The internet has become a very visual place, especially on social media. While blog content may thrive with well written information, as of today, on Facebook and Google+ you won't get noticed without some type of visual. This is especially a complete change for Facebook because in 2013, they lowered the visibility of status updates with images because they were combating meme over usage.
Product photography posts do attract attention on social media, as long as you don't overuse that technique.
In Modern Commerce
It doesn't matter if it's on social media or on your website, internet users want to see real product photography.
In Old Commerce
Your in-store customer service skills would close the sale. Your website would attract customers to you, but they would still visit once they found you online.
Results of Modern Commerce
Customers expect to see products on your website before they even consider visiting your store. Whereas you could once get away with a business card website to show you exist, the modern customer wants to see everything you sell on your website, and they want to research it all on your website, before they visit your store.
Although in-store customer service is still needed, the modern customer is also afraid of being convinced to buy something that they might not want, or like. Can they trust the salesperson? When they finally arrive at the decision to buy, they want to read all the product information and online reviews available to convince themselves that they've made the right choice. Then they'll feel more comfortable facing off with an in-store sales person.
E-commerce Purchase Decisions
Unless they are in a rush or want to save shipping fees, local customers might simply order from your e-commerce website instead of visiting your store directly.
If You're Complaining About Declining In-store Sales
Declining sales aren't simply about the economy, or needing to advertise more, or correct merchandising, but it's also about your ability to keep the attention of the audience you have in this ever changing internet market, which leads us back to photography.
You can't cheat anymore. Decent photography equipment is inexpensive enough now for you to do the photography in-house. You'll probably never be an expert photographer, but you'll be able to learn the techniques well enough to satisfy your customers.
I don't want to hear you complain that you don't have time for the photography. It's a mandatory part of your required new business model. If you're still using the same business model from 10+ years ago, then it's time for a change because your customers are changing.
Professional photographers invest thousands of dollars into their equipment, but you can get the job done with an entry level DSLR camera from Nikon or Canon, an enclosure to put your products in, and a flash light source.
Enclosures and light sources come in various shapes and sizes. For an easy setup you should read my Photocubics FlashBox write-up here. But that might be out of your price range, in which case you might want to pick up a tent and some flash units.
If you're shooting on a white background then the background must be white in the final photo, not gray, not blue, it must be white. Learning how to compensate for those gray/blue/white color shifts will be the most challenging part of your photography learning curve.
Other than good product photography, online product catalogs should have as much information as you would tell the customers in person. This is not just the metal type, color, and gemstone details, but also your entire sales pitch. Think about your in-person sales conversation and what you might say.
Do you talk about wardrobe matching options? Then include that.
Do you talk about care and cleaning? Then include that.
Do you talk about routine service, like 6-month prong checks? Then include that.
This certainly is a lot of information to include on a website, but the most successful retail stores in other industries, other than jewelry, are doing it. Consumers are waiting for the jewelry industry to catch up with modern times.
I won't guarantee that online product catalogs will increase your business, but there are a lot of retailers outside the jewelry industry that have spent a lot of time figuring out exactly what the new generation of customers wanted and gave it to them online.
Electronic stores, clothing stores, accessory stores, and show stores have all embraced the business model of providing great online photography and a lot of product details.
The new business model can't rely on the information or photos provided by your vendors either. They might have 1 or 2 photos for you to use, but those photos are usually never captivating enough. Also, when was the last time your jewelry vendor or designer gave you a paragraph long write-up on their any of their styles? Therefore, you have to do this yourself.
You should strive to add all your products to your website. I realize that might seem like an impossible task to take great photos and write long descriptions for everything, but that's just what the new generation wants. The best place to start is with the styles that you reorder all the time.
Feel free to contact me for some quick advice or long term help on establishing a new business model to include this product photography and information writing.