After meeting with Joanna Ooi, Founder of Plukka, she explained to our london-based journalist Olivier Dupon what was Plukka was all about – Where she responded that it embodied the new form of jewelry retail – but at the end of the day – how does Plukka earn some money? What is the business model of Plukka?
Olivier Dupon, journalist and author of several jewelry books successfully managed an exclusive interview of Joanne Ooi, founder of the platform PLUKKA. This is the third of a series of four Q&A inside the genius brain of the Plukka founder.
OD – Currently with two stand-alone boutiques (Hong Kong and London), has it always been your strategy to add retail to the online business?
JO – Oh my God! When we launched the business in 2011, we were in the form of a reverse auction flash sale concept, so we always wanted to have an online business for the get go. Our initial business model was totally different, yet actually quite well suited to online. The problem was that we were giving away margin for extremely creative products (our main strengths vs. my main strengths is especially to create & promote creativity), so it didn’t make sense within the context of value driven business model, and that is why we abandoned it.
Anyway, it was when we started doing trunk shows and present products to women that we realised that there was a big opportunity because of how women would freak out when they would see the products in person. Their reaction to fine jewellery in person is nothing like what women experience when they are shopping online. That was the deep insight, which we tried to resist for about two years until we actually launched our first proper boutique in Hong Kong.
People loved it and it was really obvious that it was a great way to follow up on trunk shows: it was a great way to showcase inventory, which we were already retaining in large amounts from consignments from different designers, and so we ran with that and it ended up making a huge amount of sense!
The learning curve was essential: we had to actually live through these experiences on the ground, while operating the business, at first as I said earlier, aiming to be solely online, but then witnessing that in fact there was a huge disconnect between how people actually wanted to buy jewellery and the type of platform we had built. That is when we decided to bridge the divide by opening brick and mortar retail alongside our online platform.
OD – Another ‘bridge’ is your the View-On-Demand service. Can you explain what it is?
JO – View on demand works by detecting the IP address of the web visitor to our website and if that IP address shows that this visitor is probably located in London, New York or Hong Kong, or at least the IP address is, it shows them a version of the website, which enables them to choose from the items available in the physical location closest to them (again in the vicinities of London, New York and Hong Kong). They can then “summon” up to five items to their home or their office using a real time scheduler similar to what the apple genius bar app looks like.
Then the jewellery comes over with a sales person at the designated time and it must be at the home or the office for security reasons. This service is offered on a paid basis for new customers and is complimentary for existing customers, who when they order online for the first time or offline become automatic complimentary users of the service. You should be able to see the idea soon in London.
OD – Are there any aspects of the business you still struggle with?
JO – All online businesses suffer with acquisition costs, which are high because the average transaction is also very high. Besides we are a new brand so we got to think, “What is the most expedient, cost effective means of letting people know about our existence and our brand”. Do you know that the consumer actually needs to be exposed to a brand anywhere between 5 and 20 times in order to remember the brand name? It is quite an expensive proposition to create a new luxury brand. The other thing that we struggle with is of course just staffing. A business is created from people, especially in fine jewellery, which is about passion, knowledge and service, all extremely people centric.
OD – How do you stay in tune with modern technology developments so as to always gear Plukka towards the future?
JO – It is about reading voraciously about tech, business and luxury. Everything is seamlessly integrated in today’s day and age between technology, online and offline; so to be an effective business person, you actually have to keep abreast of development on the tech front as much as you need to keep abreast of development in the jewellery industry in regards to products.
For example, we are going to be introducing a lot more video content in the very near future and I consider that to be a fundamental shift in E-commerce culture where the clients increasingly want more information, a better sense of the designers. It could entail a 360-degree preview of jewellery, virtual avatars, which would enable virtual trying on jewellery etc. It could come in many different formats but of course we are already using technology all the time to increase engagement and conversion on our website, cement and reinforce a relationship between online and offline retailing.
Just for you to keep in mind ! If you want to grow a jewelry business – make sure your team is built out of passion, knowledge and service. And remember … A consumer needs to be exposed to a brand between 5 to 20 times in order to remember the brand’s name … !