RFID solutions by Irys
BriteCo Appraisal System
Hero system for Annoushka
This article first appeared in the JNA July/August 2020 issue.
Coronavirus-induced lockdowns, social distancing and remote work arrangements are redefining business and lifestyle norms. B2B solutions designed to improve business efficiency and customer experience were already gaining traction in pre-virus times. The new normal ushered in by Covid-19 containment efforts however underscored the significance of technology in meeting client expectations and coping with changing market conditions.
“New solutions can offer the international diamond industry the means to create new products, services and experiences for consumers, streamline operations, reduce costs and allow access to new markets,” said David Block, CEO of diamond solutions provider Sarine.
Rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology will accelerate the modernisation of the diamond jewellery industry and keep it relevant and thriving, he added.
Rachna Bagaria, marketing head at Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) specialist Irys, agrees. She points out that jewellers nowadays increasingly rely on technology for smarter inventory planning, more efficient operations, increased sales and, most importantly, enhanced customer experience.
And with e-commerce coming into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic, digital tools that enhance the virtual shopping journey are growing in relevance.
Consumers today are totally immersed in technology in every facet of their lives, according to Cortney Conde, executive director of Trueview AR. The augmented reality company develops digital inventory and virtual try-on solutions for the luxury jewellery industry.
“Millennial customers, in particular, are clear in their purchasing habits – brands that deliver the digital experiences they want gain loyalty. Modern consumers are savvy but are less motivated by price and focus more on experience,” Conde shared. “With augmented reality, delivering a futuristic – yet meaningful – experience is the best way to endear the millennial shopper to our customers’ product.”
Sarine is on a mission to empower its clients. Its latest innovation, eGradingTM, enables value-chain industry players to grade polished diamonds at their own facilities using Sarine’s AI-driven cloud-linked technologies. The system builds on Sarine’s existing AI-derived functionality for Colour and Clarity grading as well as its expansive range of diamond technological breakthroughs.
In eGradingTM, the 4C grading data is uploaded to the cloud, and grades are derived without human intervention. Results are available on the cloud for online B2B access and subsequent digital report generation. The system thus offers objective and consistent 4Cs AI-grading at a fraction of the current time required and at lower direct costs per report.
Block likens the eGradingTM solution to the eLearning concept that facilitated remote education. “eGradingTM removes the need to send the goods offsite to a third-party grading facility, which is an inefficient and costly process. AI diamond grading technology is advancing to the stage that it will be able to sort goods into additional categories. This will enable effective trade between buyers and sellers, and reduce the number of diamonds rejected at the initial 4Cs criteria stage,” he explained.
Following the Diamond JourneyTM traceability technology, Sarine is gradually rolling out the eGradingTM solution to the market this year, Block added.
Irys, for its part, develops RFID technology to help jewellers automate and streamline their tasks and business processes. Established in 2010, the Singapore-headquartered Internet-of-Things (IoT) specialist offers a range of RFID products and systems that help manage inventory, purchasing and retail, among others.
According to Bagaria, jewellery establishments now seek technology that lets them engage with customers while maintaining and managing their inventory efficiently. This is where Irys’ RFID scanners, coupled with its Tiara app for the jewellery industry, come in.
“Data is the new oil. At Irys, we are always looking to use RFID technology to allow jewellers to get useful analytics at their fingertips,” she said.
The Irys Slate portable and rechargeable scanner, for instance, helps sales assistants keep track of customer preferences. By scanning RFID codes on product tags, it provides information on stock availability and variations. It also assists in quick and real-time comparison of items while enabling instant shortlist and memo generation.
Irys services over 350 clients in the US, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, India and Europe, and is eyeing opportunities in Africa, said Bagaria.
Technology is also rapidly changing the rules of the game in jewellery retail, both in-store and online. Static, product-driven websites and perfunctory service at brick-and-mortar establishments no longer satisfy the tech-savvy and knowledgeable consumer of today. Customer experience now plays a pivotal role in brand loyalty and sales conversion. Little wonder then that various elements of the jewellery shopping experience have gone digital.
Virtual try-on and sizing technologies aim to remove buyer uncertainty from the online jewellery purchasing process, thereby boosting e-commerce possibilities.
PerfectFit®, developed by Radius Technologies, is a patent-pending mobile-compatible ring finger sizing technology for jewellers. Compatible with Android and Apple, it can be seamlessly integrated with a jeweller’s existing online and mobile shopfronts.
Radius Technologies CEO John Shea cites research indicating that 80 per cent of shoppers do not know their finger size with a high degree of certainty. This deters 93 per cent of shoppers from purchasing a ring costing more than US$300. Such uncertainty also leads to abandoned shopping carts and more resize repairs.
By providing an accurate ring size in seconds, PerfectFit® eliminates the need for customers to visit a physical store, request shipment of plastic ring sizers or print out inaccurate paper ring sizers, he noted.
Shea said, “Current online methods of determining a finger size are inconvenient, inaccurate, costly and time-consuming, allowing shoppers to search for other alternatives. PerfectFit® seamlessly converts shoppers into buyers while reducing costs and increasing revenues for jewellers.”
PerfectFit® is presently available in the US, with international expansion on the drawing board. Its largest client has been using the app for the past 10 months, with 75,000 downloads.
“According to trade data, online fine jewellery sales will account for 27 per cent of total jewellery sales by 2021. PerfectFit® will facilitate seamless purchases of rings online. Our technology is scalable to handle all ranges of volume. It can be installed in any e-commerce site, converts measurements into all international standards, and has no borders of use. We operate on a licensing scheme and can deliver branded solutions to clients of all sizes,” Shea said.
Trueview AR, for its part, helps consumers visualise the jewellery piece on their person through augmented reality. Its virtual try-on technology uses proprietary software to digitise jewellery from CAD files or from pictures and key measurements. Its growing library of digitised inventory for try-on and dynamic customisation currently contains around 5,000 items.
As Trueview AR’s rendering engine is compatible with all major CAD software, any business that can produce CAD files can render their products to be tried on virtually.
The company works closely with industry experts to capture the unique properties of gemstones and jewellery pieces. “We took great care to consider brilliance and fire from gems as well as the nuances in colour between 10-karat and 22-karat gold, for instance,” Conde said. “This will win greater confidence from end-users, increasing adoption for future purchases.”
Aside from the obvious e-commerce benefits, Conde cites several customer touchpoints. The virtual inventory and augmented reality try-on system helps large retailers cater to bespoke orders and customers searching for out-of-stock items. Smaller and independent jewellers can integrate the system with social media sharing functions to turn their stores into lifestyle destinations.
“Jewellery requires romance and an immersive shopping experience to be fully appreciated. True-to-size and easy-to-use virtual try-on and dynamic customisation will be the best way for customers to experience luxury jewellery online. Brick-and-mortar locations will always be of value, but with more big stores and smaller private shops embracing the ‘showroom’ trend, AR-based try-on is a perfect fit for the future of jewellery stores,” she continued.
Trueview AR counts mid-sized and enterprise-level companies in North America and China among its clients. Europe and Asia Pacific markets are next on its list of targets.
Also bridging the online and offline divide for luxury brands is Hero. The B2B app extends the premium shopping experience offered by in-store sales associates beyond the walls of physical stores to reach online customers browsing the brand’s website.
Through text, chat and video functionality, online customers can touch base with an in-store retail associate to get detailed product information and check availability at nearby stores, among others.
According to Hero Co-Founder Adam Levene, shoppers using the app are 14 times more likely to make a purchase and spend up to 70 per cent more. And one in three customers will end up visiting the store after chatting online first with a retail associate.
“As a purchase that generally requires more consideration, jewellery benefits from a high-touch online experience. Customers do not want to feel they are making a leap of faith or foregoing the service they would get in a store,” he remarked.
Case in point is fine jewellery brand Annoushka, which relies on Hero to convey its design ethos online.
Levene said Hero’s chat and video calling features helped online consumers visualise how the brand’s creations look in real life. Hero’s ability to route online conversations to an associate in the nearest boutique, instead of the usual call centre, has been crucial to creating new relationships and driving foot traffic to Annoushka stores.
The desire to enhance customer experience and satisfaction also spurred third-generation jeweller, Dustin Lemick, to action. His BriteCo Appraisal System brings technology to the appraisal and insurance process in the retail jewellery space.
The free online jewellery appraisal management system enables independent jewellers to offer value-added services in-store at the point of purchase. Currently available for use in the US, the software uses an algorithm of more than 200,000 data pricing points that inform the appraisal pricing guidelines. BriteCo confirms the appraisal value and gives jewellers control and flexibility over the final replacement value stated on the appraisal.
“The point-of-sale insurance offering is a true game changer. In a day and age when customer experience is so important for jewellers, BriteCo gives them the ability to up their game. The system saves them a lot of time, and jewellers can receive referral and claims revenue,” Lemick shared.
BriteCo has grown rapidly in the US and is licensed to sell insurance in every state in the country. The platform may eventually be made available in the international market. While upgrade and paid services will be added in due course, the basic appraisal system will always be free, the company official said.