How Websites Can Take a Page From Print

Imagine a website with bite-size stories on the latest style trends from the street, a top model’s favorite things, and a roundup of emerging jewelry designers. Sounds like the latest editorial from a glossy consumer magazine, right? Right—but not quite. It’s all content from, a new ­e-commerce site that sells jewelry by contemporary designers such as Monique Péan, ­Solange Azagury-Partridge, and Deborah Pagani, plus vintage pieces.

Founded by Sotheby’s New York alum Dalia Oberlander, the site focuses on delivering fashion-conscious content, underscoring an emerging retail philosophy that insists the way to maximize a store’s Web presence is by doing more than simply listing brands and product specs. By borrowing from the world of magazines—whose editors obsess over maintaining readers and getting repeat visits to their publications—jewelry retailers are learning to engage potential customers by creating websites that are educational, style-savvy resources.

Judging by the Victorian-era illustrations and vintage photography that decorate much of its site, New York City’s Erstwhile Jewelry Co. embraces the old-world aesthetic of the jewelry it sells. But its online presence possesses a distinctly contemporary perspective. Click through the website and find commentary on favorite vintage ­jewelry “dazzlers” worn by celebrities at the most recent Met Gala, a sneak peek at a gold necklace from the boutique’s inventory, florist recommendations—even a mini tutorial on how to clean an engagement ring.

The site’s idiosyncratic mix of red carpet looks, how-to advice, lifestyle recommendations, and product placement takes a personal, curated approach that “builds trust,” according to Erstwhile owner Jared Klusner. Instilling confidence is particularly important to a retailer like Erstwhile because the store does roughly half its business through online sales.

“We don’t take it lightly that most of our customers are making one of life’s biggest purchases sight unseen,” ­Klusner says. The website is “more than a way to sell products,” he adds. “It should be a source of relevant information and a way to connect to our generation.”

For the Twist boutiques in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, building an uncommon online profile has been a priority for nearly a decade, according to Akira Mann, director of e-­commerce for, since the site’s very beginning in 2004. The blog she helms, “Akira Says,” offers a window into what is happening behind the scenes at Twist and draws connections between the store’s eclectic inventory and the world beyond.

The site delivers entertaining content that engages a reader’s imagination and establishes a relationship with the store and its designers, using a “conversational, personal voice,” Mann explains. For example, it includes asides about a favorite nail polish; feature articles such as an “Under $500 Gift Guide for the Yoga Goddess Mom”; a blog post extolling the virtues of rustic diamond jewelry; and a photo-heavy profile of visiting designer Sara Beltrán. All these pieces “absolutely drive traffic to the store,” says Mann. She also defines the content by what it’s not: a sales pitch.