A digital emporium of gleaming diamonds
Tears of the Gods. Splinters of falling stars. Jewels of love. No one-liner can adequately sum up the allure of diamonds. It is the world’s most desired and purchased gemstone.
Coming from family of jewellers, diamonds have always been within arm’s reach of Gus Hashem, but the winds blew him in a different direction when it came to his career. After working in the financial sector for a number of years, Hashem was keen for a career change. When he saw an opportunity to significantly grow his father’s traditional diamond retail business, he was quick to take the next step.
While the diamond jewellery business has traditionally been confined to the physical store, Hashem felt he could successfully transition his father’s business into the digital space. In 2010, Diamond Emporium said goodbye to inventory, launched a high-end website focused on self-design and customisation, and linked into a large diamond dealer network to allow consumers access to a massive variety of diamonds.
One of Hashem’s main motivations for transforming his father’s business was the lack of transparency on pricing he noticed in the diamond industry. “If you go to a bricks and mortar retail store, you’ll find two key prices on each product. You have the listed price and then the discounted price where the calculator comes in. But if you didn’t ask for a discount you’d be paying full price. What we did was we integrated a database of diamonds, so our site lists all the available diamonds accompanied with the price.”
“And we have a very large number of diamonds to offer to consumers. Your traditional bricks and mortar store only offers a small variety. We have over 200,000 diamonds listed online. That’s a huge database of inventory that clients have access to, so the power has shifted to the consumer because we’ve given them the sensibility to build and customise their own unique jewellery piece.”
The Process – From Concept to Jewellery Product
The business does not solely operate online. Hashem explains that they’ve maintained a traditional base structure to ensure consumers can still visit their Sydney-based store for consultations. In fact, many consumers utilise both models. They navigate through Diamond Emporium’s online database, come up with an idea for their own unique jewellery piece by mixing and matching different design elements presented on the site, and make an appointment for an in-store consultation to communicate their vision.
Diamond Emporium has also adopted CAD Technology (Computer Aided Design) which allows them to model up a design based on the idea the consumer presents, render those images to look realistic and send them off to the client for approval. If they’re satisfied with the design, Diamond Emporium moves onto the next stage – using a rapid prototyping machine to get a life-size wax model of the ring. They invite the client back into the store to try it on, and make final changes to suit their tastes.
When the design is finalised, it’s sent off to production. Hashem explains that “all the rings are manufactured at our own Sydney workshop, everything’s handcrafted. We control the whole process – from the design to the point of delivery. We overlook all stages from the production of the ring, setting the diamonds, sourcing the whole pipeline.”
Diamond Emporium is currently focusing on the engagement ring market. In Australia, there are approximately 160,000 people getting married every year, with an average spend of $5000 per engagement ring – making the engagement ring market worth approximately $800 million.
“We tend to market to medium to high-end couples. The average spend for us is around $10,000 on each engagement ring. We don’t really get orders for rings below that price,” says Hashem.
While the current focus is on the engagement ring market, they we will be introducing jewellery lines at a later stage where consumers be able to pick a wider range of variables to build a jewellery piece of their choice.
When the site was launched officially, their main marketing strategy was to use Google Adwords. “We found Google Adwords worked really well for us, created instant response. We veered away from looking at any other alternatives because it worked so well, and we got value for our buck.”
“But things have changed since then. It’s much more competitive. Everyone’s jumped on the bandwagon, so we’ve had to reevaluate and consider other marketing strategies like social media. Although, I think it all ties in to SEO and Adwords,” Hashem adds.
They’ve experienced their greatest marketing success, however, from client referrals. As such, they’re working on a referral program to introduce next year, as well as print advertising.
Challenges – Building the Site
Hashem explains that when he was building a website for a traditional business, there was nobody to advise on what structural changes need to take place for the business to be successful online and remain sustainable. “Suddenly you have to wear all these different hats, and embody all these different roles.”
Initially, the coding was done offshore through crowdsourcing websites like Elance and Cloudspring, but Hashem experienced difficulty in explaining his vision to the developers. “We wanted the site to be top quality which means high resolution images, fast loading rate, easy navigation. But the offshore developers didn’t have that high attention to detail that we needed from them.”
Eventually, he hired Australian developers who understood the overarching purpose of the business and what they were trying to achieve with the site. They were able to complete the design and optimise the site to suit the interests of the business.
Diamond Emporium’s biggest success is its exponential growth over a period of two years. In the last 12 to 18 months, the business went from two staff members – Hashem and his wife – to a total of 10. But the biggest satisfaction for Hashem personally was proving the nay-sayers and initial doubters wrong.
“I remember when we were about to launch Diamond Emporium, some well-established brands were being featured on Today Tonight. They said they would never sell a diamond online because ‘people need to see it, touch it’. These people were doubting us then and tried to knock us down. Now they’re trying to transition their business into the online space. It’s a good feeling to know that we were one of the first that did it and did it successfully,” says Hashem.
Diamond Emporium will be expanding into the Melbourne and Brisbane markets once they’ve established themselves in Sydney – having implemented and adjusted to internal systems and processes that enable them to work to their desired level of efficiency.
“For the next year we’ll be focusing on growing organically, and not having any major spend on marketing. We’ll just be utilising the resources that we already have to the best of our ability,” says Hashem.
Take a tour of Diamond Emporium via www.diamondemporium.com.au.