Know who your customer is. Understanding who your customer is, what they’re shopping for and their buying behavior is the first way to turn a single sale into future sales. For example, a customer shopping for an engagement ring will likely be in the market for a wedding band in the near future. Anticipate their future needs and lay the groundwork for those sales.
As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Curtin of Lauren Addison Jewelry.
Lauren Curtin, Founder of Lauren Addison Jewelry, is a skilled Gemologist and New York City-based private jeweler specializing in fine diamonds and bespoke creations. An industry veteran, Lauren utilizes her vast network of diamond suppliers and master craftsman to source and craft jewelry to celebrate life’s special moments.
Lauren has landed coverage in print and broadcast outlets around the world, including Forbes Life, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and DuJour, and her jewelry has been seen on high-profile celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Octavia Spencer and Celine Dion.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
In 2016 I founded Lauren Addison Jewelry, a private jewelry company that specializes in fine diamonds, engagement rings and bespoke creations. Prior to that, I had spent over a decade working in the jewelry industry, first for a high-profile luxury jewelry house and then for a public relations firm representing dozens of jewelry brands around the world. The years of exposure to some of the world’s most rare and alluring gemstones culminated in my realization that I wanted to design and style one of a kind pieces for private clients and so I launched Lauren Addison.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Trust and reputation are important in any business relationship, but is especially crucial within the jewelry industry — it runs on it. Having worked in this world for over a decade certainly opened many doors for me, but in creating this new role for myself I wasn’t guaranteed access to certain diamond suppliers and more importantly, their inventories. As expected, I was greeted with caution and concern, as all newcomers in this industry are, but a few noteworthy colleagues and mentors leveraged their relationships in order for me to be taken seriously. I am forever grateful for their support and trust.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Jewelry is a tactile experience and for that reason I draw most inspiration from trips to auction houses and museums where historical and important collections are often on display. Think Marie Antoinette’s pearls showcased at Sotheby’s Auction House. Seeing, touching and wearing these iconic pieces, even for just a moment, is as inspirational as it gets.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Today’s client is just as interested in the experience as they are the final product and at Lauren Addison, our clients are involved in each step of the way. We are not a jewelry store. Clients do not come in, pick a ring out of a showcase and simply walk away. I work with each client one-on-one, educating them, curating a selection of diamonds or colored gemstones that fall within their ideal parameters and provide the opportunity to craft something unique and personalized.
It is the experience, transparency and personalized experience that sets us apart and keeps clients coming back for more.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Entrepreneurs often adopt a work all day and all night mentality and they neglect basic needs such as rest, fun and personal relationships. It’s important to prioritize your mental and physical health even when it seems like there is no time — you and your business will be better for it. I try to keep a regular cadence of exercise, networking events (in the pre-Covid-19 world) and time with friends and family.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
Consumer spending habits will constantly change, its inevitable, but its important to note that consumers are still spending and the businesses that are doing well are the ones that are adapting. The reason brands like Lululemon, Kroger and Costco are thriving during the Pandemic is two-fold if you ask me. First you have the obvious explanation that these companies are centered around the home — loungewear, groceries, furniture and a one stop shop for bulk savings. Many companies that fall within these industries saw a significant boost in sales and it’s no surprise why with people spending most of their time at home. The second reason is again, adaptation. Lululemon has expanded into digital fitness and Costco and Kroger offer delivery and are slowly integrating curbside pickup, ensuring a safe experience for the consumer. Lauren Addison was built on a foundation of customization, which is inherently flexible and adaptable to each customer’s situation. We’ve managed to exceed expectations during the pandemic by offering virtual appointments, phone and video consultations and complimentary insured delivery (for domestic orders only). Life’s special moments will continue to happen and our virtual services bring our showroom to the comfort of your own home.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
If I’ve learned anything from working in the jewelry industry for fifteen years it is that cheaper is not always better. Jewelry is about artistry and craftsmanship, and that often comes at higher price point. Consumers may initially be wowed by a lower price from China based companies, but that soon fades when the piece they purchased doesn’t measure up to the photo and description they see online. If there is value in the product you’re offering, consumers will not fret over spending extra. Furthermore, customers like to feel connected to the brands they shop from. Utilize your social channels to build a community for your customers, engage with them and they’ll stay true.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Over-promising and under-delivering. It is easy to do this when all you’re focused on is the sale, but if you’re honest with your clients, set expectations and more importantly, meet or ideally, exceed them, you will ensure a positive experience and they will often turn into a long-term and loyal customer.
This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?
Excellent customer service should be a given; it ensures your customer has a positive sales experience and almost always ensures a future purchase. Consumers today research, compare and shop online and typically it is their experience more than anything that brings them back for more.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
Businesses, especially small businesses, often focus too much on the bottom line and not enough on the customer experience. When a situation arises, it’s important not to be short-sighted and consider the negative impact one poor experience can have on your business’ reputation.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
I recently crafted a ring for a customer on the west coast who was unable to travel to our NYC location due to Covid-19 restrictions. After our initial phone consultation, we set up a virtual appointment where he was able to see high res images, videos and “real-life” style photos of a curated selection of diamonds all while having a face-to-face conversation with me. We discussed inspiration, lifestyle and personal style and landed on an oval diamond with tapered baguette side stones. He received a 3D digital rendering of his custom ring and in three short weeks he had a ring he was more than proud of.
What I didn’t know at the time was that this customer was unsure about the virtual experience and purchasing a diamond he hadn’t seen in person. While he did reach out, I wasn’t his ideal choice (again, distance), but he chose to work with me because I took the time to educate him, not only on the basics, but on each diamond I presented him with. I answered each and every question and never pushed him in any direction, which apparently was not his experience in the few local retail stores he had visited first.
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
A positive experience reaffirms a client’s decision to work with your business and in this case, taking the time to educate him, personalize the experience and deliver a well-crafted bespoke diamond ring was all he needed to feel heard, appreciated and reassured. It’s been only four months since we worked together and he has already referred four clients to me.
A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?
For Lauren Addison, the ingredients that makeup a fantastic experience are transparency, personalization, paying attention to detail and going the extra mile. I can easily just sell you a ring, but when the customer has the full experience, they feel confident in working with you and often become repeat clients.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Client experience. Create a blueprint to act as guiding principles for your customer’s journey and adhere to it.
2. Know who your customer is. Understanding who your customer is, what they’re shopping for and their buying behavior is the first way to turn a single sale into future sales. For example, a customer shopping for an engagement ring will likely be in the market for a wedding band in the near future. Anticipate their future needs and lay the groundwork for those sales.
3. Ability to problem solve. Make a list of all the possible things that could go wrong in a transaction and then more importantly, consider the most thoughtful resolution and course of action to each one of them. While this list will unlikely mirror reality, your brain will be attuned to what constitutes a thoughtful response without feeling the added pressure of thinking on your feet in a moment of crisis.
4.Deliver a superb product. It’s not enough to provide a fantastic retail experience if your product doesn’t measure up. Pay attention to details and ensure each item is expertly crafted.
5. Community. While we are not a traditional retail store, the notion of a community environment is a key element to a positive customer experience. Whether you follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube or TikTok, you’ll find an environment where customers and potential customers alike can interact with me and each other.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!