While diamond engagement rings are beautiful and exciting purchases, those of the traditional earth-mined variety can also be associated with high costs and ethical conflict.
Observing that there wasn’t an eco-conscious, conflict-free and affordable diamond option on the market spurred the creation of MiaDonna. Ten years later, the company continues to disrupt the diamond mining and traditional jewelry retail space with its lab-grown diamonds — offering customers a diamond alternative they can truly feel good about buying.
But purchasing high-value diamonds online — whether they be traditional or lab-grown — is still a process that comes with risk and uncertainty. Andrew Puddifoot, GM of MiaDonna, shared with PYMNTS how the eCommerce bridal jewelry business is bringing value to the engagement ring shopping journey both online and in its physical showroom.
PYMNTS: How did MiaDonna get started?
AP: MiaDonna was founded in 2005 by Anna-Mieke Anderson, a mother who wanted an alternative to the cost and conflict associated with providing diamond jewelry to the consumer. After discovering the origin of her earth-mined diamond ring, Anderson set out to find a conflict-free diamond. She soon found that the only true conflict-free diamond was lab-grown. As it turned out, Anderson wasn’t the only one in search of an ethical, beautiful and affordable earth-mined diamond alternative. It was at that time that MiaDonna.com was born.
PYMNTS: What was the inspiration behind using a direct-to-consumer eCommerce business model versus using a solely brick-and-mortar or physical channel?
AP: For more than a decade, we have upheld a tradition of creating fine bridal jewelry that is eco-conscious, conflict-free and affordable for the consumer troubled by the environmental ramifications of mining and the history of violence in native diamond communities.
The direct-to-consumer business model allows us to keep operational costs to a minimum, thus maximizing the amount we can re-invest into damaged diamond mining communities through our foundation, the Greener Diamond.
PYMNTS: How has the company disrupted or changed the diamond industry?
AP: We’ve been at the forefront of the lab-grown diamond industry for the past decade, providing customers an alternative choice to mined diamonds that are more affordable, ethical and beautiful than anything we will ever get out of the earth.
For diamond mining companies and many traditional jewelry retailers, this technology comes as a major threat. More and more consumers, especially millennials, are opting for lab-grown diamonds over earth-mined. They appreciate the technology, would rather spend their money on a house or honeymoon, and appreciate a socially conscious product.
PYMNTS: What was the motivation behind offering the home try-on program? How has that offering changed the shopping experience of MiaDonna customers?
AP: The home try-on program was introduced to reduce the uncertainty and risk associated with purchasing a high-value jewelry item online. It allows new and existing customers to interact and evaluate the product, brand and level of service before making the purchase decision.
The program is a value ad for our customers. It increases customer satisfaction and takes away any previous uncertainties about the online purchasing process. And from an operational perspective, the program has certainly helped reduce return rates.
PYMNTS: How long has MiaDonna’s PDX Showroom been available to consumers? How has it changed or impacted customer purchasing decisions?
AP: When we opened the doors to our Portland, Ore., Showroom in early 2014, we wanted to create a truly unique shopping experience that would encourage customers to interact with product and staff and allow them to be completely immersed in the MiaDonna brand. It has evolved aesthetically in the past few years, but its purpose remains the same.
From the customer’s perspective, knowing there’s a physical location certainly helps with the purchase decision. It adds trust and provides reassurance that there’s actually a company on the other end.
PYMNTS: What is your take on the “Warby of X” concept? Do you see direct-to-consumer evolving as sustainable business model?
AP: Yes, I do. As consumers continue to demand a better brand experience (and they will), retailers will be left with little choice but to evolve and improve their D2C business model. It has certainly been an area of growth for us and has helped us develop stronger, more meaningful relationships with our customer base.
PYMNTS: The direct-to-consumer business model for jewelry is a space that’s increased in popularity in recent years. How is MiaDonna working to stand out in that market?
AP: Unlike the vast majority of our competitors, we’re a foundation-first company creating positive change in diamond mining communities by exclusively offering consumers ethical fine jewelry and lab-grown diamonds. Funds from each sale are used to fund community projects in Sub-Sahara Africa, where we empower former child soldiers to grow food instead of mining for diamonds.
PYMNTS: What’s next for MiaDonna? Do you have any news or updates you can share?
AP: We’re continually optimizing our brand, product, services and technology to better serve our customers needs. We just launched a new website a couple weeks back and we’re currently working on additional digital touch points that will allow our customers to better experience the MiaDonna brand. Exciting things are coming, so stay tuned.