5 Ways These Entrepreneurs Built Brand Loyalty and Ensured Customer Satisfaction, Even During COVID-19

Fine jewelry veterans, Nidhi Dangayach and Nityani Riziya, offer their expertise on how they were able to maintain and expand their loyal customer base, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Diamond experts, Nidhi Dangayach and Nityani Riziya have taken their considerable understanding of diamond quality and jewelry design to launch Verlas, a DTC fine jewelry brand committed to perfection from every angle. Founded in 2019 and headquartered in New York City, Verlas is built on the idea of offering perfected classics with flawless quality, transparent pricing, vertically integrated production, and ethically and sustainably sourced diamonds, together with an elevated online shopping experience.

We’re the second generation of Diamond Traders. In 2018, we were a little apprehensive at the thought of starting a new business together despite all the years of industry experience we had behind us. After 18 months of thorough planning while defining and articulating every nuance of our business offering, we had begun living and breathing our first direct-to-consumer diamond jewelry brand, Verlas.

After further discussion with our customer base (which included friends and family), we learned that they often struggled with the lack of transparency in product, pricing, and sourcing. They shared how steep their learning curve was within the fine jewelry market and how they frequently leaned on trusted retailers and designers when seeking out high-quality diamonds and jewelry. In addition to the expensive price tag, many were left feeling unsatisfied with their final purchase(s).  At the onset, we felt responsible for simplifying this process. We aimed to make designer-diamond jewelry more accessible to customers than ever before, offering them the high quality that they’ve come to expect from reputable fine jewelry brands, without the markup. 

As a new direct-to-consumer brand in a popular and often oversaturated industry, one of our biggest roadblocks was a competitive-set against the value propositions, product offerings, and digital experiences already offered within the market. No matter how beautifully our story came together, we knew that this alone would not set us apart from our competitors. We often felt let down by a mismatch in our expectations from brands that had great looking designs to offer versus the overall experience and product quality we received. After experiencing that letdown firsthand, we knew fully bringing our vision to life and delivering 100% on our commitment to excellence in experience, quality and services would be essential to building a loyal customer base. 

We ultimately created Verlas to provide transparent pricing and eliminate designer markups on high-quality jewelry. We worked through many hurdles prior to launch, constantly seeking out ways to perfect the brand in every way possible while also driving differentiation from our competitors. In December 2019, we finally felt very confident with the brand we had built and the timing felt right to introduce Verlas to the market. We enjoyed several glorious months of smooth success, until March 2020, which brought with it unprecedented times, at a global level! We knew that if we wanted to survive as a newly launched company, then we would need to go back to the drawing board to reformulate a plan. Strangely enough though, we felt undeterred by the many unknowns that lay ahead of us – rather, we felt prepared to reset and reassess every opportunity from a new lens. Times were changing and against all odds, the global pandemic was here to stay.  Looking back, our ability to rapidly pivot turned out to be our biggest strength. Here’s how we’ve been able to both support and sustain Verlas’s growth through the past couple of months, without spending on paid campaigns and partnerships: 

Being truly Direct-to-Consumer 

From the beginning, it was important to us that we had full control over our manufacturing process. In addition to the right product offering and superior quality raw materials and craftsmanship, it was imperative that Verlas be truly authentic direct-to-consumer throughout the entity of the consumer experience. Our Studios and Artisans are constantly adapting to the changing times, handling ad hoc or urgent requests that we continue to receive from clients.

You can’t plan for the unknown but you can play smart

To our surprise, we’ve continued to receive orders throughout the pandemic, even after ceasing our paid marketing efforts. As all non-essential businesses were mandated to remain closed from March to May in the Tri-State area, we discovered new and creative ways to stay in touch with our client base and provide them with updates, despite our inability to craft jewelry for 45 days. To the best of our abilities, we worked to remain transparent with our clients and provide them with frequent check-ins and updates from our Client Care representatives.  We’re so grateful to all our clients for their patience and understanding throughout the process, especially given the sentimental nature of their purchases.

Deliver, deliver, deliver

Gifts were being planned and purchased in advance and many orders were coming in with requested deadlines. During this time, we’ve seen many self-gifting, surprise-gifting to loved ones, and ‘just-because’ purchases. With the Studio working at minimum capacity and shipping partners running adjusted operations, we’ve been able to set expectations, commit to expedited timelines whenever possible, and even deliver 100% on all our commitments. We were ecstatic! These were AHA-moments not only for our clients but for our team as well! Being a new brand has actually been one of our biggest benefactors, as our team of experienced Artisans has been able to rapidly pivot and adapt to our customers unexpected needs during an unprecedented time. Our customers’ satisfaction is at the forefront of our business model and worked tirelessly during this time to cultivate a seamless and stress-free shopping experience.

These adjusted operations have driven us to rethink shipping & packaging as part of our overall sustainability goals for the remainder of 2020. We are constantly working to re-evaluate how updates made to our shipping plans could positively impact our manufacturing processes and hence, measure and reduce our overall carbon footprint.

Bringing in-store experiences to the comfort of your home 

We realized the importance of the in-store experience and worked to emulate this in the online realm through “Every-Angle-View,” a 3D technology that works to provide consumers with an all-round view of every product. The ability to view jewelry seamlessly seemed to be a very powerful tool to offer on the digital platform. 

With the pandemic confining many of us to our homes, customers have been more digitally active than ever before, learning new ways of absorbing information and data from various formats on the internet. For Verlas, we’ve seen our Every-Angle-View drive more confidence in purchase decisions. Showing every product in 3D has provided users with the opportunity to take a closer look at design nuances that are important to them – diamond’s setting-style, size of the prongs, earring posts, comparing design differences in carat weight variants, and so many other facets that they were only able to review closely in a physical store setting. There’s also a feature to view rings in all carat weight variants and colors as well viewing engraved messages that helps users pick their perfect match – whether it’s a purchase for themselves or a gift for a loved one. As customers begin to share more with us, we’re starting to notice a pattern: 

  1. Every-Angle-View has helped drive conversions for the frequent online shoppers
  2. The overall digital experience, personalized communication via Verlas Concierge, transparency in pricing coupled with product quality have all driven our repeat purchases thus far
  3. For those who were unsure or more comfortable with the ‘touch & feel’ in-store experience have found love in our Try-at-Home service. During these times, they share that it has truly felt like having 3 of their favorite jewelry designs being delivered from a store directly to their home, and that, at no additional cost to them! 

Every-Angle-View, Try-at-Home Service, and a highly personalized concierge service have driven confident purchases for our clients, keeping returns under 2%. Viewing jewelry in 3D delivers a high-quality in-store experience, opting for replicas keeps a check on manufacturing processes, and low returns minimize packaging and shipping wastage. As a digitally native D2C brand, our goal is to continue enhancing our online experience to bring more confidence to our customers’ purchases, from the comfort of their homes.

Grow as you go 

Customer needs have continued to evolve. From repeat purchasers to those who have been referred to Verlas from friends and family, we’ve seen an unexpected number of incoming queries for bespoke services. Due to our own R&D team, Artisans, and RJC-certified Studios, we had initially accepted all requests without knowing how they would evolve. Going by the growth we’re seeing, it appears that these services will become a significant part of our business offering in the near future. 

Having Client Care representatives with a high capacity for empathy have been instrumental in providing a guided and personalized support experience to customers during unprecedented times. Our clients love them, our jewelry and the overall experience we offer. It’s overwhelming yet fulfilling to see every review giving a shout out to ‘Verlas-in-Action’.

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