Interview: Sabine Beck of Amoonic: Custom Jewelry for Every Budget

Copyright Amoonic, www.amoonic.de, all rights reserved!Amoonic has been a presenter in the startup panel of the MC2012 conference in Salzburg. Founded in 2011, they are striving to give the market something that it does not already have in excess: customized jewelry at an affordable price

"Affordable" is, however, a rather relative criteria, depending on one's own budget, and so Amoonic's products range from 150 to 2.5 million Euro. That being said, the majority of products do, of course, feature a significantly lower price tag than what they ask for their masterpiece, the La Fleur.  Besides rings in all shapes and materials, holding all kinds of gems, Amoonic also offers earrings, brooches, necklaces and, for the male customer, cufflinks.

Custom jewelry has been one of the best funded and prominent applications of MC in the net, with large and successful players like GEMVARA in the US or investments from the German Sammer brothers in the same field.

Copyright Amoonic, www.amoonic.de, all rights reserved!Like their competitors, Amoonic's portfolio is rather large,  with over 6000 rings, about 900 earrings and nacklaces each and 300 cufflinks. All designs are made on-demand and hence do not require any upfront investment with the risk of losing money if they do not get sold. Storage costs are also extremely low, granting better chances to prevail on the tough market for jewelry. 

Amoonic is also constantly trying to optimise customer experience. For example, Amoonic has just adjusted theit website, now making it a lot easier for the (potential) customer to recognize the individualization potential and to get to configure his/her own jewelry.

All rights reserved!We had the chance to talk to Sabine Beck who founded Amoonic together with Olga Dick. In our interview she gave insight into the specifics of the mass custom online jewelry market, how Amoonic overcomes some of the hurdles MC-entprepreneurs are confronted with and gives valuable tips for others who play with the thought to enter the world of individualized online commerce.

FTP: Sabine, you gave a great presentation of your jewelry business Amoonic on this year's MC2012 conference. Being a relatively young venture, how have your experiences on the MC market have been so far and how do they compare to your expectations when you decided to start Amoonic?

SB: Our experience so far shows that individualizing jewelry is definitely a trend in the mass customization market. The demand, to suit jewelry to ones own need is consistent with our expectations. In fact, it was difficult to clearly illustrate or demonstrate at first glance on our website that at Amoonìc jewelry can be customized without losing on design. We had to overcome the gap between a visually elegant and exclusive shop for the premium range and an easy recognizable display site that is about customizable jewelry.

Since last week, you can see at once that this is an exclusive shop in the premium range of mass customization. We have made it clear on our home page as well as on our category pages that you can customize each product. It was important for us that Amoonìc is not to be seen as a standard online shop but as a high-quality "online jeweler".

FTP: Your business model differs from many others insofar as it does require very little storage of raw materials and components, equaling lower fix costs. Does this allow you to compete with other non-MC vendors in terms of price?

SB: We cannot produce as low as companies that manufacture their products abroad. To ensure the highest standard in terms of quality, we produce only in Germany. Nevertheless, our prices are similar to the ones in a traditional jewelry store because we do not have to bear the risk that a collection is not sold. We also don’t provide the usual in store customer service or have expensive store costs so we can maintain prices similar to store prices.

FTP: How do you guarantee timely delivery of products to your customers, seeing how every piece of jewelry has to be produced individually and that the number of orders can fluctuate?

SB: In the background, Amoonìc  has already a very well-functioning supply chain which runs smoothly and partly automated. Thus Amoonìc ensure that even with a higher order volume delivery time can be maintained easily and we have access to flexible resources. Also, we already included a time buffer in our delivery time to avoid delays.

Due to our good contacts to suppliers in the jewelry industry, we can procure our materials in the shortest possible time. Especially in the jewelry industry it is difficult to set up such a flexible supplier network. One advantage is that we are very well networked. We have a flexible price model which allows us to update the prices quickly in frequent intervals.

FTP: Jewelry is typically a product that customers want to see and feel in reality before they buy it. Has this turned out to be an obstacle for your business? How do you (plan) to overcome it?

SB: For Amoonìc the sense of touching jewelry has become a solvable problem. With the possibility to see the jewelry on the own hand by photo-realistic images the customer gets an accurate idea of ​​the piece of jewelry. Being able to return the jewelry within 30 days takes away the inhibition of the customer to buy a gem without having seen it in person.

FTP: Can you tell anything about your sales figures? How well are your offerings received by consumers?

SB: The order volume has exceeded our expectations. We plan and like to reach the break-even-point in the middle of next year.

FTP: At the MC2012 conference you estimated about 40% of your sales to be pre-configured jewelry, 60% customized. How do customized rings differ from their preconfigured pendants? Are all possible combinations of gems and materials already in the preconfigured catalogue?

SB: Customized rings do not differ from the preconfigured pendants. All different combinations are shown in our catalogue on our website so that there is no real need for the customer to customize a ring, if he is not interested in doing so.

FTP: Do you have any plans to broaden your portfolio of products in the foreseeable future? Or to offer new features to your website?

SB: We plan to expand within the next year. In addition to that, we will offer an English version of our website to address a bigger market. In addition, in the next few months there will be a lot of new features available on amoonic.de. Open Innovation is our approach for the future, this means we constantly include our customers and othe experts in the innovation process.

FTP: What do you think where MC in general is heading? Will it just be a trend or the new business model for (most) vendors?

SB: In my opinion, MC address people who don´t want to buy anything from the rack. They would like to emphasize their own personality. I think right now we are still speaking of a trend, but I believe that this trend will develop and establish itself in the next few years. Especially those with middle or higher incomes make a point in buying something unique to distinguish themselves from others and to meet their own needs.

FTP: Which advise would you give entrepreneurs planning to enter the MC market? Can you tell about any mistakes you made that they should avoid?

SB: The most important fact is to consider the size of the targeted market. The main focus should not be only on the configurator. All various possible combinations of the products should also be displayed in the shop. In our opinion the passion to create a product playfully depends heavily on the target group as well as on the gender. In addition, the configurator should be easy to use. Another aspect is that you should create independent content from the SEO point of view besides the configurator, so that you can guarantee a good visibility on Google and other search engines.

FTP: How important do you rate the use of social media not only to promote ones MC-company but also interact with consumers to better position oneself in the market?

SB: Nowadays social media is mandatory and the direct interaction with customers is a real benefit. To us open innovation is the cue. Involving the customer in the idea generation phase is very important and we believe that this is the future. This may reduce intensive costs for market research In the future.

FTP: Sabine, thank you very much for the interview and your interesting views on the mass customization market. I am looking forward to watch Amoonic evolve!

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.