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5 Types of Online Jewelry Catalogs, Part 5

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This is the last Nugget in our series explaining the different types of online product catalogs that retail jewelers could have.

Many newcomers in e-commerce (jewelry or otherwise) think they will set up websites overnight and start taking orders tomorrow. Certainly, this is possible if you have a Type 1 catalog we described a few days ago, but the reality is most run forward blindfolded with a poor execution strategy and lofty expectations. They end up with very bitter feelings of the entire experience and blame their web programmer for dysfunctional websites when in fact the jeweler should have researched the process.

Let's try to shed some light on the most difficult type of product catalog you could ever set up. We're trying to include all the details your hired website company doesn't tell you. After all, they just want your money whereas we provide this honest education for free.

In case you've joined us in the middle of our conversation, we are reviewing the TYPE 5 CATALOG today. Here's the types 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 5: FULL MANUAL CATALOG
Setup Difficulty: Hard
Customer's Perception: Must have jewelry that you can buy online or in-store.
Customer Realization: Very satisfied by immediate availability and knowing it's the perfect jewelry.
Internet Reach: Local clout with nationwide appeal.
SEO Value: High

The reality is that running an online e-commerce website takes as much time, energy, and advertising as running your normal brick and mortar store. But if you want to do it then TYPE 5 catalogs are what you are looking for.

If your intention is to sell online and make a living from it then you need to get serious about it. First thing you need to shake off is the idea that it will be an extension of your current jewelry store; it's actually going to be a parallel business to your jewelry store. You will need a full time employee who is tech-savvy; you will need a good SEO strategy, good photography, amazing product descriptions, and a willingness to throw out your ideas tomorrow if they don't work today.

Make sure your content management system (CMS) can work for your needs. You probably need built in SEO features and might need to have your programmer create them. Specifically, you will need to be able to edit your Page Title and Meta Description on a per item basis. Many CMS's allow for changing these on a per page basis, but few allow per item. The CMS also needs to be flexible for your needs, especially when you get into changing layouts to test conversion rates.

Once the website is ready to receive inventory you may want to ask your web programmer to upload your initial inventory file. Manually entering all your initial inventory will take weeks through a web browser. Imagine retyping details and uploading images one at a time for the 4000 to 7000 items in your store. Once the initial inventory is populated you would maintain the site manually. This is why you need a full time employee.

Hiring that employee will be tricky. You need someone who knows about jewelry, who can write with style and finesse, and who also understands how to perform search engine optimization. It's this employee that will become the powerhouse behind the success of the website. You should ask your current sales staff if they would like the job, perhaps even one of your children. You can find a tech-savvy person from craigslist.org, but finding one who already knows jewelry is next to impossible!

As we said in the previous few Nuggets, the descriptions need to have both romantic descriptions and technical details about the jewelry. The romance creates desire and the typical technical specs appeal to people who find beauty in what can be measured. Except this time you also need to pay attention if the descriptions are not working. If you can't gain search engine visibility then you need to start rewriting. Keyword research on a per item basis will be needed.

Photography will also be important, perhaps even paramount. Start with whatever photos your vendor will provide, but also take some of your own photos showing different angles and size comparisons. Use a coin for size comparisons if you only sell within your country. If you sell internationally use a Classic Bic Pen for comparison since that is internationally recognized. We use the Gem eBox from MK Digital Direct for our own photography; if you really want to do this you should get one of those for yourself. You can buy them online from B&H Photo in New York, just search for MK Digital on their product catalog. (Don't be a weasel; get a real lightbox!)

Your local customers will probably be amazed with the level of detail you include in your website. Your competitors will also envy you, however with this type of time investment your real audience is on the national level and your expectations should be to have at least 1 sale per day.

There are some harsh realities to a TYPE 5 catalog. The initial setup will take months. You probably want to have a custom catalog created for you and that's going to cost a lot of money unless you find a CMS and product system built for jewelry. You also have sales tax to worry about, credit card processing, PCI (totally aggravating and a nightmare) compliance, calculating shipping on the fly, return policies, learning jewelry photography and how to use PhotoShop. (Don't be a weasel; get Adobe PhotoShop! Order it from Amazon.com.)

Oh, and on top of that you also need to have an employee super educated in how your website works so you can provide answers to tech support questions via email or over the phone.

Once the website is up and running, it will take a while for search engines to find you. In the mean time, you will need to spend money on advertising, Google AdWords, and link building. You also need to investigate how to include your inventory into other e-commerce websites, like Amazon.com, Overstock.com, and any others you find. You also need to upload you inventory to Google Merchant Center for correct inclusion in the SERP.

This project is BIG. The amount you pay your web development company is only a small part of the entire project. You should budget $50,000 to cover all costs before you make your first $1 back.

If it turns out you need to take all your own photography then you need to budget at least $50 per photograph. If you only have 1000 items on your website you are looking at $50,000 in photography costs!

Remember we also said you need to be willing to throw out ideas when they don't work. That means you are losing hours of labor costs to try something new because the previous idea failed. Don't keep throwing good money after bad website ideas. If your CMS is nimble you should just learn from your mistakes and move on.

The bottom line of a TYPE 5 catalog is that the faint of heart should not attempt it. This is another business that needs a lot of initial TLC, but the returns are tremendous.

Required FTC disclaimer: We do not receive a commission from Amazon or B&H, we just like to recommend website that offer good prices.

AT: 08/08/2011 11:39:09 AM   LINK TO THIS GOLD NUGGET
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