Tomorrow Is Here: Rethinking the Web

Every jewelry store with annual retail sales in excess of $250,000 needs a Web site. If you already have one, congratulations. If not, take it in small steps—don’t charge out of the gate with a full-blown e-commerce site that rivals Blue Nile.

Think of your Web site as a full-page Yellow Pages ad combined with a 90-second radio commercial. Prominently list your store hours, phone number, and address and provide simple directions to your location(s) from major roads in your area. Clearly show the credit cards you accept and state your credit terms and finance promotions to give potential shoppers a sense of ease in doing business with you. Highlight your key watch and jewelry brand names for their halo effect, even if you can’t sell them over the Web because of manufacturers’ restrictive Web sale policies. Be sure to list specialty items, such as loose diamonds and platinum bridal settings, as points of differentiation and distinction.

Web surfers use search engines like Google to look for specific jewelry items, typing in names such as “David Yurman,” “Bicego,” “Mikimoto,” and “Movado.” If your Web site highlights brand names, Google et al will find the site and list it with search results for those names. That should increase both foot traffic and incoming calls, including calls from distant places. (Reality check: Many will call because they’re price shopping.)

Write, or have someone write for you, a brief welcoming statement that explains why your store loves its customers and how it makes them happy. This is your chance to demonstrate your personality and passion for jewelry. The tone and style of the site should be friendly, warm, and informative. Your Web site provides an opportunity to convey the areas of your store’s specialty services. By listing engraving, pearl restringing, watch and jewelry repair, appraisals, complimentary cleaning, remounting, and resizing, you provide information to potential customers and begin building trust.

Don’t just list the “four Cs”—explain them in your own voice and promote the one you believe is most important. For example, if you choose “cut,” explain why you carry specific cuts of diamonds. Use information from Diamond Promotion Service, Platinum Guild International, World Gold Council, Jewelers of America, Gemological Institute of America, and Jewelers Vigilance Committee to bolster your own expertise and convey your commitment to excellence in jewelry retailing.

Surf the Web for other jewelry retail sites and cull good ideas for your store. Ask your younger sales associates to search for Web sites they like and find helpful and keep these in a log. When you hire a professional Web site design firm, you’ll have some ideas about what you want your site to look like. Be sure to ask those professionals to create a site that’s easy to navigate.

If this is your first Web site, resist the urge to glam it up with Flash images, fades, and music beds, which slow the speed at which a site loads on users’ computers. Remember, time is the most important element affecting the transmission of information on the Web. Time-consuming downloads will drive away many visitors.

Warning: Web designers are so in love with technology they forget about the practicality you need. Leave most of the slick stuff to the manufacturers’ Web sites. They’re selling luxurious images and associations; you’re selling your store as the place for customers to acquire what they already want. Apply the KISS principle: Keep it simple to navigate, provide a “back to main” icon on every page, and have links to other sections of your site at the bottom of every page.

Finally, when you create your Web site or update your existing site, try scanning it without your reading glasses; if you have to squint, the font is too small.