Your Business Online | Professional Jeweler



February 14, 2000
The E-Commerce Question
A Web site is a must; e-commerce not so much

Selling jewelry over the Internet isn't the only reason to have a Web site – and maybe not even the best reason. Instead, say the executives of two jewelry industry Web portals, use a Web site to build in-store business by:

  • informing potential customers of the store's existence
  • acquainting potential customers with a store's lines of merchandise
  • providing directions to a store
  • gathering e-mail addresses of potential customers to whom the store can later send promotional messages and/or a newsletter
  • displaying expertise via, for example, a Web-cam trained on the bench jeweler
  • distributing coupons or offering discounts
  • explaining store policies
  • educating consumers about jewelry
  • introducing Web "visitors" to store staff
  • building a bridal registry
"The most important use of a Web site – or any advertising vehicle – is to get people into the store," said iJeweler's Rich Goldstein at the recent JA International Jewelry Show in New York City. A Web site is a good tool for communicating with customers, he explained, because 80% of jewelry customers – a greater percentage than in the general population – are online.

"But that doesn't mean e-commerce is the way to go," he said. Such a strategy pits local jewelers against the economies of scale available to the Big Boys of jewelry e-tailing. In such a contest, local jewelers invariably lose.

Instead, play to your strengths. "Put up a photo of your store," recommended Jacques Voorhees, president/CEO of Polygon.net. "It's a simple but savvy way to compare yourself to a dot.com whose office is – what? Probably a garret someplace that's not much to look at."

Other "musts" include contact information (phone, address), a map and software that automatically sends reminders of anniversaries or other occasions to customers who have entered their relevant dates. And don't forget, said Voorhees, to put your Web address on all store materials, including business cards and Yellow Pages ads.

Still want to do e-commerce? Voorhees recommended a limited selection of stock items, perhaps packaged under a heading such as, "Need a Gift in a Hurry?" "You can offer next-day delivery by FedEx," he said. "And if that's not fast enough, tell them they can stop by the store and pick it up already gift-wrapped. No dot.com can match that."

- by Mark E. Dixon