Real business story

We're building foundations for the long term

Diamonds Factory is part of a larger group of companies with a reach that spans the globe, and by a combination of good fortune and making the most of digital technology, it was able to side-step the trail of destruction that the pandemic carved through the retail sector. Follow the company's progress each month as we track its journey and improvement efforts.

Diamonds Factory has thrived thanks to its robust ecommerce platform

Ben Stinson is global head of ecommerce at Diamonds Factory, specialists in handmade jewellery.

The company's flagship store in London's Hatton Garden that has served more than 75,000 customers since it started in 2008. An even more glittering future appears to be in the company's sights, and Ben is now working with his colleagues to seize the moment.

Ben, along with six other business leaders, will be providing monthly updates as he looks to steer Diamonds Factory through the next year.

Follow the six other stories here:

You can navigate to different monthly updates from Ben using the links at the top of this page, or keep reading to find out how Diamonds Factory survived in a sector hit hard by the pandemic.

How Diamonds Factory started the year

Despite the pandemic severely hitting the UK's retail sector, Diamonds Factory positively thrived thanks to an existing and robust ecommerce platform – and a number of new initiatives that helped boost revenue.

While the company's two UK stores were adversely affected by lockdowns (as was the brand's presence within the group's partner stores), online interest increased, and head of e-commerce Ben Stinson pulled out all the stops to make sure that his customers' virtual experience was as near to the one they expected in-store as he could.

"We adapted very fast and very quickly in terms of what we offered our customers and how we went about it so that we could thrive again once everything opened up," he said.

When that day came, in April 2021, there was surprisingly little drop-off in terms of online appointments. It turns out that there is a market for both virtual appointments and those that take place in-store, said Ben.

Adapting to the needs of online customers

One key positive to have arisen from the pandemic is that it has inadvertently helped the Diamonds Factory sales team to adapt to the needs of online customers who want the personal service that the brand is famous for. The sales staff have been able to make this digital process far more efficient.

"People have come to trust that they can do a virtual viewing," explained Ben, "and we've really learned what people want to hear. You've got to be quite direct, because people are busy, they're working from home, they have multiple things going on, and it turns out they don't want a 20-minute chat about what they did last weekend before you start talking about their engagement ring."

As his team has adapted to what the client wants, so too have they sharpened their online presentation skills. Virtual viewings have become something of an artform, and Ben has invested heavily in high-quality photography and video so that little is lost when compared to the in-store experience.

Additionally, more than 1,000 new stock items were introduced over the past year to complement the brand's more exclusive customised jewellery offering. This proved to be such a success that there are plans to increase this further.

Ben admitted that challenges have included everything from customs nightmares post-Brexit to being forced to postpone some staff training initiatives, but on the whole the business had been a success during the pandemic.

Building foundations for the long term

It had also successfully moved away from a reliance on paid marketing campaigns, with investments in SEO at the start of the pandemic now leading to far more organic traffic than ever before.

"We learned a lot of things, eradicated things that we probably didn't need – just because we had to – and were fortunate to come out of the pandemic in a really healthy, positive way," said Ben. "We grew around 20 per cent year-on year."

This increase in revenues is being channelled back into the business in a number of ways, with expansion a key part of this year's Diamonds Factory business plan. New stores, in fact, have just been announced in Dublin, Melbourne and Adelaide and another, in Munich, is coming, too.

"A lot of what we're doing is investing in our people," said Ben. "It's all about investing in things which are sustainable, as opposed to paid search and big marketing campaigns.

"We're going to have a Head of People and Culture, for example, and we're recruiting people to look after our European markets," he added. "The natural expansion of the business requires more things to be done, so we're also looking at more people within marketing and training, too. We're building foundations for the long term."

Setting the scene and defining success

As Diamonds Factory emerges from the pandemic in good shape, we asked Ben to set a one year from now success statement – a situation the business would be in that would represent progress towards bigger and better things.

We then got him to identify the five individual targets that would be most important in making that success statement a reality. See what he set out for Diamonds Factory below.

Diamonds Factory one-year action plan

Time for some targets

Diamonds Factory one-year action plan

Update one: June 2021 – “We've just secured new office premises that will allow us to grow”

For Ben Stinson, global head of ecommerce at jewellery retailer Diamonds Factory, finding a new, bigger home for his expanding team is a top priority for 2021/22. In this short audio clip, he brings us up to speed with the latest developments.

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Update two: July 2021 – “We've been looking at how we can kit out our new office with all the tech we need”

Once the legal nitty gritty has been sorted out, a new head office in Hatton Garden awaits jewellery retailer Diamonds Factory, where head of ecommerce Ben Stinson will continue his work on the other four targets that underpin his 2021/22 success statement...

As Ben explained last month, Diamonds Factory has found new premises that are three to four times bigger than their current office, and thoughts are now turning to kitting it out. One priority is to optimise the space for both present and future needs.

Bringing data skills into the business

"We've had two new people start in my team who are quite data focused," said Ben. "One in terms of customer data and one in terms of business analytics, so we have primarily had talks about how we can kit the new office out with all the tech stuff we need. We will be looking to bring in some equipment, too, so that we can take photos of our products, and I'll hopefully have more details on that next time."

In fact, said Ben, he'll likely have important updates on several of his five targets soon; for now, it's heads down with the next phase of the six international websites that the company is launching this year. All six of them have now been translated, and Ben and his team are recruiting people to run the sales side of each business.

"It's been very hard to find the people we need," said Ben. "Trying to find someone that speaks Norwegian, for example, who lives in London and wants to work in jewellery sales is quite niche, so we've had to cast the net wider in terms of people's experience and skill sets."

Hiring for international sites

At the time of writing, Ben had made two of the six appointments, with four more hires to come. These people will be native speakers, but based in London, and their day job will be to look after sales and customers. "They'll be doing things like live chat, customer service and after-sales," said Ben. "As these businesses grow, we may look to bring someone in that can sit in-country so that they're living and breathing what's happening there."

Things are certainly on track for Ben and his team. In last month's update, he explained how the reopening of Diamonds Factory's physical stores hadn't impacted their online sales, and that he was optimistic about the year ahead.

There's more good news this time around: "We've just had another £2m month, which is fantastic," Ben said.

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Update three: August 2021 – “We hit £1m in sales in two weeks”

Growing the business was one of Ben Stinson’s goals for 2021/22, and the Diamonds Factory head of ecommerce has some record-breaking news on that front. In this brief video clip, he has an update on one of his other targets – to rebuild the brand’s digital experience – as well...

Update four: September 2021 – “We know that marketing investment leads to sales, so we're prepared to dig deep and spend”

With five new international websites recently unveiled, Ben Stinson, head of ecommerce at Diamonds Factory, is ready to dig deep to promote each site if local demand is there. Making the company's new international sites work was a key priority for 2021-22, and the year is already looking strong...

New Diamonds Factory websites for Swedish, Italian, Norwegian, Danish and Spanish audiences are now live, and a sixth one in the Netherlands will join them imminently once a few last-minute translation issues have been resolved.

For Ben Stinson, the company's head of ecommerce, these sites offer significant possibilities to grow the innovative jewellery business – which has already got off to a flying start for the 2021-2022 financial year, as Ben delightfully explained:

"Apart from November last year, we just saw record sales in August, which was unexpected," he said. "You'd expect high revenues in November because of Black Friday and the run-up to Christmas, whereas August is typically much quieter. So to have such a good month was really encouraging."

Building site traffic from scratch

If he can extend his magic touch to the six new international sites, he will – of course – be delighted, though Ben admitted that he's starting in these territories from something of a standing start.

"We've launched the websites and essentially we have no real traffic yet, because with an online store it's all about marketing," he said. "But as soon as we start investing in paid marketing, that will instantly project people to the websites."

Interestingly, he has no fixed budget for this – in some ways it's a case of seeing which way the wind blows.

"I know that sounds strange," said Ben, "but we quickly know whether or not something is going to work. Because of that, we tend to run our marketing budget as a percentage of sales, which we try to keep under 15 per cent for a new region. So if we make 10,000 in sales and we spent £1,000, that's fantastic, but once it goes above 15 per cent we will start to analyse that and understand why."

Digital marketing

In other words, said Ben, there's no real limit to what the brand is prepared to spend on marketing if the numbers stack up. "With digital marketing, it's all about demand," he said. "Plus the marketing spend helps us to really learn about what customers are doing on our websites and what we may need to do differently. We have a good grasp on what we need to do to make the business profitable."

On a related note, Ben said that almost every small business could maximise sales and profitability with digital marketing if they understood the intricacies of this 'dark art'.

"I think that some people don't understand the potential of a good marketing campaign or running a strong marketing channel," he said. "You don't need significant investment. To get started you can essentially test and learn on a very small budget."

As of today, Ben feels confident he will certainly hit one of this year's targets: to grow the business by at least 80 per cent. He can cross another off his list, too…

Moving into new premises

"We've moved into our new office in Hatton Garden," he said. "One of our team has a degree in interior design, so we've specced out different rooms, and we're working on budgets for sofas, chairs, plants and so on, and even have an office working group called Operation Refurb."

Once completed, said Ben, the new premises will not only serve as a well-kitted-out and comforting environment for the Diamonds Factory team, but it will be a great place to welcome brand partners and any influencers the company is working with, too.

Diamonds Factory websites for Swedish, Italian, Norwegian, Danish and Spanish audiences are now live

Update five: October 2021 – “We've just been to Portugal to define our company values”

With Diamonds Factory on track to grow by 80 per cent this year, global head of ecommerce Ben Stinson and the senior leadership team recently went to Portugal to discuss the raison d'etre behind their business. They can now work out how this can guide everything they do.

Up until September of 2021, said Ben, the fast-growing jewellery retailer, headquartered in Hatton Garden, London, had never sat down and identified its vision and values – so a few days away in Portugal gave the company's leaders the perfect chance to put these under the microscope.

Quite quickly, said Ben, they came to realise that they are a people-driven company, and that investing in and nurturing great employees will be pivotal to their continued success. "When we bring people in, it's essential that they fit in with the culture and the values of the business," said Ben, "and that will enable us to grow."

A major rebuild

One of the company's key goals for 2021-22 was to completely rebuild the brand's entire digital experience. Given the enormity of this task, it's perhaps no wonder that they are a little behind on this.

"It's a job that encompasses everything," said Ben. "From which payment providers we use to the onsite experience from a technology perspective. That's things like conversion rate optimisation – technology that allows you to learn what customers are doing on site and what their pain points are. Then there's product information management, where you're uploading all your content: how are you best serving the customer? Is the website loading fast enough? It's every single journey that sits within the website."

Throw loyalty components, email marketing elements and CRMs into the mix and it's clearly the work of multiple parties spanning many months. "We need a digital backbone to the business that we're happy with and that will help us to grow, with the website itself sitting at the top as the crowning glory," Ben added.

A shortage of talent

Part of the hold-up, said Ben, is the difficulty Diamonds Factory has had in recruiting a new remote team (in India) to build a new digital experience. "We can't use the same team we currently use because they're continuing to develop what we already have, and unfortunately, it's just been really tough to recruit," he said.

It's a teething problem that will, however, get sorted, and Ben remains confident that the company will start making significant headway on their new digital "back end" very soon.

Marketing goes live

Elsewhere this month, marketing campaigns have now begun for the company's new Danish and Norwegian websites, and the first results are starting to trickle through.

Ben is a master of using the data he gets to turn his digital efforts into traffic and, ultimately, sales, so he'll be busy analysing this over the coming weeks and months. Campaigns for Italy and Spain will also be launched imminently.

Update six: November 2021 – “It's been a great six months, but we've got lots more to do”

Ben Stinson, head of Ecommerce at jewellery retailer Diamonds Factory, envisioned serious growth, new international websites and more when he explained his 2021-22 plans to Be The Business back in June. Giving himself an 'old-school' grade for each of his targets, he brings us up to speed here...

1) Grow the business

Score: A

"We're 80 per cent up on turnover and we'll see further increases at the back end of November," said Ben. "It looks good. We launched the Netherlands website today and all of this activity is helping us to meet our goals." Those goals included boosting growth by at least 80 per cent, which looks like something of a dead-cert right now.

2) Launch online in six new countries

Score: B+

All six sites are now launched, said Ben, and while this spells good news, he is a little disappointed by how much their plans were held back by a lack of web developers. "It meant that we weren't able to move at the speed we wanted," said Ben, "but the fact that we've got all the new sites launched in what was basically three months is pretty phenomenal."

3) Rebuild the entire digital experience

Score: C

Once again, a dearth of developers has prevented Diamonds Factory from moving as fast as Ben would like. "To be honest, I've not been able to make much progress in terms of rebuilding and replatforming," said Ben. "Essentially, this has been deferred to next year – although we have made some great progress in terms of research into what we want to do."

4) Find a new office

Score: A

"We've moved into the new office and it's now pretty much full," said Ben. The net result is a thriving team of 19 in one space in Hatton Garden, including digital brand leaders for each business, additional resource from an analytical and data perspective, and, Ben said, the firm has someone new coming in to look after people and HR. "It will help with much better documentation and training," Ben said.

5) Create a new, in-house photography studio

Score: C

"I think we thought we would have had more space in our new office," said Ben, "but it has become apparent very quickly that all of the room we've now got needs to be taken up with desk space." However, he added, there is space at one of the company's other brands whose basement is only 30 seconds from the Diamonds Factory office. "That would make a really great photography space, and that's a possibility," he said.


"If I had to sum up the last six months in a word,' said Ben. "It would be 'busy'. It's fantastic that we've built up the team from three people to almost 20 in four months, but we've still got lots more to do. So while it's been great – not only in terms of the team but also in terms of sales and expansion into new countries – we're only half-way there."

Update seven: January 2022 – “We're running out of space!”

Ben Stinson's team at the new Diamonds Factory HQ in Hatton Garden is expanding so quickly that he is already wondering where to put them. It's not a terrible problem to have, though, said the firm's head of ecommerce, because expanding the business is a key 2021-22 target...

"We are going to have to reconfigure the new office and knock a few walls down purely because we've grown so fast. The current layout of the office doesn't allow us to house any more people and I'm due to recruit another four people in my team this quarter.

"In all honesty, if the recruitment goes the way it is planned to, then by the end of this year there's no chance that we can all fit in that office.

"We have some really aggressive targets and we need people within my team and other teams to help us meet the demands of getting there, so I guess running out of office space is a nice problem to have."

A Christmas surprise

"We actually had a slower-than-anticipated November and December, but it didn't really detract from our overall target because we'd had such a good middle part of the year. We ended up getting there, although we did expect things to be bigger and better around Christmas.

"I think the big difference is that our stores were closed in 2020, so everything was done online. When the stores were closed, people really trusted us to buy online, but this year we were up against more competition.

"It's a different state to where things were at the end of 2020. Back then, businesses were reluctant to be spending marketing money, whereas we had a really strong online presence. Everyone that would typically have gone to a high street shop went online, and we captured them."

Maximising spend

"In terms of growing the business, we have partnered with a new marketing technology agency to help us maximise our budget with some of our paid search. We're reviewing all of our campaigns across Europe, and I'm actually hiring an ecommerce manager and a performance marketing manager as well to help us focus on the money that we are spending.

"I suppose our industry isn't generally perceived as being at the forefront of technology – jewellery is seen as quite an old-school sector – but we're keen to make the most of data. It drives everything we do and we make decisions on all the data in front of us.

"We're still having trouble recruiting into our development team to allow us to analyse and have better systems and optimise the website, though. Tech is behind how fast we can grow.

"We are growing, there's no doubt about that, but we'd like to grow really fast – and that is dependent on the technical resources and output that we are trying to build."

Update eight: March 2022 – "We're doubling or even tripling our investment in tech"

So says Ben, who is putting the final pieces in place for a completely new online customer experience – one of his key 2021-22 goals. He updates us on this and three other things here.

Extra space when we needed it

I've mentioned before about our new office filling up pretty fast; the good news this month is that we've managed to add a new meeting room by reconfiguring the office a little. It's nothing fancy to look at, but in terms of getting more out of the space it's been necessary to facilitate our expansion. I'm not exactly thinking about moving to another office yet, but if we keep hitting targets then maybe we'll have to start having those conversations.

A new team member to boost growth

We've hired a new ecommerce manager. Diamonds Factory is part of a group that includes two other jewellery businesses, and what this does is enable us to have more focus on the Diamonds Factory brand and allow us to continue to grow. It should hopefully accelerate the growth at home and in some of our overseas markets, because we've not had someone specifically sitting in that role before.

Progress on the new-look website

We have lots of plans to develop the site, adding new features, redesigning it completely and generally upgrading the user experience. This was one of our key 2021-22 goals, and we'll be doubling or even tripling our investment in tech to enable all these great enhancements that are waiting to be delivered. We've also made some progress with things like hiring copywriters, communications experts and web developers, too.

Experts on call for a 'brand refresh'

We're doing a brand refresh at the moment, really looking at all of our communications for our three brands, making sure that they are consistent throughout their websites and that we get the cut-through we need against our competitors. In a space like diamond jewellery, everyone essentially sells the same thing, so you've got to have a proposition, be able to explain it and tell a good story. We're working with a branding agency to get clarity on that right now.

Where to go next

Ben isn't the only leader sharing his journey this year. Six other businesses across the UK are providing monthly updates as they emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and work to achieve their "definition of success" statements.

Follow their progress so far:

Lessons learnt

Ben has found that there is market for both virtual and in-person appointments, so it's worth making sure customers' online experiences are seamless.

Invest in things which are sustainable, rather than getting distracted by quick wins.

As Diamonds Factory recruits for niche roles, Ben has recognised he needs to cast a wide net to find the right experience and skill sets.