February 13, 2012
Diamond in the Rough is a jewelry company that recently launched a redesigned site and refreshed brand. My team and I did the design and development of the site and it features what has proved to be a controversial tactic: to browse their product inventory, the user must create an account.
Why We Built a Walled Garden
Collecting user email addresses makes great business sense for all sorts of companies, but for Diamond in the Rough, it’s exceptionally important. Buying an engagement ring is a very long-tail purchase, typically taking 6-9 months of research. Email allows DITR to keep in contact throughout that research process and stay in the front of the user’s mind. We made the decision to do the walled garden pretty early on since we wanted to get and keep users engaged in the site and the brand.
Why We Almost Pulled the Plug
When we made the decision to do the walled garden, we weren’t totally comfortable with it ourselves. On one hand, users are getting used to this type of ecommerce situation with Gilt, Fab, Lot18, etc. On the other hand, those sites give you access to a deal on the goods they sell, creating a sense of exclusivity. Since every one of DITR’s products is unique (every rough diamond is different), we were betting DITR is positioned somewhere in the middle of these membership sites and a more common ecommerce store.
Still, we weren’t sure. DITR’s CEO was losing sleep at night about the wall and at one point, we debated switching the account creation requirement to just a newsletter signup. Despite all that and our friends we polled unanimously hating the registration requirement, we decided to forge ahead and be ready to pull the plug if users were turning away in droves.
Launch and Aftermath
Fortunately and amazingly, all of our fear and all of the discouragement we heard was unfounded. Users immediately started plugging in their email addresses to gain access to the inventory. We were shocked and amazed that our big gamble worked. After 2 weeks, DITR had collected 1,200 email addresses. That is definitely a successful number in our eyes.
The Problem With Opinions
Opinions and gut instincts are very important in decision making. It’s the quickest way to make a decision. Unfortunately, in this situation, nearly everyone thought we were crazy for our tactic. Failure was the popular opinion, but we wanted to test it anyway. In the end, the data disproved the majority of the opinions and validated the feelings of the minority.
Data is the ultimate proving ground for ideas. Do whatever you can to get useful data on any grey areas for your product so you can make definitive decisions and move on to the other challenges in front of you.