When he returned to Singapore to join The Canary Diamond Co., his family business, five years ago, Johnny Lam’s first self-imposed task was to set about digitising the company. “I digitised all our processes, from the back end to designing, manufacturing and delivery. Everything had to be seamless and unified.” Lam’s next step was to start ByCanary, a digital-first jewellery brand that launched in August. The idea of creating a sister brand to Canary Diamond first came about last June. Lam, who has worked for major industry players such as De Beers and Hennig during his 18 years in the jewellery industry, says, “We knew we wanted to create a digital, technologically forward brand with an online presence and a minimal physical footprint. While Canary Diamond focuses on higher-end pieces with rare stones, ByCanary is more fashionable and for day-to-day wear. Both brands are about good quality.” Here, Lam shares more about the online brand.
Did you create ByCanary specifically for a younger audience?
Yes. Many of them place less of an emphasis on name brands. It’s about showing one’s individuality. We’re not a mass brand that makes a thousand pieces per item. We try to think about how to create something bespoke that’s relatively accessible. For example, we can use hand-engraving as a way to collaborate with customers and produce a personalised piece.
Aside from having a website, what does it mean for a business to be digital-first?
Things like virtual consultations are now standard things that we have to do. Going forward, it’s also about embracing different aspects of technology, especially when it comes to how we communicate with collaborators and customers, and track that journey. Right now, if you visit Canary Diamond’s Instagram page and then DM us, we will follow up by getting your contact details and creating a connection. Subsequently, if you go to our store, we have a system that allows me to track the salesperson who served you online, whether or not a transaction went through and even why it didn’t go through – basically, the whole customer journey.
How can you improve customer experience with technology?
Soon, when you visit our website, we might ask you questions like “How are you feeling today?”, “What colours do you like?” and “How would you describe your style?” These could be in the form of a questionnaire. Using artificial intelligence, the website then recommends products suitable for you, so you don’t have to look through pages of products. We would know who you are by asking the right questions.
How else can technology improve the online jewellery-buying process?
One of my main issues now is how to shorten the time between placing an order and the time it takes to reach a customer. Currently, we 3D-print a wax model to make a mould and add gold to create a piece of jewellery before it’s sent for stone-setting and finishing. Going forward, we’re looking into what we call direct metal printing, which involves using a powdered form of metal and laser to build the actual product. What I aim to do next year is this: the moment you order, say, a ring, I’ll immediately have a CAD (computer-aided design) automatically generated in the size you ordered, which is sent to the direct metal printer. Essentially, you can order during the day and production begins that night. After that, it goes for stone-setting and finishing, which are done by hand. Ideally, this would let us cut production time from four weeks to a week – or even less than that.
For ByCanary’s launch, one of your collections was a collaboration with Ung Yiu Lin, a Malaysian fashion designer and owner of multi-label store ShoesShoesShoes. How do you choose your partners?
Yiu Lin’s style can be casual yet still very funky and glamorous as well. She wanted designs that were modular and could be worn in different ways. We want to work with people from different parts of the world who bring different experiences to our designs.