Memo founder Debra LaBudde, pictured here, named her company in reference to the common consignment practice in the jewelry industry, which inspired her to build a retail model that lets customers try on product at home for three days before being charged.
Rochester, N.Y.--Debra LaBudde has decades of experience advising companies on new and unexploited markets. So when she founded her own company last year, she focused on what she contends is just such an opportunity: fine jewelry.

“I think there’s kind of an untapped market, believe it or not, for fine jewelry,” LaBudde explained. “(I saw) an interesting opportunity in the marketplace that, in my mind, hasn’t been well served, and that ultimately could create a larger market.”

Memo is LaBudde’s answer to what she feels is missing in single-channel retail models—the tactile, personal access to jewelry that is found in a brick-and-mortar experience, coupled with the convenience and accessibility of online shopping.

Memo’s “complimentary home try-on” period bridges this gap.

When clients order a piece on ExperienceMemo.com, they receive it via free two-day shipping and have three days to try it on and consider the item before being charged. If dissatisfied, they can return it within that timeframe with the free return shipping Memo provides.

All of Memo’s inventory is kept in stock and, in case of returns, Memo reabsorbs that product.
20170523 Memo insert1Here is a view of ExperienceMemo.com.

“It’s interesting what happens in the home (when you try the jewelry on) because I’ve gone through the experience independently and it’s pretty special,” said LaBudde. “Obviously, we have security in place, but there’s a fair amount of trust that goes into it too and the kind of reciprocal respect that we get with clients is pretty amazing.”

To insure themselves against theft, Memo collects credit card information prior to shipping the jewelry to consumers--just as in a traditional online purchase--to be charged when the three-day try-on period is over. They also place a hold on the card prior to sending product to verify against fraudulent credit card orders.

LaBudde is aiming to give the Memo e-commerce experience the same personal and connective quality that one might find shopping in a well-curated, independent boutique.

In addition to the at-home try on period, LeBudde is achieving this through site content. Customers can learn about the designers whom Memo stocks through artfully produced video interviews on the site (five of the 12 designers are currently featured), as well as detailed descriptions of particular products in the words of their creators.

“Our platform is so rich from a visual standpoint,” LaBudde said. “I think we can tell the story of collections and designers in a strong way.”

Fine jewelry is a “personal passion” of LaBudde’s. While serving on boards of companies and traveling to various cities around the world for her work, she loved discovering different jewelry boutiques, meeting designers and hearing their stories.

“When I was traveling less, I was still trying to find new pieces and new designers but I found it was difficult to have that same intimate experience online,” said the Rochester, New York-based businesswoman.

Making that high-touch experience accessible regardless of location was LaBudde’s initial inspiration for Memo.
20170523 Memo insert2This image of Memo’s website features designer brand Foundrae.

Each aspect of Memo’s non-traditional retail process is the result of months of consumer research, identifying what consumers liked and disliked about both online and brick-and-mortar shopping.

LaBudde found that like herself, shoppers enjoyed the accessibility of online shopping but found the experience lacking certain elements of the store purchase they enjoyed.

“We’re in a world today where people are used to the internet and the convenience that that provides,” LaBudde explained, “but with convenience you sometimes give up other aspects--the relationship that is formed if you meet a designer directly. This is our solution for tying that together.”

She continued: “When we created Memo we took a fair amount of time to not try to force a model or technology on the (jewelry) industry but to really look at the industry and hear from both clients and designers what was needed.”

So far, LaBudde said that her customers, who are comprised mainly of self-purchasing women, are embracing the Memo experience, and Memo is succeeding in making e-commerce feel human.

This is exemplified by the requests LaBudde has been getting for custom pieces from the designers she stocks, a service she says most of them are happy to provide.

Memo doesn’t disclose its financials, but LaBudde said that while the company is in its infancy, her focus is on building it to its full potential. She’s started hosting pop-up events where clients can meet designers face-to-face and has plans to carry more designers on the site.

“When I talk about growing a market, I truly believe in women buying for themselves and the evolution of designer jewelry and designer names around a product,” said LaBudde. “I think there’s a greater opportunity to reach a new customer that really doesn’t know this world.”

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