Should Retailers Have an E-Commerce Enabled Site?

“Is it worth damaging your business just to sell a few more diamonds each week?”

Daniel Matz, assistant manager
Diamond Mart
St. Charles, Ill.

 

 

 

Use Your Site to Advertise, Not to Sell: The purpose of a website is to garner attention from existing and potential customers. When jewelers have an e-commerce website, they’ll show their prices and lose customers—because the only way to compete online is by price. A jeweler can’t sell online at the same price levels as their brick-and-mortar store. And when customers see the price differences, you’ll lose them. The only way Main Street jewelers can compete with pure players online is to educate people so they know the reasons behind the price differences.

No One Can Serve Two Masters: When a jeweler has an e-commerce­ website, he has to service two groups of customers with the same number of employees and resources. Not many retailers have the resources to expand their business to such a wide [online] demographic. This could be devastating to the store’s level of customer service. If a mom-and-pop store takes on an e-commerce website, they’ll absorb sales from all over the country. This puts their integrity at risk and they’ll cease to be that intimately sized store. This may turn off older generations of customers—because you automatically become a big player when you’re competing with big online companies.

Set Yourself Apart With Service:
We’ve already eliminated most of the relationships between vendors and retailers. If we burn the other bridge between our clients and ourselves, there will be just a few online sources for diamond and jewelry purchases online. And when e-tailers don’t have to compete with Main Street retailers, prices for online jewelry purchases will go up. Jewelers should embrace technology but should exercise restraint. Retailers are currently using iPhone apps—that keeps the customer engaged in the process of buying or the creative custom-jewelry process. But jewelers still have to give customers a reason to come to the store. Guarantees and warranties that are free, jewelry cleaning and minor repairs for life for free, in-store events, and personal service—that’s how I beat the Internet.

 

“An e-commerce website forces us to offer a better in-store experience.”

Kathy Corey, co-owner
Day’s Jewelers
Waterville, Maine

 

 

 

BIG MONEY = BIG PAYOFF: E-commerce isn’t for everybody. It’s a huge investment in time and money and takes several years to actually make money. If you’re a single store that’s strongly branded in a community, this may not be the best business model. But if you own multiple stores and have the inventory to support an e-commerce website, it can bring in and better educate in-market customers while opening your store to the rest of the country. For us, roughly 80 percent of our sales are out-market.

Your Site Gives You Identity: We have the same challenges online as we do offline, creating a unique selling proposition. Blue Nile and Mondera have an appealing look and feel as well as usability. But for Day’s, there’s an important story to tell—that we’ve been a family-owned business since 1914. There are people behind the web pages and products who can service the customer by phone, e-mail, and in one of our many stores. We also contribute to industry-related charities, such as Diamonds for Peace, and source fair trade diamonds from Botswana.

Streamlining—and Boosting—In-Store Biz:
An overwhelming number of customers come into our stores saying, “I saw a piece of jewelry on your website.” We’ve found that with our e-commerce website, it’s not so much about buying, but the information and style options people can see on the site. This reduces the time spent on a sales presentation by 25 to 50 percent. The Day’s website has a “Like to see it in a Day’s store” feature. For customers who use this, the closing ratio is 95 percent.

Offline and Online Sales Go Hand in Hand: People who know us and trust us buy online. But if we fail to surpass customers’ expectations with each store visit, they may opt to buy from…one of our many online competitors. To keep people coming back, we have to keep improving the customer experience in our stores. The Internet is not going away. If anything, it will become more relevant.