While businesses in the digital age have always used means to connect and communicate with remote employees and clients, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a great catalyst for the increase in the use of virtual meeting platforms.
In a time of social distancing, businesses are relying on these platforms — like Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Skype, and Cisco WebEx, even FaceTime in a pinch — to stay connected, exchange information, and work together when we can’t be together.
Rolling out this month, The Plumb Club is launching a virtual B2B sales platform to connect members with their retail customers. The debut heralds the first phase of a longer-termed strategy dubbed ‘TPC-365’, a three-tier immersive virtual experience that will capture the essence of The Plumb Club mission and vision, and deliver it to visitors all year long.
The first phase of this cutting-edge technology — designed and customized for The Plumb Club by BOSS Logics — is a state-of-the-art platform that reduces the need for travel and will allow members to schedule and conduct effective “face-to-face” sales meetings with retailers, complete with high-resolution product images, streaming media, and detailed customer-specific product information.
Meetings can consist of pre-developed presentations, but also have the flexibility to pull in unscheduled elements and new products at will. The platform, which is completely mobile-friendly, is immersive and collaborative, with each party able to see the other’s movements and focus, including the ability to change and reorganize a virtual “tray” assortment via simple “drag and drop”.
“Virtual is the future”, says Michael Lerche, president of The Plumb Club. “Many industries have been successfully leveraging the virtual space for years. The jewelry industry has been lagging, however, now more than ever, and continuing in the future, the virtual space is essential for sustained business growth.”
Virtual selling is now fundamental to growth in a market where remote selling is the “next normal” as the coronavirus pandemic has forced over 4 billion consumers, customers, employees, and salespeople to stay at home.
The latest statistics cited by FinancesOnline reveal that 58 percent of businesses utilize video conferencing for their everyday operations; 54 percent of the U.S. workforce takes part in video conferences; 75 percent of CEOs forecast video conferencing will replace conference calls; and about 50 percent of employees worldwide are expected to telecommute within the next decade.
Back in June, Frederick Goldman, a Plumb Club member manufacturer of wedding, bridal, and men’s jewelry, started hosting virtual sales calls for its jewelers via its new B2B site (b2b.fgoldman.com). “As we adjust our way of doing business, we must re-imagine what the sales process will entail for our accounts that we sell to, as well as our field sales representatives,” describes Jonathan Goldman, CEO of Frederick Goldman. “We believe the process of virtual selling will be a win-win for all involved and will not be a short-term solution for the next few months, but for the foreseeable future. Virtual selling moves our sales reps into more of a consultative role with their retail partners and offers a more robust selling approach. It provides an efficient way of reviewing new products and allows for more interactions with sales rep and home office throughout the year.”
Virtual sales calls for Fredrick Goldman take place using Zoom and other conference call platforms. The account receives an email inviting them to participate in the virtual sales call, select a date/time that works for them through a scheduling app, and receive a link to a digital flipbook highlighting the new products and programs presented on the call. Via the B2B site, sales reps walk accounts through the latest products and packages, and are able to build wish lists, and provide easy access to marketing support. Also included, video clips from its merchandising team, providing insights into key products, trends and brand stories. And each rep is outfitted with high-res webcam and lighting equipment, allowing them to show live close-up shots of products on the call.
A May Departures article, by Maya Kachroo-Levine, hailed virtual consultations the next big thing in fine jewelry. It reports that with the surge of virtual offerings available — from online yoga classes to virtual tours of European castles — trying on engagement rings now has gone digital, as well.
Departures cites clever jewelers pivoting to facilitate at-home engagement ring shopping experiences where knowledgeable sales associates function much like a personal stylist, curating a selection of diamonds based on your preferences, and styling each engagement ring with assorted wedding bands.
New York City jewelry artist Lauren Addison was one of several jewelers featured in Departures. The by-appointment-only jeweler is no stranger to working remotely. In an April 20 JCK article by Amy Elliot, Addison shares her process, which starts with a 15-minute phone call to discuss the client’s budget and review their must-haves and priorities as far as the Four Cs are concerned.
Based on this information, Addison curates a selection of three to five diamonds for consideration. Next, a 60-minute videoconference is scheduled on the client’s platform of choice to review the different stones. During the consult, she presents each diamond in detail, using a mix of images, GIA certificates, and high-res video to provide an in-depth profile of each stone.
Once the client decides on the stone, the discussion moves to style and setting, where she uses a variety of communication tools to ultimately create a 3D rendering of the design for approval that a master bench jeweler will bring to life.