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Education Is the Sparkle in Blue Nile’s Marketing

The average marriage rate in the U.S. today is low. In its 2015 U.S. Wedding Forecast report, forecasting firm Demographic Intelligence predicted that the marriage rate will reach 6.7 per 1,000 people this year. And as The Dallas Morning News noted in its coverage of the report, this number includes people who are getting married for the second or third time.

It’s Blue Nile’s job to find these lovebirds before they pop the question. Engagement rings make up 60% to 70% of the online jeweler’s revenue, according to Blue Nile’s senior director of digital marketing Lori Gatto. But the customer journey doesn’t end there. It’s up to the company to then convince those customers to return and make subsequent purchases, such as wedding bands or Valentine’s Day gifts.

“We see our lifetime value as being that jeweler of choice,” Gatto said at the recent 2016 Bluecore Explore Summit in New York.

Acquiring and converting these customers can be tricky. As Gatto noted during an on-stage Q&A with Bluecore’s SVP of Data Analytics and Insights Jared Blank, buying an engagement ring is like buying a car—it involves a lot of research and often has a lengthy purchase cycle (sometimes up to three months). And because not everyone is well-versed in the four C’s (color, clarity, cut, and carat weight), it’s up to Blue Nile to supply that education.

Blue Nile does this in a couple of ways. First, the company has a range of content on its website. Printable ring style guides, videos on the four Cs, and tips on picking the right diamond are just a few examples.

Search is also a key player. Queries like “what to look for in diamond clarity” or “what to look for in a diamond cut” can help drive traffic to the brand’s website. In addition to these tactics, Blue Nile leverages email marketing. Gatto says Blue Nile can tailor its email content based on what kind of shopper the subscriber is. The company can decipher what a consumer might be in the market for by asking for his or her relationship status upon opt-in (single, engaged soon, engaged, or married) or by analyzing the subscriber’s past purchase data or online behavioral data. Gatto later told DMN that these targeted communications generate higher open, click-through, and conversion rates compared to the brand’s batch-and-blast messages and that they also produce more revenue per email.

“You have to know who your customer is,” Gatto said. “You have to know what’s resonating.”

All of this education helps Blue Nile build trust with consumers and establish the kind of dependable relationship they might have with a local jeweler.

However, Gatto admits that the company can’t do it alone. She says that customer advocacy and referrals help drive the brand’s business. She also says that it’s important for her to build partnerships outside of the marketing department—such as with merchandising—to open communication and collaboration, as well as to ensure that everyone is aligned around the bigger brand picture.

Cross-departmental communication and customer trust? Now, those are the elements that help any business sparkle.

Update 9/21/16: Additional details regarding Blue Nile’s targeting capabilities and email performance were added.

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