Canadian diamond, it’s been all through the Canadian government process, and when you type your number into the Canadian government website you can see the full history of your diamond.
It’s incredible. I mean it’s fantastic, and you can trust Canada. It’s a trustworthy country, and that you believe the government has done what they say they’re going to do. So we moved into Canadian diamonds in quite a big way about three years ago, because we could see the trend growing for more and more people wanting more and more information about where their diamond was from, and the journey it’s been on before it got to them.
Kunle: It’s mind boggling that. I didn’t actually realise that Canada mined diamonds. That’s interesting. Okay, that’s really good. How have you invested in user experience? I think I’ve been aware of your brand for five or six years now, and it’s always been well designed. Very, very well presented. How do you invest in user experience, customer journeys, and your brand? Could you shed some light in it? How do you maintain and move … I believe it’s mobile responsive now.
Gary: Yeah, we didn’t build a mobile site. I never wanted a mobile site which had different URLs. I wanted the site to simply reshape, which is what it does, because I think it’s the best experience.
User journey wise. We spend a lot of time looking at how we’d go round the website. Search is an important feature, and we spend a lot of time understanding. The other problem with jewellery, and it is a big problem with jewellery, so it does make us look very hard at it, is different people with different things, they call it different things. Everything’s not in one box. So you may call a style of ring we have an eternity ring, somebody else would use it as a wedding ring, and somebody else even might wear that as a cocktail ring. We have to make sure that everything is tagged up, so that it could be whatever a customer thinks it’s going to be.
It makes us think hard about how we can get people to navigate around our website. It makes us look at that, which is a good thing.
Kunle: Do you have any focus groups for your feasibility testing, or do you just do it in-house?
Gary: We do it all in-house. We did use … there was an online …
Kunle: User testing dot com?
Gary: Yeah, something like that. Which actually is quite fascinating. We’ve done that a couple of times. But generally we look at it, and see how we feel going around the website.
Kunle: Okay, and do you flesh it out from analytics in terms of like bounce rates, and top pages, and things like that or?
Gary: We look for patterns in analytics. Again it’s all about resources, so what we do with analytics is simply look for patterns, and if a pattern is bad or good, then we explore that, but the majority of it of course is somewhere in the middle.
Most of it is, if you’ve been building your business from the word go, and you look … your website is your store, you’ve got to walk around your store and understand how it works, and if you’re having a problem then you can bet your bottom dollar that your customers are. So you have to rip out all that, and you have to make it as simple as possible.
Kunle: Interesting, okay. What about exit banners? Do you have an exit banner strategy? Do you use exit banners, or do you use basic banners?
Gary: We don’t use exit banners. Maybe we should.
Kunle: It’s becoming very popular now, and they work on mouse movements. So just when your mouse indicates you’re about to leave a page, they just pop up with a voucher code, or whatever rules … you can get really sophisticated. It’s worth exploring. Okay.
Gary: Yeah, maybe we should look at doing that.
Kunle: Okay, all right. Good stuff. Okay, so let’s talk about sales and revenue. I checked the Companies House reports which are public anyway, and from your 2011 Company House file you appear to be a £2 million plus a year business. How do you intend to grow to over £5 million in sales?
Gary: Without getting into specifics, we have done that, so …
Kunle: Fantastic. Oh well that’s a surprise.
Gary: Yeah, no it’s good.
Kunle: Well done, well done. From 2011 to now you’ve doubled your business.
Gary: Yeah, no. It comes down to all the things we’ve talked about in the interview. You’ve got to have the right range. The customer service. The good pricing, and you’ve got to keep those three things just spinning the whole time.
Kunle: Interesting. Very, very good. I’d ask you some more very specific questions because that was a bit general, but we’ll get there anyway. Other than your website do you sell on other market places? Do you have any multi-channel strategy at the minute or is everything just focused on the website?
Gary: We’ve played with Amazon, we’ve played with Amazon quite a bit. The problem is with Amazon is they take a massive commission in jewellery.
Kunle: In jewellery, yes, I heard.
Gary: They make it unfeasible for us to operate in that arena. Given the fact that our core value is to give our customers best value. If we’ve got to pay Amazon a huge percentage, I’m sure you know what it is, but it’s not workable. It’s 25%. It’s not workable. I’d rather keep the prices lower, and let the customers make the saving without going to Amazon.
Kunle: There’s also a brand perception thing. A lot of people go into Amazon for deals, and just coming across as an Amazon store may not always come across well, align well with your brand.
Okay, right. We’re just going into my final set of questions, and yeah so from … How do you envision Diamond Store’s next phase of growth? I mean you’ve surpassed the £5 million mark. Probably the next phase would be the £10 million. But how do you think, from the customer acquisition stand point, how do you think you’re going to make it to your next milestone?
Gary: It’s a good question. Actually I think to the large part we’re helped with the technology jumps anyway. I think that a lot of online retailers that have been around since we have, have been aided by the fact that actually when we started everybody had to have a laptop or a desktop to see your website, and get the full experience. Actually everybody’s got access now on mobile phones.
It’s commonplace now if you walk down the high street, or a shopping mall on Saturday, you see people check in and comparing prices on their phones as well as. I would say that the main growth area for us is just that actually we’ve got a huge audience now that is used to buying online, has instant access to checking items online, and is happy to do so from a mobile device. I’d say that’s probably our biggest aid to the customer acquisition.
Kunle: What’s been the share of mobile in sales? Has it been …?
Gary: Yeah, it’s an interesting question, and I’ll be honest, in terms of traffic it’s nearly 50%.
Gary: Yeah, it’s huge. In terms of conversion it isn’t that, and the feeling I get is we keep alluding to the fact that jewellery’s bought for a special occasion, and we don’t get very many people unless they’re repeat customers come back in, hit the site once, make a decision about a £1,000 ring, and decide to press the buy button right there and then.
Most people do research, have a look around to do all those things, and they carry out a lot of that research on a mobile. But I think when they’re making the big decision still they’re tending to do the payment on a desktop or a laptop.
Kunle: Yes, I read John Lewis’ last income report for last year. They find that the last annual which they sent out to their stockholders or their shareholders, and they recorded the largest ever yet for tablet sales, because a lot of people are on their sofas in the evening, browsing through their tablets, watching … They’re on two screens. On their TV, and on their tablet, and then they’re flicking through. I think they had about 26% worth of sales, of total sales on their online operations from tablets, which is quite interesting.
Gary: It’s huge.
Kunle: Yeah, so yes. You envision the future really being mobile growth, and you’re right there with a responsive site. Do you think you’d need a mobile app eventually?
Gary: We do have an app. We’re just testing an app. We don’t publicise it too much because we’re just seeing how it’s working. The one issue I have with apps, and we have to see how we go forward, is that because we’re selling an item that isn’t something you buy every season, isn’t something you change every season.
Kunle: In stores?
Gary: Yeah. An app could just get lost in people’s app list. Whereas if you know you’re Athos, and you’re changing your stock every couple of weeks to relate to the seasons, and all those things, people are much more receptive to opening that app. So we’re just playing with that at the moment. We’re seeing how we go.
Kunle: That’s a very good point. Okay, so what does ecommerce success mean? I mean you have to admit you’re successful in ecommerce with the success of eight years. It’s been hard work, but what does it mean to you from a lifestyle standpoint, and just a personal achievement standpoint?
Gary: It’s the same as building any brand. I’m particularly proud of doing it in jewellery because I think it’s a tough arena. But of course if you work hard, and you achieve things you feel great about yourself, and that’s what it’s all about.
Kunle: Good. This is a question in regards to advice for entrepreneurs, ecommerce entrepreneurs. What one marketing channel would you advise they take very seriously? If you were just to choose one?
Gary: Ad Words because you can test your business from day one without … immediately, and see how you fit into the landscape by simply buying some market share, and seeing what you can do with it.
Kunle: Did you start out with Ad Words?
Kunle: Okay, interesting. Do you manage Ad Words yourself today, or do you give it to an agency?
Gary: No, we outsource it. Ad Words has grown into a huge beast.
Gary: Yeah, and it was quite simple at the beginning funnily enough, and it’s grown so much that we’ve had to outsource it. Actually, the other channel I would do, although I’ve just poo-pooed it because I said they take too much commission. If I was starting an ecommerce business today, I’d do Ad Words, and I’d also go onto Amazon. It didn’t matter if you weren’t making a profit per se, as long as you’re covering costs, in the first six months or a year, but Amazon again gives you a massive exposure to a massive market very quickly, and again you can see how you fit in the landscape.
Both of those are immediate things that give you immediate responses, and show you about your brand.
Kunle: It’s almost like testing the market, doing some market research with your products. It just costs you stock really, and a bit of marketing spend. It’s very interesting.
Gary: Rather than building an expensive …
Kunle: Site and …
Gary: Yeah. Amazon specifically does that. I mean that’s the great thing.
Kunle: Audience, bear that in mind, Amazon in the UK.
Gary: Or eBay.
Kunle: Or eBay, okay. Are there any tools, books or resources you’d recommend to owners of sites trying to cross the £1 million mark for their businesses? What would you recommend to the audience?
Gary: There was a book that we … You asked about usability, and I can’t remember the guy’s name who wrote it, but it’s called Keep it Simple Stupid, that’s a great book. Then there is a free booklet from Google called ZMOT. I can’t remember what the letters stand for, but it talks about being in front of the customers at the right time on their journey, and it gives hints about that, and I think those two things will stand you in good stead.
Kunle: Good, good. So before you say your final goodbye, can you give our listeners one parting piece of advice, and let us know how they can find you, and reach out to you if they wanted to?
Gary: One piece of advice is it doesn’t come easy, and you’ve got to just keep at it. There you go.
If they want to reach out to me they can do so through LinkedIn. I’m available on LinkedIn.
Kunle: Are you on Twitter too?
Gary: No, I don’t do Twitter.
Kunle: Okay, okay. Thank you so much for appearing on the show Gary. You’ve been an inspiration. You definitely are an inspiration to the listeners, and the best of luck at your next milestone with the Diamond Store, and yeah, thank you very much.
Gary: Thanks Kunle. Thanks very much indeed.
Kunle: Bye. Okay, that’s a wrap up for this episode. Thank you for listening. To get hold of the show notes, and all reference links that we talked about over the show, be sure to go to 2Xecommerce dot com, and if you enjoyed listening to this episode please don’t forget to leave us a five star review on iTunes as it helps push us out there.
See you on the next episode, and cheers.
Host: Thanks for listening to this episode of 2X ecommerce. To get more actionable insights, and ecommerce growth axe that’ll help you 2x your online retail business. The show’s host, Kunle Campbell has put together an amazing ecommerce marketing blueprint reference guide free to the show’s listeners only. This guide is packed with framework strategies, and metrics to help increase traffic to your store, increase repeat purchases, and average order value. To grab a copy of ecommerce marketing blueprint guide for free, visit 2X ecommerce dot com.
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