Love at First Site

Make your website top priority and give your online presence a boost

It may seem like social media is so powerful that jewelers could save money and headaches by abandoning their websites and focusing solely on Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+. But tempting as this strategy may be, it’s akin to letting someone else own your store. While social networking is a great entry point—and often one of the better opportunities for customer retention—it isn’t sufficient on its own. Eventually your customers will want to get a better idea of your business and will look to your website. Take time to think about what they’ll see.

There is a lot to consider when coming up with a plan for your site. You want to make sure what you develop is visually appealing and sets a tone similar to your store’s. It should also integrate some of your social media efforts—or at least help your customers find them. Your site can help you collect information from customers, including email and home addresses, by offering tangible benefits such as offers and detailed information for making better purchasing decisions. And while you shouldn’t be able to change your site’s overall structure, you’ll want to make sure you can update it and tweak some of the visuals on your own so you’re not at the mercy of your Web developer.

To determine what you want from your site, make sure you’ve installed Google Analytics. (If not, do that before making any major decisions.) Now is the time to go through this data and see how your customers are using your site.

You’ll be glad you invested time in planning your site.

Look for the pages your customers visit most often, the pages where they spend the most time, and the pages to which other websites are linking. All these points are essential for helping you focus your efforts. And consider your own goals: Do you want your site to directly drive sales? Do you want to collect customer information? Do you want to highlight brands you carry? Or are you just making it easy for customers to find you?

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is finding a developer to help execute your vision. Always consider working with someone local. It’s possible to work remotely, but not having the option to work face-to-face can make life difficult. The first step in assessing a developer’s work is to ask for a list of sites they have worked on, and visit every last one of them. Analyze how the sites are designed, how they are structured, how well they work—even how they are ranked in Google.

If you like what you see, learn about the developer’s process. Do they start with wireframes or designs? Are they working from a template or existing content management system, or will they build your site from scratch? How many design revisions will they allow you? Most important, what questions are they asking you? How interested are they in learning your business? A good Web developer is curious.

Inevitably, decisions come down to cost. While anyone can build a website, it takes a skilled professional to make one that performs. Simple sites that involve nothing more than static pages with text and images can cost a few thousand dollars, but chances are you’re going to want something more robust. Depending on your needs, you can create a fully functional e-­commerce site starting at around $10,000 using existing frameworks. Once you start getting into complicated custom development, however, costs can quickly explode.

Your website is often the most substantive interaction a consumer has with your business. It will go the furthest toward helping customers determine where to spend their money, so invest in making that impression matter. Unlike social media profiles, which require that you use existing templates, your site offers an opportunity to show your personality and to set your business apart in an environment over which you have complete control.

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