Cover Story: A Beautiful Marriage
Buying an engagement ring ranks as one of the biggest purchases a consumer will ever make, both in terms of a sentimental and financial investment. Now imagine going through this entire process online — browsing a website to create the exact ring your future spouse will love, making sure it's sized just right and then paying for it via an e-commerce checkout page. Ritani is trying to make this experience the norm rather than the exception … with a healthy assist from traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts.
Leading Ritani's efforts at transforming the traditional retail jewelry store model is Brian Watkins, the company's president. Watkins has extensive experience both in the retail and, more specifically, jewelry industries. Prior to being named Ritani's president in December 2011, Watkins spent over eight years as the vice president of merchandising at online jewelry retailer Blue Nile. He also spent nearly a year as the director of strategy for Nordstrom.
Bridging the Digital Divide
What differentiates Ritani from other jewelry retailers is its hybrid selling model. This is embodied in the company's free in-store preview program. Here's how it works: Consumers begin their shopping experience by browsing Ritani's website, selecting two loose diamonds and settings, which are then handcrafted into rings at Ritani's manufacturing facility in New York City (they can also choose two made-to-order rings). The rings are then shipped to a local jewelry store affiliate of Ritani, where the consumer can preview them for free with no obligation to buy.
"Integrated online/offline is truly the Holy Grail of retail today," says Watkins. "We're able to bridge online and offline, giving the consumer exactly what they're asking for — time to get to know the brand online and then transition to an expert in a local store. We think that value proposition, all the way from online to your local Main Street, is what makes Ritani unique."