AUrate wants to be the ‘Stitch Fix of jewelry’

Curated try-before-you-buy services have become a trendy way for direct-to-consumer retailers to personalize their offerings as competition to reach consumers online only escalates. Stitch Fix made the concept popular when it launched in 2011, and since then clothing companies have followed suit. Now, the trend is creeping into a new retail segment — fine jewelry.

Starting Tuesday, direct-to-consumer jewelry company AUrate will offer curated styled boxes, filled with three to five pieces of jewelry for customers to try on at home and, if they don’t want something, return what they don’t want in seven days, free of charge.

While AUrate’s is a curated service that chooses jewelry based off of a questionnaire and human stylists like Stitch Fix, most services function like Amazon’s and let customers choose their own jewelry to try-on at home. Memo, which launched in December and DTC company MiaDonna, which introduced a try-on service in June, allows customers to try-on fine jewelry for three-day trials.

There’s especially a push when it comes to engagement rings. Vrai & Oro launched its home try-on program in February 2017, letting people sample three rings for seven days and Brooklyn-based startup Hayden Cudworth began sending out ring kits, made up of five rings and a ring sizer and customers have five days to return them in 2017.

Not only do these types of services make it more convenient to shop for jewelry online, it’s a big data play. Jewelers get a better sense of their consumers’ desires thanks to the questionnaires people need to fill out to first order a box, and then the feedback they receive after items are returned. To order a curated box on AUrate’s site, customers have to answer questions like ‘what type of jewelry do you like best?’ and ‘what’s your philosophy for spending on fine jewelry?” When someone returns a piece of jewelry, AUrate follows up with each customer with an email asking why they returned what they did.

“It’s information you’re getting that you wouldn’t typically get from having an e-commerce page,” said Sophie Kahn, who had previously worked as the director of strategy at Marc Jacobs before co-founding AUrate. “On your e-commerce platform, the data that you have is that someone landed on your page and they bounced but you don’t know why. Here, you know they returned all your pieces and you know why.”

Launching a curated try-on service with fine jewelry brings additional challenges than a clothing service might. It’s generally more expensive and the likely hood of a piece of jewelry getting destroyed in the mail is higher. That forces some companies to charge security fees to make sure their goods are returned. Vrai &Oro charges a $50 security fee that is refunded once the company receives a customers’ returned package. Some companies just keep their customers’ credit cards close. AUrate will charge a customer’s credit card on file the full price of a piece of jewelry if it’s not returned to them within seven days. Others aren’t taking any chances. Hayden Cudworth, which sells $10,000 items, and MiaDonna send out replicas of engagement rings made of silver alloy for people to try-on at home.

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