DIGITAL ARTISTRY

Design technology could save your margins—and make you stand out from the competition.
by Mike Lawlor
I OFTEN GET ASKED WHY I DO CAD DESIGN and in-depth 3D printing in my store, and the answer is you have to adapt to survive. Customers, now more than ever, are demanding to have their jewellery personalized and custom- produced for them. As jewellers, we deal every day with clients wanting something different, tweaked, or just not quite what we have chosen to keep in our showcases. Well, those days of turning them away or having to say no are gone. I’m about to share with you a bit of the background on how introducing CAD and 3D printing can redene your business and bring in a whole new breed and quantity of customer.
Staying on trend
Let’s be honest: we are all trying to stay ahead of trends and styles, but fast fashion can really dampen our efforts. With design at your ngertips, you can create any design regardless of whether you have it—and, it’s truly liberating not to say, “we just don’t do that.” Introducing even some of the most basic design technology into your business will cut down on how many styles of jewellery you need to have on hand. Inventory tends to cost a pretty penny just to ll up a showcase, with no guarantee that it will sell. Often with custom projects, there is no monetary outlay into inventory until you are actually producing the piece. Even then, following common industry practices, you should have at least a base deposit in your till to cover the costs of production.
Another primary struggle we face as jewellers is selling different brands. To challenge this, think of yourself as a brand rather than as a retailer of brands. Doing custom design work either for inventory or your customers is the last step to building your own product line. Customers appreciate being able to see the face of their purchases, and will associate you and your store with the designs you produce. What’s more, design work can help with your margins. Every one of us has had a customer challenge our pricing at some point because a competitor has something similar at a lower price. Custom work equals exclusivity, which leads to higher margins.
Stepping up
Now that we are all excited about the idea of more prots, less overhead, and having a personalized brand, let’s talk about steps required to implement the right design technology for your store. The most basic way to begin offering custom designs is through a partnership with a CAD company. Although you’re not implementing any technology into your store, you’re able to achieve a custom project with the company offering their design services to you. You can also implement a design program. Depending on what level of customization you are looking to offer, there are various programs which offer many options. You can start with the most basic software and work your way up as you become more comfortable. Since rst using design software, I have seen a constant growth in my store’s custom design category. Not only will you start to see more customers from your local community in your store—your online community will also ourish. Younger millennials looking for custom engagement rings and middle-aged Baby Boomers looking to restyle inherited or old pieces of jewellery were previously an unreachable demographic. However, you’ll be able to capture their business through social media presence. Ultimately, this will create better brand awareness and potentially increase sales.
 
Make the sale
One of the most vital elements of custom design work is its ability to save a sale. Losing business because you didn’t have something in your inventory or aren’t capable of taking on custom orders is a thing of the past. Now, you can expect more referrals from your happy customers. I can’t stress enough how referrals can elevate a business. Creating a unique piece of jewellery for someone earns you their trust. You could nish an engagement ring one month, and have two of their friends phoning you for an order the next month. With all of that being said, don’t be afraid to get involved. You do not need to be a creative artist to offer simple custom designs. There will never be a brand that is as organic to your space as your own. Customers will remember it, and you will be more condent that they cannot get it anywhere else. An investment into even the most high-end software can pay for itself in the rst few designs that you produce with it. From there, it only becomes a tool that makes more and more money for you with very little upkeep. Do yourself a favour and look into technology or the companies you can partner with to begin offering custom designs in your store. I truly believe that you will nd the design process is quite simple, and the prots that can be made in this category are absolutely in your favour.

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