“Digital or Bust?” Key Takeaways from the Rapaport Diamond Tech Podcast Series: Episode 1

Here at Sarine, diamond technology is what we are all about, and it has been our singular focus for over 30 years in the industry. That’s why we are honored to sponsor the Rapaport Podcast Special Series, “Technology and the Diamond Trade”.

While groundbreaking tech solutions for diamond manufacturing have long been an integral part of the supply chain, the past decade has seen a decisive move towards the integration of digital technology in the diamond jewelry retail segment. In a competitive market environment, the explosion of digital marketing tech has created a seachange in the way that jewelry retailers interact with customers and promote their brands.

In the first podcast of the Rapaport Series, “Digital or Bust?”, Avi Krawitz hosts three industry insiders who bring their unique perspectives: Ben Smithee, CEO of Smithee Group, the growth marketing consultancy with expertise in the luxury jewelry segment; Grant Mobley, Trade Director of the Natural Diamond Council that aims to enhance and promote the power and benefits of natural diamonds to consumers worldwide; and Sam Karmiel, founder of Icerock Diamonds™, the exclusive LA-based diamond jewelry designer who has become an Instagram marketing guru.

Want to dive in? Listen to the podcast here.

And read on for a roundup of the discussion and key takeaways. Has COVID caused a digital revolution for the industry? And does the jewelry retailer really need to go digital or bust? All the answers and more in the podcast.

Digital during a pandemic: The truth behind the headlines

The trend towards technology has dominated our lives in the past year during the pandemic, whether it be Zoom meetings and classes, or a huge jump in online shopping. But how does it look for the diamond industry moving forward?

According to Ben Smithee of Smithee Group, there is a perception that 2020 was the “aha moment,” when jewelers realized that digital was the path forward. However, Smithee notes that the diamond and jewelry industry was already making headway into digital marketing even as far back as 2013. What happened during the pandemic was that the late adopters and those who were only dabbling in the possibilities of digital were compelled to give it a real shot, and they discovered that digital is actually a strong driver of revenue. Grant Mobley of the Natural Diamond Council concurred, stating that by the late summer of 2020, retailers had begun to experience the positive response from consumers to their digital marketing activities and that this past year has marked a “sink or swim” moment for many retailers, as they come to terms with the inevitability of the digital shift.

What “digital” really looks like for diamond and jewelry retailers

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During the podcast, Sam Karmiel of Icerock Diamonds talked about his journey from diamond wholesaler to jewelry designer and Instagram guru, providing a fascinating glimpse into what it means to be digital-first in the diamond jewelry industry.

According to Karmiel, he began by posting images of his jewelry creations on Instagram several years ago, and slowly gained a following. At a certain point, he realized that it was necessary to build his brand personality in order to cultivate relationships and show his authenticity as a designer and as a person. Karmiel states that this has been key in his ability to gain high-worth customers and large design commissions based solely on his digital presence, via chat messaging and email, without ever meeting the client face to face or even talking with the client on the phone. Today, 90% of Icerock sales happen on Instagram.

Beyond Instagram, Ben Smithee described how he works with clients in the luxury jewelry industry, helping them build a presence across the virtual world. It always begins with three questions: What is your company and brand? Where are you? And where are your customers? Once your brand identity is defined, it’s time to craft your brand messages and content. Then comes content distribution, both paid and organic, on a diverse range of channels where your customers are found. But the core always stems from the strength of your branding and the story you have to tell about your company and products.


What to expect for the industry digitally in 2021

The podcast ended on a forward-looking note, as host Avi Krawitz asked the three guests what new technology or trend they look forward to seeing in the year ahead.

For Grant Mobley of the Natural Diamond Council, the realm of augmented reality is something to watch out for. According to Mobley, the big names in designer luxury jewelry have been working in recent months on improving their retail offerings, and as the pandemic lifts and retail returns to normal, he is eager to see what kinds of cool, innovative in-store and digital experiences these companies will offer.

Icerock’s Sam Karmiel is forecasting the continued explosion of Instagram among industry players, as more jewelers turn to the visual platform to engage with customers. But he also has a keen eye on new platforms, like TikTok, which are showing astonishing results for customer reach, particularly among younger demographics.

As for Ben Smithee of Smithee Consulting, voice technology is the thing to watch, including podcasts and voice search. Smithee sees the adaption of audio content as the next big wave to hit the digital marketing industry, as people worldwide turn to voice search for their online browsing, and as they consume more audio-style content, as evidenced by the rise of the new social media platform Clubhouse and the increased use of virtual assistants Siri, Alexa, and Google Home.

Join us soon for a roundup of the next podcast in the exclusive Rapaport series, sponsored proudly by Sarine.