Your Business Online | Professional Jeweler

October 3, 2001
Your Online Showroom
Making your site into a better online showroom can improve online and offline sales

Jewelry retailers face a special challenge online: selling high-priced luxury items people are used to buying in stores. Shoppers are accustomed to buying clothing, books, CDs and other items through mail order, but not jewelry. E-commerce analysts say this means jewelers need to take a different view of their online stores. To sell these big-ticket items, analysts say, you need to view your sites as additional showrooms rather than additional stores.

To be successful, step back from selling online and focus on "showing online." While that may sound simple, many jewelry retailers don't even come close to giving shoppers the information they need to make a purchasing decision.

Here are some ways to improve your site:

1. Make browsing easy. If you have a lot of inventory, consider breaking down your shopping categories into subcategories. Shoppers will rarely look through 15 pages of necklaces, but they're more likely to look through three pages of pearl necklaces and four pages of gemstone necklaces.

2. Include as much product information as possible. If there's only a large image and basic description for a $5,000 ring, few customers will feel they have enough information to make the purchase. Instead they'll go to another site or another store that does provide details.

3. Add images of close-ups, alternate views and models wearing the jewelry. Sometimes all that stops a shopper from buying is uncertainty about how the jewelry will look on a real person. Remember to let shoppers choose if they want to view the images; don't force them to wait for a bunch of large images to load on the main product page.

4. Include 3D images shoppers can rotate and zoom in on, if possible. While the technology isn't cheap, it's readily available, and analysts say it substantially improves sales.

5. Spice up your site with trend and fashion information. Many shoppers want to buy jewelry, but they don't know what's in style or what to wear certain jewelry styles with. This doesn't need to be updated daily or even weekly, but don't go more than a month without freshening it up.

6. Don't forget to include product availability information. Whether shoppers plan to buy online or visit your physical store, they will want to know if the items are in stock.

Improving your site to make it a better showroom can help boost online as well as offline sales. Since many shoppers research products online before buying offline, the more information you provide, the more likely these shoppers will go to your store. Most online shoppers don't want to waste time looking for the same product on multiple sites. If they find what they want, have all the information they need and the price is right, they'll buy from you.

- by Julia M. Duncan