Record breaking ecommerce sales have been in the news this week; in fact, online sales have been higher this year than ever before. One of the headlines from comScore this week was "Eleven Consecutive Billion-Dollar Days of Online Desktop Spending from Thanksgiving through Cyber Week Mark the Longest Streak Ever". It's important to recognize that, when possible, consumer buying is shifting from in-person purchases to more convenient online purchases.
The time has come for everyone to include an ecommerce website in their business plan. The idea of ecommerce frightens many business owner because there are several real issues that need to be overcome first, like photography, security, and collecting sales tax. There are now solutions for each of these issues that make it easier than ever to open an online store.
Keeping in the spirit of ecommerce holiday shopping season, I'll propose a scenario and work my way through finding a website and what I would look at for this scenario. As I write this I'm sitting in my office in Bordeaux, France. My mother lives near my home in New Jersey, USA.
Let's pretend that I'd like to buy jewelry online and have it shipped to my mother in NJ. I know there are many websites where I can buy jewelry and have it shipped to her, but I want to choose a jeweler that's local to her so she has a place to go to exchange it in-person just in case she doesn't like what I pick out for her.
I'm not exactly sure what type of jewelry to buy for my mother either, so I'm going to ask Google to make some suggestions for me. My search phrase is "jewelry for mom Woodbridge, NJ." I'm using "jewelry for mom" because I'm hoping that jewelry stores in Woodbridge have somehow included descriptions or otherwise tagged their online inventory that might be good gift giving choices for moms.
Here are the top 5 results shown in Google:
The Woodbridge Jewelry Exchange, shown first in the list, was an extremely old website with a directory listing of 40 jewelers within that exchange building. Although I know my mom does shop at different jewelry exchanges around NJ, this site doesn't help me find a Christmas gift for her.
Littman Jewelers is second in the search results. They are a chain store with more than 300 locations across the USA. I could probably find something from their website that's perfect for my mom, but I prefer to shop small; and I also know that my mom doesn't like to go to the Woodbridge Center Mall, where Littman Jewelers is located.
The Jewelers Source is the next jeweler shown in the results. Lucky for me they have an ecommerce site, so let's take a look if they are any good. Their website is http://www.jewelrysourceshop.com/.
I really wasn't too impressed by the look of this website. It's old looking and the copyright says it hasn't been updated since 2011. Take a look:
(click to enlarge)
I also wasn't very comfortable seeing a few broken images right on their home page. Not only does it make me think that this website might be out of date, but I'm already feeling a little insecure about using my credit card on their website.
Unlike other times of the year, when I might spend a few minutes looking around a website and reading a little about a company, right now I'm on a specific hunt for the perfect gift for my mom. I need to find the right gift, make sure she can return it if needed, and I need to feel comfortable about using my credit card information on their website.
I'll overlook the broken images on the home page if I feel comfortable enough with the rest of my online buying criteria.
The first thing I'm looking at is the website security, but it doesn't look like this website is secure at all. The site doesn't have a secure certificate and the site is lacking any type of security certification badge in the footer. Typical badges include SSL seals from GoDaddy, Verisign, or Comodo, as well as security seals from Norton, McAfee, and other PCI compliance testing services. Any one of those certification badges would make me feel a little more at ease when buying from them.
I already don't feel comfortable with this website, but I have a specific need that must be filled so I'll stay here for a few minutes.
Quick Shopping Cart Test
(My clients frequently ask me why someone would spend only 90 seconds on their website, but yet they add something to their shopping cart, proceed to the checkout, and then leave. What I'm about to explain might provide some insights into why this might be occurring on your own website.)
Before wasting my time looking in the online product catalog from The Jewelry Source, I did a quick test on their shopping cart to see if it was even working. I added earrings to my shopping cart and proceeded to the checkout. The first page of the checkout jumped over to the website
Even though the "https" tells me this is a secure website I was still a little unsure of the depth of their security. Oddly, the checkout page does not have a footer area showing links to their return policy or any further security information. Here's a screen shot of the checkout page:
(click to enlarge)
If I decide to buy from them, I might want to call them on the telephone rather than place the order online.
My Product Search
I returned back to the home page to start my search for a jewelry gift for my mother. I decided to try typing "mom" into the search box at the top of the page. My hope is that the website will surface all the items they have tagged with the keyword "mom."
Sadly, it only returned 3 items you see here:
Two of the items were diamond earrings and the third was an engagement ring; none of them were appropriate for my needs.
I returned to the home page and looked through the product catalog on my own. I was hoping they had a holiday gift guide or some other easy tool set up to speed along my needs, but they didn't. I was rather disappointed by the reductive navigation they had on the left side of the screen because it forced a refresh of the page every time I selected an option. It also only allowed me to select one option from each of the options you see here:
Personally, I prefer a reductive navigation that allows multiple choices per category and something that will not force refresh the product view until I'm finished refining my search.
Eventually, I found a potentially good choice for my mother. I think she'd like this citrine pendant; as you might expect, it is her birthstone. She has some citrine jewelry already, but I don't remember her ever wearing a pendant like this one.
I like the layout of their page because it includes a written description as well as the specific product characteristic which tell me that this has a prong setting and the length of the chain. However, I was annoyed to see two complete misspellings and potentially one typo in the product description. Take a look:
This undetated beauty is made of fine 14k white gold with brilliant diamonds and a gorgeous oval Citrine. This 14k White Gold 1 1/4Carat Citrine Diamond Necklace is a great addition to anyones jewelry colleCaration.
This was the one and only item I looked at on the website. What are the odds that this would be the only item on the site with misspellings? Perhaps I'm overly sensitive to online misspellings because I am a journalist and I take great care to use spell checking and have my editor review everything for me.
In my own process of maintaining website I also use Microsoft Word and the built-in spell check in web browsers to double check my spelling all the time. Using spell check as part of your normal work flow is so easy to do that mistakes like those shown above show a lack of attention to details that will hurt a business.
Naturally, some people notice spelling mistakes while others don't, so you might not think it's a big deal. However, some time ago I read a Google blog post explaining that spelling mistakes are one of the factors used to determine if your website has quality content.
Alas, I'm still on a hunt for a Christmas gift for my mother so I'll just ignore their bad website management. If I was not so rushed for time, I would skip this website and shop elsewhere.
The next thing I need to know about is shipping. Conveniently enough there's a shipping tab on the product detail page. The red arrow in the above screen grab is pointing to it. Here's what you see when you click it:
That screen grab might seem odd looking, and that's because the shipping information was blank. It's so misleading to have a clickable tab for shipping information and then leave that tab empty. This was a very poor website design choice, or perhaps it just shows further lack of attention to how they set up their website.
Since that shipping information tab was empty, I started looking around their footer for a specific page explaining their shipping policies and options. Not surprisingly they didn't have any such page, nor could I find shipping details on their Terms and Conditions, Company Policy, or FAQ pages.
Return Policy Killed The Sale
It's the holiday season. As I'm trying to illustrate in this website review, it's the time of the year when consumers make off the cuff choices for gifts, but also look for return and exchange options. I know many retail stores near my hometown in NJ that will extend the return policy for items bought between Thanksgiving and Christmas until mid January or even until January 31st just to make it convenient for their customers. I even know some retail jewelers that have similar holiday return policies.
For my situation, I'm looking for a return policy that will allow me to choose something today and have it drop shipped to my mom. If she doesn't like it I want her to have the freedom to return it to the store. I also want her to be able to bring it to the store for a prong check from time to time.
The Jewelry Source website states a 15-day return policy that only allows for the item to be returned by mail with a Return Authorization Number. While it might seem silly for a local store to decline a return in-person, there are legitimate reasons why it might be disallowed. Some websites do not ship from their retail store, but rather from an anonymous fulfillment center somewhere. Some jewelers do not manage their own websites either; they are simply paying a fee to have their name on a vendor provided website. The vendor drop ships the jewelry with the store name on it and sends the store a commission check. In both such cases the item would have to be shipped back.
The Jewelry Source website also states a 30-day exchange policy, which also requires an Exchange Authorization Number.
Neither of these policies satisfy my needs because I don't want my mother to go through the hassle of the returns by mail. Knowing my mother, she'd rather put the gift in her jewelry box, unworn forever, than go through the trouble of returning it if she didn't like it. On the other hand, I know she would visit in-person to exchange the gift for something she would like better.
Overall, it wasn't the website security, the poor search features, or the lousy spelling that killed this sale for me, it was the return policy that wasn't acceptable for the holiday season.
Rethinking My Remote Gift Giving
I prefer to shop small. No matter where I am, I always try to support smaller businesses than larger businesses. In fact, during our lunch break today I told my husband that the street corner Christmas tree vendor was finally open for business and we could pick up our tree now. He suggested that we just pick one up at the supermarket during our weekly shopping trip. I grimaced. I'd much rather support the guy standing out in the cold trying to make a living than the conglomerate supermarket chain.
That said, when it comes to finding a balance between online shopping and potential returns, it seems like my best choice is to purchase from Littman Jewelers. The return policy was the first thing I check when I went back to their website. They allow for mail in returns or in-person returns at any retail location. Their standard return policy is also 60 days for jewelry rather than that paltry 15 days from The Jewelry Source.
Sadly, this story explains a large part of the reason that independent retail jewelers are losing online business to larger online stores. Your website design doesn't really matter that much during the holiday season, it's more important to have good product navigation and clearly written policies.
Small vs. Big
It might seem like an impossible task to compete with large online jewelry websites, but it's really not. You can start with an ecommerce website that has the basic features that consumers expect and sell products that are either hard to find online or are not yet sold by other jewelers.
With a bit of time and a little attention to detail, you can build our own jewelry ecommerce website that will grow over time.
That's it for this week; I'll see you next time...
FTC Notice: I randomly choose this website and won't be telling the retailer jeweler that I'm giving them these flop fix ideas. Unless someone else tells them, they will only find out about this Nugget if they use Google Alerts or examine their Google Analytics and Google Search Console. I'm not doing this to solicit business from them, but rather as an educational exercise for everyone. This #FridayFlopFix is completely impartial and all my comments are based on previous experience in my website design and marketing agency, and from my personal research data.