Choosing a piece of diamond jewelry for a loved one – especially an engagement ring – is a romantic and very personal expression of commitment. For many people, it is one of the most important purchases in their lives. But until now, the purchase of diamond jewelry has been a far from scintillating experience. This traditional industry, built around a beautiful product and brilliant marketing, had neglected the customer experience for decades.
It was Michael Perry, Director of Omnichannel at De Beers, who got to conceive and execute the group’s transformation.
“We had to take a broad approach,” Perry says. “First, to build a good relationship with our customers and second, to improve customer expectations and experiences with diamond dealers.”
It wasn’t going to be an easy job. But for anyone with anything to do with customer experience, it’s an incredibly inspiring story.
The fifth C: complexity
Hardly anyone spends thousands of euros on a diamond just like that. Moreover, unless you are an expert, it can be difficult to be sure that you are spending all that money on the right diamond.
The purchase of a diamond usually involves a long and extremely complex buying process. Potential buyers can spend many months in research and often use a variety of channels and touch points to find the right brand and the right specimen. And you simply can’t treat everyone the same. The customer can just as easily be a mobile-first customer from generation Z as a very wealthy ‘VVIP’ who is used to the service of private banks and five-star hotels – diversity prevails.
Finally, a diamond is not a mass product that is always in stock. Like any relationship, each diamond is unique (in color, shape, number of carats, etc.). It is a truly special product delivered directly to you with its own passport and certificate.
“There are over 58,000 possible combinations of carat weight, color, clarity and cut,” Perry explains, “Not to mention the unique number and visibility of inclusions. Those are the little imperfections that almost every diamond has. So when you buy a diamond, you’re not just buying any diamond, you’re really choosing that diamond.”
It was clear that a revamped customer experience also meant revamping the entire supply chain: “We had to make sure that our entire inventory was available to every customer at any time and on any channel,” says Perry. “That meant a thorough overhaul of the supply chain and logistics, but it also meant significantly increasing our chances of making every customer happy with that one perfect item.”
A transformation based on vision
Perry and the team came up with this vision for De Beers: all contact moments and transactions in physical stores and on digital channels should be coordinated in such a way that the customer experience is not only highly personal but also exudes luxury.
“Customers don’t think in channels. They see one brand and expect us to behave as one as well,” says Perry. “Customers expect De Beers to provide the highest level of service, wherever and however they interact with us.”
The good news: the team’s vision received full support from the top. The team was even given permission to jettison technology that wasn’t satisfactory and start with a clean slate. So they started with a blank sheet of paper and lots of data. Based on this data, they then designed beautifully streamlined, ideal customer journeys.
“First we thought about the ideal end-to-end customer experience and then we listed what we all needed to achieve it,” says Perry. Once the basics were in place, the options were thoroughly examined. In the end, they chose MuleSoft to combine Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud with Einstein, a clienteling solution from Salesforce partner Tulip and the Salesforce-compatible WeChat technology from Chat-Labs.
A central and complete customer view as a starting point
De Beers knew they could only realize their vision if they could create and use one central profile of each customer and prospect.
To that end, Perry and his team used MuleSoft to bring all customer data from a wide variety of systems – ranging from the cash register and other financial systems to customer service and web analytics systems – into Service Cloud. Customer profiles are now maintained there, with interaction data retrieved from various systems and insights published to these systems and store associates and customer service teams.
As a result, each customer’s profile, preferences and interaction history are available during each contact moment. “We don’t just use this data for smart marketing,” Perry says. “We use it to increase our service levels and exceed customer expectations. To the customer, we are now one brand.”
The challenge of integration
To have a single customer view, employees must be able to pull in and use accurate, up-to-date data from any other system. That’s where MuleSoft came in.
“Developing custom code to integrate one system is not difficult, but we needed to integrate and combine a whole collection of systems and data,” Perry explains. “To give an example, our POS system spits out a csv file once a day. We have to convert that and upload it to Service Cloud. With MuleSoft, we could upload this crucial data automatically, making the whole process a lot easier.”
Transforming the website experience with Commerce Cloud
Prior to the transformation, the De Beers website had very limited visibility of inventory. In addition, the functionality for users and data capture was limited. “The CRM almost collapsed and we didn’t really have a marketing platform,” says Perry. “So the move to Commerce Cloud was a huge step.”
By 2020, the new site went live in eighteen countries: there are multiple languages and currencies, and customers have access to the brand’s entire global inventory. Decentralized logistics means that every copy is available to every customer, anywhere in the world. In addition, the workflows take into account regional tax regulations. The system even calculates lead times for items that De Beers does not have in stock but can make to order. This means that customers can get the exact style they want on DeBeers.com.
Customers not only have access to the brand’s entire inventory on the new website, but can also view and personalize items in a variety of interactive ways.
The online selection of individual products has also been enhanced with features that make the purchase more tangible, practical and personal. Photos of De Beers rings can be rotated 360 degrees, customers can select ring sizes to avoid having to return items, and some rings can even be engraved. Once the customer has selected the perfect piece and is ready to order, De Beers offers expedited shipping options (and in some cases next-day delivery, or in the foreseeable future maybe even same-day delivery).
Commerce Cloud supports all of this new online functionality, but also forms the bridge that now firmly connects the online and in-store shopping experience for De Beers’ customers.
Perry puts it as follows: “Checkout in Commerce Cloud is a streamlined process, but an order processed on the site is more than just a transaction. It’s often the culmination of a process that may have included ten or more contact moments, many of which involve store associates or our service centers.”
This integration of offline and online is the realization of our vision. Our employees are at the heart of the entire customer experience, even if the interaction has taken place ‘digitally’. Customers today can interact online in many different ways: via live chat, contact form, callback request, email, voice, etc. And in all cases, the customer can be put in touch with an employee in the store to continue the process via a further appointment or immediately. During the corona crisis, De Beers ensured that this personal service remained accessible to the customer by offering virtual appointments.
Taking the in-store experience to the next level
The transformation’s primary goal was to arm De Beers’ store associates with the necessary customer insight and productivity tools they need to provide each customer with a fantastic personalized experience.
“Over 90% of all sales take place in-store,” Perry points out. “It’s a personal service. What matters is maintaining that emotional connection between the customer and the chosen piece. A well-integrated customer experience can really help with that.”
De Beers replaced the manual in-store administration system with a streamlined system fed by the central, complete customer view. Employees are no longer at the mercy of “a complex set of systems” but now have everything they need in one place to provide highly personalized service.
“Thanks to our mobile clienteling solution, our employees have access to all of their clients’ information and preferences and can stay in touch with them one-on-one, even when they are out of the office,” says Perry. “And all of this is tracked in Service Cloud.”
In addition, brand ambassadors can see information about customer purchases and client reminders on their mobile device. This means they have the data and productivity tools to increase conversions while focusing on customers.
“The shopping experience is primarily about enjoyment and learning what a diamond is – holding a rough diamond and learning more about its cut, clarity, color, carat weight and about the famous brilliance of a De Beers. It’s personal, compelling and supportive. That’s what makes De Beers the true ‘Home of Diamonds’. Technology cannot replace this experience, but it can be used to make it possible,” concludes Perry.
Marketing becomes personal with the help of Marketing Cloud
The same insight that enabled a better website and shopping experience is also guiding De Beers’ retail marketing, with highly personalized emails, targeted presentation and ads on social media that reflect the individual customer journey.
The engagement data resulting from these interactions is then incorporated back into Service Cloud so that it is available in the complete customer view.
The team can now link online visibility to purchases and interactions that occur offline and online, encouraging continuous improvement and constant relevance. If web content leads to an offline purchase, the sale is actually attributed to that content. Before we had the complete customer view, this was impossible.
Everything falls into place
In a very short time, De Beers has taken the sale of diamonds, a luxury product, to an unprecedented level.
These days, online interactions soon lead to in-store appointments – and store visits can provide further online engagement. De Beers store associates can support digital channels by talking to online customers via live chat. With the order management feature in Commerce Cloud, they can even handle orders from these customers in-store, including shipping if necessary. And the brand’s entire inventory is visible and available to every customer, no matter which way they communicate.
Just weeks after the new Commerce Cloud website went live, the team was already seeing a significant increase in key metrics such as page views, time spent on the website and email contact. Also, the number of purchases and the average value of orders have already increased by 30%.
Over the next year, De Beers’ team will roll out Tulip’s clientele solution to more stores worldwide and further enhance in-store technology and personalization tools.
The team also plans to expand the use of Einstein Analytics to contribute to predictive modeling and to capture propensity to buy. In addition, it plans to segment the customer base more intelligently in this way, getting even more information about customers and then feeding it back to the right people and systems.
The result of this journey? A smooth, personalized shopping experience that gives De Beers customers everything they could possibly need to make the right choice in that one, perhaps one-time decision in their lives.
It’s all about personalizing the process for each customer to get to that specific, personally selected diamond and, therefore, a complete customer view as well as a total view of each product.
Perry sums it up as follows: “One of our veterans once told me: ‘The customer chooses the diamond and the diamond chooses the customer’. We want to reflect that in the way we work.”
To make De Beers’ story even more impressive, the crucial go-live phase took place when the corona pandemic was in full swing. The new Commerce Cloud website went live in 18 countries while they were in lockdown. And when stores closed in the United States, logistics and deliveries were transferred to the United Kingdom in just two days.
“Our CEO immediately understood why this was possible,” says Michael Perry. “She said, ‘It’s a good thing we started the omnichannel process two years ago. At least now we’re prepared for anything.’ My day couldn’t be better.“