Gemvara (previously known as Paragon Lake) is focused on providing its customers with customized jewelry. In other words if you wanted a new pair of earrings for your wife or girlfriend, you would select the setting, the material (gold, silver, etc.), and the stone(s) through their website. Your jewelry would be custom produced for you and arrive in the mail.
Originally, the idea was to have their service available through jewelry stores — such as those that you see in every mall. Now, they are focused on selling directly to consumers — a move which has resulted in some changes to their organizational structure. (Story details below)
Gemvara CEO Deb Besemer steps aside, due to new e-commerce strategy – http://bit.ly/d67Xy6
I wonder about this strategy because jewelry purchases are very personal to me and I could not imagine buying something like this over the web. I just wouldn’t be able to see the finished piece nor let my wife try it on to make sure it was what I (I mean, she) wanted.
But the bigger question is — Are US consumers now ready to purchase customized products over the web and wait for them to arrive?
Years ago, Rover Cars of the UK, wanted to offer its customers the ability to walk into a show room and order their customized automobile. You would be able to pick the model, exterior color, interior color, numerous features, etc. The car would be produced to your specifications and arrive at your local dealer in less than a week. Unfortunately, Rover wasn’t able to sort out all of the manufacturing logistics at that time, so the effort was shelved. Subsequently, other European car manufacturers have implemented similar capabilities so that most Europeans order their custom cars and wait for them to arrive — a big difference from the US approach where you select the model which is closest to what you really want from a large inventory on the lot and drive the car home almost immediately.
If Gemvara is correct and US consumers are ready for this type of buying experience, the potential impact to product design systems (so that you can account for all of the many product option combinations), manufacturing processes (so that you can produce customized products on-demand), shipping, customer call centers (to resolve complaints), and return policies (so that you can handle customers who didn’t like what they received) are immense.
And let’s not forget all of the systems that will need to help each customer configure, visualize, order, and pay for their products or the computing infrastructure that will be required.
Who knows, you may finally be able to buy a car in the US without having to endure all those hours spent negotiating with your sales rep, his manager, and whomever else the dealership injects into the process.