A few weeks ago, Ritani’s VP of Marketing Mark Keeney predicted that yesterday, Dec. 20 and today, Dec. 21, would be the company’s top sales days of the year.
To be clear, that’s because many couples get engaged around Christmas and guys take their time buying the ring. When Keeney joined Ritani in 2013, with no background in jewelry, he learned that that average groom-to-be does his research, visiting five brick and mortar jewelers before making a purchase. When it comes to the bauble itself, men and women have different priorities. Women want the ring to be “unique” and “sparkly.” Men, on the other hand, want to hit their budget, and “get it right” — in other words, give her what she wants.
Insights like these have helped transform Ritani, once a wholesaler, into a $50 million dollar business that was ranked No. 40 on FORBES’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies in 2014. The online jeweler, which sells engagement rings, wedding rings and other diamond jewelry, gets 8 million unique views a year, and started selling directly to consumers in 2012. It is partly owned by the Julius Klein Group, one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of diamonds, and has received $15 million in backing from Cantor Fitzgerald. Julius Klein invested in 1999, when it realized, as one representative for the company put it, that “the internet is here to stay.”
That’s true, but as the diamond world has found, e-commerce has limitations when it comes to their products. Traditionally, brick and mortar jewelers have enhanced the experience of shopping for an engagement ring by providing guidance, education and celebratory touches, like giddy try-ons and glasses of champagne. Among sellers of precious jewelry, there’s a sense that these elements are still important, even for millennial customers who are accustomed to shopping at home in their pajamas.
And so, Ritani has worked out a unique “clicks and bricks” model that attempts to bring in the best of both worlds. Instead of investing in its own storefronts or pop-ups, and thus doubling down on competition with existing retailers, it teams up with independent jewelers around the country, so that shoppers can order a ring online and then, about one week later, visit a local store for a preview. Ideally, this mix-and-match strategy combines the efficiency of e-commerce with the inimitable human and tactile benefits of seeing an item in person. There’s no obligation to buy but as Keeney says, “the close rates are very, very high.”
For the 230 participating brick and mortar jewelers, a collaboration with Ritani means exclusive rights to their own zip code, and a percentage of the profits from any sale within their region, even if the buyer ships directly to his or her home address and doesn’t actually visit their store. Michael Wilson owns the Scarsdale, New York jeweler Wilson & Son, which first opened in Washington Heights in 1905, and moved to Westchester in 1932. He started working with Ritani about two years ago. When he was approached to collaborate, he says he was excited: “The traffic through our door had waned because there was too much competition on the internet…as a regional store, I don’t have the same marketing power that Ritani does.”
A few years in, Wilson is happy with the relationship. “Westchester is a very affluent community but there’s a very high level of intimidation when it comes to walking into a jewelry store. It’s brought me a slightly younger demographic and a more culturally and economically diverse demographic. It’s created some terrific relationships.”
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