Jeremy Shepherd, a successful entrepreneur in the e-commerce industry, has been in the business for over 25 years. His brand, Pearl Paradise, is one of the largest pearl brands in the US. He shared his journey with us.
Jeremy had always been a serial entrepreneur, wanting the freedom that normal nine-to-five jobs didn’t provide. He became a flight attendant, allowing him to travel the world. It was during one of his trips to China in 1997 that he stumbled upon pearls. He bought his first strand of pearls from a market in China and gave it to his girlfriend as a gift. After getting it appraised, he realized he could sell pearls in the US for a significant profit.
When he tried to enter the jewelry business, he found it challenging, as jewelry stores are traditional. But a friend suggested he sell his pearls on eBay, and that’s where he found success. Within a week, he made more profit than he had in three or four months as a flight attendant. He soon started posting auctions on Amazon and eBay and made hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales.
When Jeremy’s brother suggested he build a website, he was hesitant, but he eventually gave it a try. He learned how to show up on Google and was featured in a full-page story in The Wall Street Journal. This led to instant success, and he stopped selling on Amazon and eBay and focused solely on his website.
Today, Pearl Paradise is one of the biggest pearl brands in the world. Jeremy has built several websites and even runs a television show. But his main focus remains Pearl Paradise, which is known worldwide.
From self-education to becoming a renowned pearl expert
Jeremy has built his expertise in pearls through extensive learning and experience. Recognizing the lack of an internationally recognized grading system for pearls, he took it upon himself to become a true pearl expert. Jeremy immersed himself in books, studying the history, cultivation, and marketing of pearls. He traveled to various countries, including Tahiti, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Hong Kong, honing his negotiation and buying skills.
Due to the subjective nature of pearl grading, Jeremy realized that jewelers often lacked in-depth knowledge about pearls. To bridge this gap, he created Pearl Guide, a website where he published educational articles about pearls. In 2004, he added a discussion forum to the website. By actively participating in the forum and answering questions, Jeremy solidified his reputation as an expert in pearls.
His expertise caught the attention of renowned organizations. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) invited Jeremy to guide their team in Asia to develop a pearl-focused school course. The Culture Pearl Association of America also recognized his knowledge and invited him to represent the United States at the World Pearl Forum in Dubai.
Jeremy’s commitment to educating others led him to create Pearls As One, a comprehensive online school dedicated solely to pearls. The course covers topics such as pearl selection, grading, cultivation, history, and types. Since its launch in 2016, the course has been translated into 10 languages, attracting over 90,000 students, including GIA students.
Pearl Guide and Pearls as One have become integral to Jeremy’s business, providing valuable resources to those seeking knowledge about pearls. Jeremy emphasizes that buying pearls solely based on visual inspection or assigned grades is insufficient due to the absence of standardized grading systems. To obtain true value, he believes that customers should rely on experts like himself, who possess the necessary experience, expertise, and buying skills to source the best pearls at the best prices.
Personalized experience with virtual face-to-face shopping
The pandemic brought about a significant change in the way Pearl Paradise approach customer experience approach. Previously, interactions primarily took place via email or online orders. However, the pandemic shifted customer preferences towards face-to-face interactions facilitated by platforms like Zoom.
Recognizing this trend, Pearl Paradise swiftly adapted by creating a studio within their office and collaborating with Sammy’s Cameras, renowned for their expertise in setting up high-quality studios. This enabled them to provide customers with a virtual face-to-face experience, allowing them to examine pearls in detail, ask questions, and receive personalized assistance.
This transition has been successful, with Jeremy noting, “About 50% of our sales are now conducted face-to-face, and it’s rapidly growing. Customers love this personalized approach. They want to see the pearls, talk about them, and ask questions directly”. Pearl Paradise’s investment in a premium, personalized experience has set them apart from competitors and positions them at the forefront of this emerging trend in the jewelry industry and beyond.
Recognizing the broader industry shift, Jeremy added, “Virtual appointments are becoming the future, not only for us but also for other e-commerce companies in the United States.”
Leveraging Technologies like AI to align with customer expectations
Ensuring an enjoyable online shopping experience is the top priority for Pearl Paradise. By leveraging the power of Shopify, they constantly explore new strategies and technologies. According to Jeremy, one of the primary elements that have been important for them is instituting real-time chat, allowing customers to chat directly on the website or even have face-to-face interactions.
Additionally, they embraced the influence of video on social media, captivating their audience with immersive content. He also highlighted their upcoming website redesign, where they assess what works and what doesn’t in terms of customer flow and conversion. By analyzing customer behavior and identifying popular products, they prioritize those items and tailor communications, such as emails and SMS, to match customers’ interests.
Adaptability and agility are at the core of their philosophy. Jeremy acknowledged that personalization is a challenge, particularly for first-time visitors, but they are keeping a close eye on emerging technologies like AI. By immersing themselves in continuous learning, they are determined to integrate AI effectively into their website to meet evolving customer expectations.
Unveiling customer experience challenges
One major concern is the rise of fraudulent websites that deceive customers by creating fake stories and selling fake products. These websites appear legitimate, making it difficult for customers to distinguish them from reputable companies. Jeremy emphasizes “If people aren’t doing their research and communicating directly, they easily fall victim to these scams.“
Another significant challenge is adapting to new technologies. Jeremy mentions the constant changes in website design, search functionality, and product page templates. Staying up-to-date and determining which shifts to adopt is time-consuming and costly, requiring website redesigns and photography reshoots.
In the dynamic e-commerce industry, constant awareness and alignment within the team are crucial. Jeremy recognizes the need for ongoing adaptation, innovation, and a dedicated team to stay informed and make necessary changes promptly.
The ultimate magic tool for online shopping: Harnessing the power of AI
When asked about his ideal magic tool that would revolutionize the shopping experience,
Jeremy express desire for a tool that would harness the power of AI and allow him to interact with it directly. He stated, “I want to do a visual search or I want to do this on the website and I want to A/B test it against traffic, just to reach statistical significance to see.”
By eliminating development constraints, Jeremy aims to experiment and collect data quickly.
He emphasized the value of AI’s ability to generate content rapidly, highlighting its potential to streamline tasks that would otherwise take days.
Describing his ideal tool as an “innovation tool”, Jeremy envisions a future where the entire website can be managed and reconfigured by AI. He stated, “The entire website is managed by AI that can recode, reconfigure, do things… Can you build a new website tomorrow and make it look this way?” In his opinion, AI represents the key to unlocking boundless possibilities and improving the online shopping experience for customers
Jeremy emphasized the importance of staying on the cutting edge and being open to innovation. He advised against getting too comfortable and encouraged entrepreneurs not to be intimidated by technology, to take daily risks and try new things without fear of failure.
Game-changing trends for e-commerce in 2023
Jeremy identified two major trends for 2023 in the e-commerce industry. Firstly, he highlighted the transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential impact on various aspects of e-commerce, such as content creation, advertising, and personalization. He envisioned a future where AI-generated content becomes indistinguishable from human-created content and where personalized experiences reach new heights. According to Jeremy, AI is a “huge, huge trend” that will revolutionize the industry.
Secondly, Jeremy discussed a shift towards face-to-face authenticity in online shopping. He noted that recent developments, accelerated by the pandemic, have allowed for a more immersive and interactive shopping experience, replicating the feeling of being in a physical store. This shift aims to provide customers with a closer connection to products and a more personalized shopping experience.
We hope you found this interview with Jeremy engaging and insightful. Jeremy shared valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by Pearl Paradise.
Implementing AI solutions in e-commerce may have been perceived as time-consuming and costly. However, in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, advancements in AI technology have opened up more accessible and efficient options for integrating it into existing systems. It is important to note that the initial investment in implementing AI-driven solutions can lead to long-term benefits, ensuring that your e-commerce remains competitive and continues to provide an exceptional shopping experience for their customers.
- Personalization for First-Time Buyers: Traditionally, providing personalized experiences for first-time buyers has been a challenge. However, with the advent of AI, it is now possible to leverage techniques such as machine learning algorithms, customer segmentation, collaborative filtering, and natural language processing. These techniques analyze customer data, preferences, and browsing behavior to deliver tailored product recommendations, improve the shopping experience, and increase conversion rates.
- Visual Search: AI-powered visual search technology has made significant advancements in recent years. By harnessing the power of computer vision and machine learning, visual search allows customers to search for specific products or find similar items by uploading images or using their device’s camera. This innovative solution simplifies the search process, improves accuracy, and enables a more intuitive shopping experience.
- Customer Behavior Analysis and Insights: Understanding customer behavior is crucial for optimizing marketing strategies, improving inventory management, and delivering a personalized experience. AI enables sophisticated analysis of large volumes of customer data, identifying patterns, trends, and correlations that may not be apparent through traditional methods. By leveraging AI algorithms, Pearl Paradise can gain valuable insights into customer preferences, buying behavior, and product demand, enabling data-driven decision-making and enhancing customer satisfaction
As the e-commerce landscape continues to evolve, embracing AI is becoming increasingly essential for businesses aiming to stay ahead of the curve and provide exceptional experiences to their customers.
If you’re interested in learning more about our services or how we can help you optimise your e-commerce store, we offer a free consultation. Don’t hesitate to contact us.