Blockchain addresses diamond transparency
Luxury jewelry shoppers, no matter how astute and knowledgeable about diamonds, gems and precious metals, all want the same assurance — that the pricey gold, diamond or precious metal they're buying is authentic.
TrustChain, a collaboration between IBM and a consortium of leaders in the gold and diamond industries, is aiming to provide that assurance. It is a blockchain network that tracks and authenticates jewels and precious metals at all stages, from mine to market.
Consumers love transparency
The quest is to bring full transparency to the consumer in a digital approach and answer the big questions shoppers have before and even after buying a piece of jewelry or gem: is it real; how was it mined; and was it sourced from an ethical region.
Providing consumers such insight is a critical aspect of improving an enhancing the retail customer experience as a recent survey reveals 66 percent of consumers globally are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand and shoppers almost always care more about a retailer's reputation compared to just the item price.
TrustChain, powered by the IBM Blockchain Platform and delivered via the IBM Cloud,is currently tracking six styles of diamond and gold engagement rings on the blockchain network. As the program continues to develop, TrustChain jewelry is expected to be accessible to consumers in participating retail stores by the end of 2018.
Diamond retailer sees big value
Helzberg Diamonds, an omnichannel U.S. jewelry retailer based in North Kansas City, Missouri, is one of five industry players involved in TrustChain, which uses distributed ledger technology that establishes a shared, immutable record of transactions.
Founded in 1915, with more than 200 stores nationwide and an online jewelry store, Helzberg joined the initiative as it views trust as essential to its consumers. Trust and transparency are key elements in the customer experience, explained Julia Yoakum, senior vice president, chief merchandising officer, in an email interview.
"We know many [consumers] want greater transparency in understanding the origins of the jewelry they’re buying. Products tracked on TrustChain will provide those consumers peace of mind that they are buying a piece of jewelry that has had all its component parts and raw materials are ethically and responsibly sourced," she said.
It also provides an added element to the value chain in retail luxury jewelry.
"Value is absolutely top of mind for the consumer. Fine jewelry is a considered purchase," said Yoakum. "Consumers want to understand what they’re getting and where it's coming from – this is where TrustChain can add value, and it enhances transparency around original and ethical sourcing."
"Research has found that greater transparency around sourcing is important to consumers. It can provide added confidence in their purchase decision," Yoakum added.
The long-term goal for TrustChain is to pull in other industry members to become the standard for supply chain management, according to Jason Kelley, general manager for IBM Blockchain Services.
"The industry is currently fragmented due to the inherent challenges across the supply chain. IBM thought these companies would find valuable to achieve a higher standard in transparency and trust from all stakeholders, because above all, the consumer will derive value from the blockchain to better understand and trust their diamond suppliers," Kelley told Retail Customer Experience in an email interview.
"While parts of the blockchain are open source and can be applied to any industry, TrustChain will primarily focus addressing fragmentation and challenges of supply chain in the diamond and jewelry industry," said Kelley.
Photo courtesy of Helzberg Diamonds.
Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.www