Today is tax day in the USA: the day that many people distain because they have to pay taxes while still others dream of all the things they desire to get with their tax return money.
The US government hopes that the economy will be stimulated by all the people who spend their tax refunds. No doubt that much of that money will be spent through e-commerce websites.
It's therefore fitting that I should review some of the situations surrounding the setup of e-commerce websites.
Security should be the biggest concern with any e-commerce website. As the website owner, you are responsible for making sure your customer's financial information is protected. You also have to protect any other personally identifiable information from being exposed to hackers.
The typical protection methods include setting up a secure website using SSL to encrypt the information flowing back and forth between your website and users. You also need to audit your website's security on a regular basis to make sure it stays secure. Secure websites often need to be upgraded on a regular basis as new security holes are identified.
One of the largest security holes discovered in recent internet history was the Heartbleed bug. Testing for website security holes is one thing, but you also have to pay someone to apply software patches to the server when a security bug is found.
Please don't think that your website security efforts are over once you purchase your secure certificate (SSL) and activate it on your website. New security threats appear every day and e-commerce websites need to follow the right procedures to maintain protection.
Although security issues apply to all e-commerce websites, regardless of whether you sell jewelry or not, the actual setup of your e-commerce website will be more tedious for the jewelry industry than most others.
It's easy to set up an e-commerce website to sell a one-size-fits-all baseball cap, a bottle of vitamins, or an eBook through your website. These are all single items without a variety of options that could change the price on the fly.
A standard option on a clothing website would be the ability to choose a shirt color without changing the price. On a jewelry website you would expect one option to be the ability to select your ring size, except that a change in ring size also means a change in price.
Let's say you have a size 10, 14K gold ring for $368. Changing to a size 9 would reduce the price of the ring by $13, or $355. Jumping down to a size 7 would then reduce the ring to $328. It's easy to control the price of the ring when you are simply moving up and down in size for a 14K gold ring.
Here's where things get a little complicated...
What if you also want to give the user the ability to change the metal type in addition to the size? This requires a more complicated table of variable pricing that the website needs to figure out on the fly. The math is not hard, but creating the complex table of pricing options is a nightmare for the uninitiated.
Let me go even a little further...
Let's give the user the ability to select a center diamond, the metal type, and the ring size. The ring size and metal type could be one set of tied-together pricing while the diamond is simply an add-on cost.
Some of the more elaborate jewelry websites provide the amazing ability to choose different color side stones, different center diamonds, metal color, ring size, and even the finishing type. You can see one such implementation of this on Stuller's website. But before you jump up saying "Yes that's what I want!" you should consider the pricing formulation that makes it work.
As I said, this is daunting for any first timer. There are many different types of pricing tables and implementation methods to make these options work. Every e-commerce platform will have their own implementation methods that you will have to follow.
Another issue with these options is the continual need to update them based on the current precious metal pricing. You might have a website with 1400 individual style numbers which explodes to 70,000 potential option combinations. Maintaining updated pricing on your website means you need to manage the price changes of those 70,000 options.
It all comes down to database management. The e-commerce websites that sell simple items like a bottle of vitamins or an eBook do not need the sophisticated options database. Naturally those simple content management systems will be less expensive to set up, easier to maintain, but they are highly limited. In other words, they won't be flexible enough for your jewelry business to use.
One last wrench I need to throw into this complex options pricing structure...
Some jewelry websites provide pricing breaks based on the quantity of items purchased. This is different than simply applying a broad discount at the end of the purchase. These "pricing points" are often seen in on wholesale websites with the purchases of completely finished goods.
Now let me explain where in your website setup process you will need to worry about security and pricing options...
Have a candid conversation with your developer before you settle on a website CMS. Find out what your longterm security issues will be, and how will they get solved when they arise. Your SSL needs to be set up before your website is launched, and security testing needs to be ongoing.
With regard to option pricing, you should find out how flexible the options are before you start the programming process. Your pricing needs will dictate which CMS you choose. Keep in mind that you probably won't be setting up any pricing or options until your website is designed and built.
It might take you a few months to figure out how to create your first options table. If it took 3 months to build your website, it might take another 3 months for you to get the pricing calculations correct. That's a 6 month setup time without even considering the rest of the typical e-commerce issues.
As always, I hope this sheds some light into the more intricate areas of jewelry website setup.