Q&A: Taylor & Hart CEO discusses brand overhaul and international expansion

Nikolay

In a bid to position itself as an online leader in custom-made bridal jewellery and to expand its business focus globally to include the rest of Europe and the United States, online jewellery retailer Rare Pink has rebranded to Taylor & Hart.

Rare Pink was founded in 2013 by David Sutton and Nikolay Piriankov with the vision to improve the experience of buying an engagement ring. The duo felt they understood the millennial consumer and wanted to offer them something more than a traditional jewellers, or classic jewellery e-tailer.

Having raised over £500,000 investment via crowdfunding platform Seedrs, angel investors and from venture capital funds Launchub and Techstars, the team has designed and delivered almost 2,000 custom engagement rings online and through the company’s central London showroom.

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As such, the company decided to rebrand to position itself in the market in a way that better reflects its unique proposition and makes the brand more instantly recognisable worldwide.

Professional Jeweller editor Stacey Hailes caught up with Taylor & Hart chief executive officer Nikolay Piriankov to hear all about the major brand overhaul and the company’s plans for future growth, alongside insights into the way consumers shop for custom-made engagement rings.

Professional Jeweller: Why did you decide to change the company’s name from Rare Pink to Taylor & Hart?
Nikolay Piriankov: It had to do a lot with really thinking about who we were and what we wanted to communicate, and also trying to understand how brands in the past have successfully appealed to customers in a way that exudes the luxury, premium position that we are going for. We spent a bit of time last year in Boston, as part of an Accelerator programme, and some of the mentors that we spoke with didn’t think that we could go all the way and could position ourselves as a global leader in the custom bridal jewellery space as a company called Rare Pink. Most luxury brands have a legacy name associated with them that comes from a meaning or a heritage. That was the first thing that stood out. The other thing that was happening was some people were coming to us and thought we only sold pink diamonds, which obviously wasn’t true. So at that stage we were thinking, ok we are about to invest a lot into growth and positioning and the brand as a whole, and it really wasn’t going to be a good idea to do that with a brand name that we were not all 100% behind as a company.

PJ: With the company rebrand, how are you positioning yourself in the market?
NP: One of the things that we really wanted to achieve was to make it more clear that we specialise in custom-made, because when we started the business we knew that this was exciting and that more and more people were interested in that part of the market, but we weren’t brave enough initially to take a position and focus entirely on that. Coming out of the experience in America, we gained confidence to say we are actually really excited about that part of the market and we want to become the best at it. So unlike a large number of jewellers who will do custom, but as a side offering and will never really make it the core and build in the systems and the supply chain to do it as best as possible, we decided that we would take that as our main position. We think that there is a space in the market for a company to establish a global presence around custom made in a way that no brand has done before.

PJ: What have you done to help customers transition from Rare Pink to Taylor and Hart?
NP: The main thing is that we let the customers know that everything that was available before was still available, there was nothing wrong with the products or the designs previously, but we have just taken the decision to refine in this direction. The general feedback was positive. If anything, because we completely re-did all the visuals, investing a lot into photography, so a lot of people thought they were now buying from a higher-end brand and getting an upgrade.

PJ: You also launched a new online platform, what changes were made to enhance the customer experience/ journey?
NP: In focusing on our commitment to custom we took a leap of faith and decided to drop the e-commerce element of our business, despite the fact that we are a technology business. We basically found that the 5% of our customers who would come on the website and make a purchase without any conversation what so ever, so it was a very small number in the first place that would be confident enough to do that, would often make poor decisions and we would end up having to deal with them in the aftercare process. So we abandoned the e-commerce element and instead we are now an entirely lead generation business model. What that means is that our customers make enquiries on the website, and then it goes through the sales process and a large part of that sales process is online, but the difference is that we are able to guide the customers into making the best decisions for their price points in a way that wasn’t possible with e-commerce. So, while everybody that sells engagement rings online offers an opportunity to choose the ring, choose the diamond and then check out, we are seeing that that process isn’t necessarily the most effective and we are going to go our own way because our data is suggesting that there is a better process, and we test the process to constantly make it better. One of the things we have done is we have completely integrated all of our supply chain into a live quoting system, called the quotation tool. With this tool we are to give quotes on custom engagement rings, meaning that you can have any combination of design, diamonds, gemstones, and we get the quotes completely accurate to what the cost is going to be.

PJ: With this lead generation business model how do you communicate with customers?
NP: Every customer is different but what we have found works best is telling customers what their options are for how we can communicate and let them decide how they would like to do that. Those options are the typical, live chat, phone, email, and we what we’ve found works really well is adding WhatsApp to that mix. Those who live their whole lives on WhatsApp, and do everything there, find it super useful. It’s a nice flow, all the images and videos are there, our website is completely mobile, they can click through the links and go to their quotes and designs and the benefits for us is that we are not Whats-Apping as a sales person from our phones, we have the WhatsApp system open on our desktop and it is just like another live chat integration. But from the customers perspective they are much happier and they can respond at their leisure. We also know if they have seen the design or not and it gives us an idea on how to follow up. The showroom also helps and 85% of our consultations turn into a sale.

PJ: Following the rebrand, what are your plans for growth over the next 12 months?
NP: We are seeing how global goes. We’ve got ourselves in the best position to capture that, so we have a US and UK version of the website. The US website has US language and pricing. We have a US phone number and US call centre and at the moment 15% of our business is in America and we are really happy with that number because it went from 0 to 15 over the course of a year. We know we will grow there, but only following a funding round that we plan for later this year where we really say let’s expand to the US and open up a showroom there. The US is the largest market for custom design. Research done suggests that as many as 45% of people getting engaged with an engagement ring were customising their design, and 15% of the total number were completely bespoke designs. 10-15 years ago that would have been less than 1% because you wouldn’t have been able to do it at a price point that is accessible to most people and I think that is one of the big trends, that not only are millennials aware of custom and interested in it, it is now possible to design and manufacture at a cost that allows it to be accessible.

PJ: How do you find UK customers respond to the idea of a custom engagement ring?
NP: The interesting thing about the UK customer is they come looking for customisation less. So UK customers are more the kind that we convert into this because most guys don’t think straight away they want custom or not, they just know they want an engagement ring. But then they start to see a few websites and they get presented with viable options. When we surveyed our customers last year, one of the things we wanted to do was to find out — how big is custom? One of the key questions was — is custom only as big as people searching for it, or is custom also for people getting converted into it? When asked, 67% of our customers said that what they had received was a custom ring. The interesting thing about that figure is that we knew that number was closer to 50%. So what that suggests is that of the 50% that didn’t get a ‘custom ring’, because we are communicating that our brand is about custom-made and bespoke, even some of those customers felt that what they had received was something bespoke or custom-made. That’s because even though it was a classic design with a subtle touch such as an engraving, people think that is custom. But the more interesting thing was that of the 67% that said they received a custom ring, we asked them a further question which said, ‘did you come looking for custom or did you decide after you visited our website’, and it was split right down the middle. So that was a major validation for us.

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