We have conflicted feelings when it comes to independent retail jewelry stores trying to compete in online e-commerce. On one hand we know it's a good idea, but on the other hand there are sensible business decisions as to why a jewelry store should avoid it.
Truthfully we would like to see all jewelry stores create some type of online catalog, even if it's only a small sample of their inventory that showcases the quality of their jewelry.
The options for e-commerce or online showcases might seem limitless, but there are really only a few types. Let's review the different types and explain how you could use each of them, as well as the SEO strategies you should employ.
As usual, we have way too much information to tell you in a single Daily Golden Nugget so we're splitting this one up over several days. You may want to bookmark this set of Nuggets because they will be very useful the next time you redesign your website.
Here are the type of catalogs we've identified:
Type 1: Vendor Controlled Websites and Catalogs ( http://bit.ly/rhnsa3 )
Type 2: POS Uploaded Catalogs ( http://bit.ly/oILWca )
Type 3: Simple Manual Product Showcases ( http://bit.ly/q4MJwW )
Type 4: Manual Uploaded Catalogs ( http://bit.ly/n25HPS )
Type 5: Full Manual Catalogs
Note: This is a review of the "product catalog" area of a website only, not a review of all the possible website features.
TYPE 1: VENDOR CONTROLLED WEBSITE & CATALOG
Setup Difficulty: Very Easy
Customer's Perception: Very large inventory available in store.
Customer Realization: Disappointment when items are not in stock.
Internet Reach: Very low, only word of mouth.
SEO Value: Abysmal!
Many large vendors and jewelry specific website companies have launched turn-key, cookie-cutter websites that can be used as an easy first website. Companies like WRCobb, Polygon, Ashi, and HJ Namdar (that's a very short list) provide easy to set up websites with very little input from you.
If you work with a single vendor, the setup for this type of website is as easy as selecting a preformatted color scheme and the website can be created almost overnight. The inventory is automatically populated with that one vendor's product catalog.
When you work with a website company (like Polygon) the process is also as easy as the filling out an initial questionnaire, then picking the list of vendor catalogs to have loaded into your website.
For the novice jewelry website owner, these choices are amazingly simple. E-commerce is built right in and many times the online sales are received, items are shipped and the jeweler gets a commission check at the end of the month. It's easy to do, and very attractive for the jeweler because it's hands off.
On the other hand, the inventory showing on your website if far greater than what you have in your store, which leads to customer disappointment if they found your site and then decided to visit in person.
The cookie-cutter nature of this type of website automatically causes an automatic search engine "duplicate content slap." Google only like to show one-of-a-kind websites in the first few pages of the SERP. On May 25, 2011 a video from Matt Cutts from Google ( http://youtu.be/WOB5biRQXVA ) explained that you could have a few websites with the same product catalog without duplicate content penalties. But when you get to hundreds or thousands of identical sites, they all get disqualified.
Your website will not rank well at all because the entire website and all inventory is identical to hundreds of other jewelry stores around the country, or even the world. You might as well forget search engine optimization and simply look at your website for what it is: a large online business card with inventory.
TYPE 1 catalogs are very beneficial to the jewelry manufacturers because they can reach into local towns using your word of mouth without spending any money on SEO. As long as your expectations are not too high, there is a benefit here.
The bottom line of a TYPE 1 website/catalog is easy entry with little or no maintenance. But the only people using the site will be your existing customers and although the idea of a commission check might sound nice, you shouldn't count on them as an additional revenue stream.