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Creative Connecting: The Digital Sourcing Revolution

Duvall O’Steen and Jen Cullen Williams share how jewelers can connect with new suppliers in virtual marketplaces.

This article originally ran in National Jeweler.

Modern technology has enabled a revolution in business-to-business sourcing and merchandising.

Digital marketplaces have proven their relevance in the fashion industry with platforms like JOOR and NuOrder assisting brands and retailers by streamlining inventory replenishment, educating the sales force, and enhancing sales with easy and efficient merchandise searching.

The jewelry industry is also creating such tech tools, designed specifically for jewelers.

While nothing can replace the vital and important role of trade shows, in-person events only happen at certain times of the year.

Digital sourcing, on the other hand, is available year-round, providing additional sales opportunities and inventory enhancements on an ongoing basis, especially useful with continued supply chain challenges.

There are many digital B2B sourcing platforms to explore. Here we list a few and highlight those with special tools or functionality that helps meet your inventory needs on-demand, 24/7.

But first, we’ll highlight the advantages of using these platforms, as well as a few cautionary pointers to keep in mind.

Benefits of Digital Sourcing

1. Never Miss an Opportunity 

For suppliers, listing merchandise on digital platforms is like having a year-round trade show, making your products available globally, 24/7, to every retail buyer who uses the platform.

For retailers, digital marketplaces can create sales even when inventory is low or when customers have special requests that are not in line with your normal merchandising strategy.

As an example, if a retailer does not carry a specific type of diamond or only carries a minimal inventory of lab-grown diamonds, digital sourcing can help them respond to a customer request almost instantly.

Also, if a sales associate is out of the store and encounters someone seeking advice for a significant purchase, some platforms’ digital tools can be used on the spot from a smart device in the palm of the hand to turn that inquiry into a sale.

2. Data Sharing Leads to Enhanced Merchandising

The absence of trade shows for most of 2020 certainly amplified the need for digital solutions.

According to Sherry Smith, director of business development for The Edge Retail Academy, “We found more suppliers and retailers looking toward data and online tools during the pandemic.”

The Edge offers inventory management systems that many vendors use to track sell-through success and better service their retailers by replenishing fast-selling inventory more quickly.

“Some vendors took [these advantages] to a different level by putting retailers on automated replenishment,” said Smith. “One vendor analyzed the data and found that the retailers who were on an automated replenishment plan performed 39 percent better than those that weren’t.”

3. Time-Saving Clienteling

Digital sourcing efficiently allows retailers to prepare for in-person buying by researching new brands, previewing collections, and learning terms and conditions before making appointments in-store or at trade show events.

According to Tanya Nisguretsky, CEO and co-founder of Virtual Diamond Boutique (VDB), digital sourcing also saves time as a tool for clienteling.

“A platform like VDB, which was designed for use with the end consumer, saves both time and money,” she said.

“The consumer-friendly user interface helps retailers to pre-qualify the customer, increasing efficiency and profits by pinpointing the exact item the client wants ahead of time, therefore cutting down on shipping costs and delays, and creating more access beyond the few suppliers you normally do business with.”

Cautions of Digital Sourcing

1. Transparency

Some buyers are reluctant to utilize modern sourcing technology because of their comfort level with long-term relationships and trusted suppliers. But many of the industry’s leading technology experts are working toward building more secure and transparent platforms.

As an example, VDB confirmed it is currently developing a groundbreaking new collaboration with a third-party trade organization to improve transparency and trust among its members, ensuring a more secure environment where buyers and sellers can have more information about each other readily accessible.

Marianne Fisher, co-founder and managing director of the Jewelers Circle added, “Check the industry associations and partnerships that a platform is affiliated with or endorsed by, and always ask about their vetting process for allowing buyers and sellers onto the platform.”

2. Availability

Nisguretsky warns that, unlike physical in-person buying, there is no 100 percent guarantee that items you are looking at on a digital marketplace are available.

Inventory is changing constantly and the back-end programming updates regularly, but occasionally, you might still see an item that is no longer available.

“We suggest buyers or sales staff always manage the customer’s expectations and always reconfirm with the supplier that the desired item is available.”

3. Returns/Shipping

Like all orders, make sure the vendor you are ordering from has an acceptable return policy, as well as adequate shipping insurance and clear language about responsibility for any goods lost en route.

Fisher suggested, “When doing business and before transacting with new vendors, always review their terms and conditions and use resources like a JBT rating, like you would at an in-person trade show.”

Digital Sourcing Platforms for Jewelers

Natural & Lab-Grown Diamonds

Searching for diamonds has never been easier or more efficient, thanks to apps and platforms like VDBIDEX Mobile, RapNet and Polygon.

Available as apps for smart devices, these platforms connect jewelers looking to locate specific types of diamonds, including lab grown.

Most of the diamonds listed have high-resolution photos, grading reports, and details listed on the app.

VDB, the largest global source for lab-grown diamonds, also popularized the use of high-resolution video of all its products, as videos often show a diamond’s brilliance and cut better than a still photo and are more exciting for the end consumer.

Many of these platforms have options for immediate ordering and a few offer in-app messaging or external messaging through email, text, social media, or WhatsApp.

Finished Designer & Vintage Jewelry, Watches, and Colored Gemstones

There are several B2B platforms that provide opportunities for souring fine jewelry, watches, designer jewelry, vintage, and antique jewelry, as well as colored gemstones from mobile, tablet, or desktop.

The Jewelers Source by JCK is a marketplace for the jewelry industry for sourcing, product discovery, and virtual meetings for designer and private label jewelry, powered by BOSS Logics technology.

With Jewelers Source, jewelry professionals can browse online “showrooms” and meet with the industry’s top vendors and suppliers year-round in high-definition meetings.

Another global online platform, the Jewelers Circle, specializes in trade-only sourcing of rare and exquisite high-end vintage and estate jewelry, designer and signed jewelry, timepieces, natural diamonds and colored gemstones, and other antique collectibles.

Renowned vintage dealers sell one-of-a-kind and historic pieces from design houses such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Boucheron, Bulgari, JAR and more on Jewelers Circle.

In addition, the platform offers free educational webinars and a “Meet the Dealers” video series to teach about rare pieces and dealers on the platform.

For those seeking colored gemstones and jewelry, Gembridge offers access to top colored stone suppliers and jewelry featuring colored gemstones worldwide. VDB also offers the gamut of gemstones in all colors and shapes on its platform. 

Each B2B sourcing platform offers a wide assortment of products and has its own unique functionalities and features. Most offer free demos to see what will be most useful to your business.  

In today’s world, there is no need to ever miss a sale because you do not have something in stock to show your customer. Digital sourcing is a way to enhance your inventory and purchasing, as well as to discover or make new connections to better serve your end client.