Jean Poh’s family has been in the jewelry business for four generations. And, for the most part, the industry has operated much the same as it always has, she says.
Following a professional detour in which she worked as an attorney and angel investor, Poh made her way back to the jewelry business. She began to design jewelry herself and after interacting with retailers she says she saw an opportunity to transform how fine jewelry is marketed and sold to consumers.
“We’re bridging the gap between an Old World industry and a modern personalized experience for jewelry that hasn’t existed,” she says of her startup, Swoonery.
Swoonery operates an e-commerce website with fine jewelry made by 73 designers, such as Akillis, VanLeles, and Elie Top. (The startup, which has raised about $1.8 million from investors such as Carmen Busquets, an early investor in Net-a-Porter, also operates a showroom on Fifth Avenue in Midtown New York.)
Poh says she believes it’s important to bring aboard tech tools like artificial intelligence and visual search to better connect consumers to the set of earrings, necklace, or ring they’re most likely to covet—and buy. “The entire browsing experience is completely tailored to your aesthetic,” she says of Swoonery.
Swoonery asks a new user to create an account and complete a brief survey of preferences by clicking on at least five images of jewelry that the individual believes represents their style. An algorithm then uses that data to give search results of jewelry it believes reflects those personal preferences.
Currently, only 25 percent of online shoppers worldwide say the relevant product recommendations many e-commerce sites display are items that actually interest them, according to a survey by SAP. That number is even lower in the US, with only 17 percent of shoppers being connected to the products they are wanting to buy.
And without those sorts of guideposts, Poh says “the sheer amount of choice makes it overwhelming for consumers.” Traditional search using keywords is sometimes not enough to find a specific product, she says.
“The description could be white T-shirt, but that could be minimalist Calvin Klein or something that’s floral or ruffle-y,” Poh adds.
Unlike most jewelry retailers, the three-year-old Swoonery does not stock much inventory in the hopes of making future sales. Instead, the company uses an asset-light business model in which it acts as an intermediary between customer and the designer, making purchases and deliveries only after an order is placed. That system allows Swoonery to, have access to a broader range of styles and sizes than a typical jewelry retailer, Poh says.
“Otherwise there is uneven distribution because the cost of [holding] inventory is so high,” she says. “There are only one or two sizes scattered across the country or world.”