It could be the next big thing, or the next big bust
If you're on the horns of a dilemma about whether to plunge into the
World Wide Web to create a shopping site for your store, consider these
pros and cons from Wall Street Journal writer and 'Net expert Thomas E.
Weber. We've boiled them down and refocused them toward the special needs
of retail jewelers:
Cruising around the Web is relaxing and crowd-free. A consumer who may
balk at visiting your real store might nibble at your on-line site. (It's
also a good way to meet young shoppers, who are more likely to be Web experts
and more comfortable with this still-new medium).
Consumers who hate sales pressure of any type are completely in charge.
If they want to spend half an hour poring over your gold earring selection
and then walk away, they can. They've formed a good sense of your inventory
without feeling obligated. Now they just might be ready to buy.
If you're registered with good search engines (the Web services that
list and catalog sites by categories broad and specific), your unique inventory
will be displayed before a consumer who is actually looking for a wide range
of sapphire jewelry, for example.
You could develop a nationwide clientele. If your site is good, easy
to navigate and filled with unique items, you could soon have customers
from all over placing orders.
Browsers are often looking for information and ideas. If your site features
some fascinating education ("Did you know that opals come from Australia?")
and romance, you could lure that consumer out of his chair and down to see
your exquisite collection of Australian opals. It's free advertising - for
Visuals can be a real problem. The problems are especially significant
with colors, where two shades could look exactly the same, or worse, might
bear no relation to the actual stone you're displaying. Crisp, shiny metals
can look fuzzy. No matter how carefully you have scanned your images, consumers
have a wild and woolly array of computer equipment out there and what they
see isn't necessarily pretty.
Chance encounters with an exceptional and rare item that catches just
the right consumer's eye are difficult to engineer on-line. You can try
to give such items prominence on your site, but not everything can be on
the first screen they see. You may have to bury something that the perfect
customer for it may never uncover.
Overcoming the distrust factor is daunting. Consumers cannot see your
storefront; they can't feel the solidity of your business or see your reassuring
face. You could spend a lot of time answering hostile questions that a visitor
to your store may not ask. They may assume you are a fly-by-night operation,
despite your company history and proclamation of 100 years in business.
Professional Jeweler's call: The pros seem to outweigh the cons
in this review. Go ahead. Take the plunge. Just be sure to call in a Web
expert to help. Or maybe your 12-year-old child. Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.