The Internet: Time for a Second Look
When the Internet first appeared on most jewelers radar screens in the late 1990s, its potential as an electronic marketplace was touted widely. Many early adopters took the plunge, some with success, either in the business-to-business mode or the business-to-consumer mode. But most took a wait-and-see stance, which looked wise after the dot-com crash and the recession that followed.
Its increasingly clear now, however, that jewelers must take a second look. Youre losing sales to the Internet, especially in diamonds and generic jewelry. Whats more, though online sales still represent only a small percentage of total retail sales, studies show a steady rise that will continue relentlessly as Internet-savvy Gen Y continues its passage into adulthood and teaches its elders how much fun online shopping and browsing can be.
For many jewelers, using the Internet as a means to reach customers remains daunting. But it neednt be. Many suppliers recognize youre the experts in consumer relationships, so theyve come up with easy ways to help you make online connections that will keep your business viable in this brave new world. Theres self-interest too. Suppliers know most successful online jewelry sellers have multiple distribution channels. That is, they promote and sell jewelry online but also provide different ways for consumers to buy, whether by catalog, phone or in-store.
One of the most successful and established supplier/retailer hookups is Jewelry.com, the consumer Web site that promotes the hell out of the jewelry category, but then sends consumers to its retail partners for the actual sale. The partners include Zales, Sears, Macys, J.C. Penney and Helzberg Diamonds. At these retailers Web sites, consumers can buy on-the-spot or find a physical location. Interestingly, for every one who buys online, eight to nine still want to see the jewelry in person and end up at a store.
Jewelry.com is the brainchild of Ofer Azrielant, CEO of Andin International, known for its manufacture of colored and fashion diamond jewelry. He teamed up with gold jewelry manufacturer Aurafin Oro America and diamantaire Schachter & Namdar to provide the products shown at Jewelry.com. Azrielant has created a site thats rated the top fine jewelry site by NetRatings, as well as the third-highest rated site among all apparel and accessories sites by ComScore. Jewelry.com boasts over 38 million visits from 26 million unique visitors per year. Whats more, it uses its links to consumers to research buying habits. This helps suppliers and retailers tailor their inventories to what consumers want.
If youre an independent jeweler, you may ask wheres the supplier to help you reach consumers online? Enter Super Bell, which last year launched a business-to-business Web site called Jewelry Club House for its primarily independent jeweler clients. In January 2005, it plans to launch a business-to-consumer jewelry/fashion/lifestyle Web site, with jewelers as partners in the project. Smaller retailers all over the country will be the local faces of Super Bells as-yet-unnamed consumer site and will share in its profits. SuperBell is testing the site, and well have all the details in our January issue.
The bottom line is that its time to get going. Suppliers such as Andin, Aurafin and Super Bell realize the facts of life, and now you need to as well. While consumers clearly still mostly want to buy in a store, they use the Internet for fun and occasionally to buy. Youre nowhere if youre not there.
Peggy Jo Donahue