JCK Show: The Internet sparks enthusiasm . and skepticism

Retail jewelers are both enthusiastic and skeptical when it comes to using the Internet for marketing, merchandising, and selling fine jewelry. That was one result of a survey of retail jewelers conducted during The JCK Show educational program on Wednesday.

A small group of retailers participated in the survey, which was conducted with an automated audience-response system. Participants entered answers to questions on wireless hand-held keypads, and the results were immediately displayed on a screen.

More than half the participants said they believe the Internet will have little impact on the retail jewelry business. Nearly two-thirds believe that “pure play” e-commerce sites eventually will replace brick-and-mortar jewelry operations. About 75% believe that, with few exceptions, the vast majority of fine jewelry will continue to be purchased at retail stores.

Among the participants, 67% have a Web site. More than half of those who have a Web site operate an information-only site. A total of 22% of participants who have a site can make either business-to-consumer or business-to-business transactions.

Nearly two-thirds of participants believe that a Web site’s main function is to drive traffic to the store. However, two-thirds of the same jewelers said that having a Web site attracted less than 5% of total store sales.

Participants have been slow when it comes to displaying and updating inventory online. Of the jewelers surveyed, nearly 50% do not display any product online, and an additional 22% display no more than 5% of their products online. However, another 22% have more than 15% of their products online. A total of 80% said they update their site infrequently.

All participants said that less than 5% of total store sales come from online transactions. Forty-four percent of jewelers believe that in five years, online transactions will still account for up to 5% of all store sales, with 22% believing that online sales will amount to 5% to 10% of total store sales.

All participants who have e-commerce-enabled Web sites said they have sold product outside their regions. Two-thirds said that national sales are part of their online strategy.

With the lack of overall sales coming from online transactions, jewelers said they found no reason to increase their backroom operations. But 70% believe the time will come when they will have to add to backroom operations.

All participants who have a Web site said that their sites have an online contact, 80% said they collect e-mail addresses, and 38% said they use e-mail to market their site to consumers. Out of those who use e-mail as a marketing tool, half said they use it to alert customers to new products and half say they send a regular e-newsletter.

Three-quarters of participants say a store employee or owner manages the store Web site and that the site is updated on an infrequent basis.