GUEST POST: We are lucky enough to have one of the writers I admire most in this Industry, Diana Jarrett, GG RMV, share this special interview she conducted with Marlene Murphy of Jewelry Website Designers. So if your New Year Resolution was to update your website...this should be right up your alley.
Over-scheduled and over-stressed consumers claim that time is the new luxury. And savvy jewelers aim at providing a rich 24-hour shopping experience so jewelry lovers can shop when they want. Plenty of jewelers are wildly successful at e-commerce. Yet many designers and merchants secretly suspect they aren’t using this technology to its best advantage.
Lingering questions persist. Are we getting it right? Are we really reaching the market we intend and how can we increase market share via the internet? Scariest of all----how can we keep up with the runaway train of technology? It is evolving before we can process and utilize last month’s hot new app.
In a candid conversation with Marlene Murphy, the techno wizard behind Jewelry Website Designers she offers helpful insight from an insider’s vantage point.
Q: What are the most common mistakes that jewelers stumble over when building a website?
Marlene: In my opinion, jewelers, along with other businesses fail to think through their unique selling position. What gives them a leg up over the competition and sets them apart from other merchants selling the same product? They must focus their website message on promoting those strengths and unique traits. Countless merchants seem to display online catalogs with every possible item they have to sell in hopes that
something will attract shoppers instead of first hooking the consumer and then guiding them to the right purchase.
Finding the right web developer is key. Oodles of high school kids and fresh-out-of-college computer geeks can handle the technical aspects of website creation very cheaply. Yet they lack training and experience in sales, search engine optimization and marketing. So that’s where it all begins to unravel. In particular, it’s crucial to create engaging web content that sells and contains the right combination of targeted search
phrases to achieve top search engine rankings. A good web developer possesses multiple skills, or has a team of specialists who create the entire package.
Q: What are the most common misperceptions that jewelers have about their website—like how it should perform, or what their expectations are?
Marlene: Online Retailers often think that all they need is a website which will automatically drive their products to the top of search engine results, and thousands will flock to buy their goods. Voila--another success story. But let’s look a little further.
Use Google to search for any product you like. You'll see millions of results matching your search term. Now ask yourself--what makes your site or products warrant a top ten placement?
Web marketing only begins with a website - web owners must budget for aggressively marketing and promotion of their site; via social media marketing, pay-per-click, or print advertising.
Q: For merchants starting from scratch, what advice do you have to get going in the right direction?
Marlene: It boils down to why- what- who-how. Decide why you want a website, what you want to accomplish, who your target market is and how you will measure success. Be clear about your specific goals. Refrain from generalities like "I want to sell jewelry online." Be very specific, "I want to sell 10 of my custom designed charms to teenagers in the Midwest every day." By clarifying your goals, you and your web developer will have concise marching orders for how to achieve those goals.
Q: For those who’ve had an underperforming website producing less than expected, what should they consider as trouble spots?
Marlene: Just like the jewelry industry, the web is changing almost daily. New technologies, laws and regulations track in tandem with increased competition. What worked five or even three years ago is now woefully passé. Websites need to be fresh and contemporary, offering current and engaging content for customers who will come to rely on the site for valuable resources and return often.
Q: What use of technology do you find jewelers using that are not delivering results or driving traffic their way?
Marlene: Jewelry designers are essentially artists aren’t they? So they tend to create ethereal designs in Flash technology, with fading artistic pages and background music – much as if they were producing a foreign film. While it may please the jeweler-artist, it often leaves the visitor confused as to the real purpose of the site. The bewildered visitor quickly hops off site and the jeweler forfeits a sale.
Flash movies have utility in web design, but a complete site built from Flash, can dissuade visitors. More importantly, it derails Search Engines which see the site as one movie with no critical textual content. On the web, “content is King.” If your content can't be read by Search Engines, there's no chance of being recognized - no matter how charming and well written your content was. It will never achieve the rankings you
need for visitors to find you.
Q: What advice do you have for those wanting more visitors to find their site?
Marlene: Google recently launched "Google Places" which was originally tested as "Google Local". This new technology assumes that if you are searching for a jewelry store you prefer results in your own geographical area-- not sites that are thousands of miles away. So at the top of the search results they display the top 7 jewelry stores in the searcher’s area, with links to more. Brick and mortar stores should strive to rank
in this "seven-pack" rather than trying to compete with millions for top placement in generic search results. There are companies that specialize in this ranking service.
Non-brick and mortar stores seeking top generic search engine rankings will benefit from valid coding. That’s tech jargon for the invisible stuff that makes a web page display, and the well-written targeted content that's updated frequently. Right now Social Media like Facebook and Twitter are enjoying popularity, but mobile sites are the next big deal.
Q: This is as good example as it gets of technology today. What exactly are mobile sites?
Marlene: Mobile sites are scaled down versions of regular websites, and are created to accommodate the growing number of consumers who use their mobile phones to connect and shop via the internet. Most mobile phones nowadays access the internet with limited navigational functionality. Without a mouse, mobile phone users must to rely on arrow keys to advance from page to page.
Even the smartphones like iPhone and Droid have problems downloading large web pages with lots of images. Traditional websites are way too slow in displaying on a mobile phone. Practically none of today's phones can handle Flash technology. Until mobile phone capabilities are on par with laptop computers, special mobile sites will serve this demanding sector.
Q: Technology is moving so fast, it's hard for even 'insiders' to keep up with the advances being made--especially in regards to applications that jewelers could benefit from. What are some of the hottest apps and technology that jewelers should consider using in their websites?
Marlene: Technology is advancing so rapidly but one of my faves are jQuery which does amazing things with interactive web pages --like updating and changing page content.
Rotating images without refreshing the web page will probably be in its next evolution.
Look at the diamond on the Jewelry Website Designer site, on the Portfolio page-- which revolves from a
diamond crystal rough to a brilliant cut diamond. That’s an entertaining and visually informative application!
HTML 5, the latest web page presentation technology currently under development will be widely available soon, is designed to improve the inclusion and handling of multimedia (video and audio) and graphic content; offering web surfers a better user experience.
Wildly popular YouTube makes internet users expect video content like how-to instructions. Search Google for "How to Build a Pandora Bracelet" and discover numerous of videos on this topic. Well done videos draw visitors to your site and transform them into customers. They might establish you as the authority on a topic
resulting in lots of incoming links and higher page ranking.
Static web pages with blinking images and irritating popup windows are dinosaurs.
Today's web users want inter-activity and real time response to questions with applications like "Live Chat" or "Online Help" where they converse with a live person –rather than filling out a form and waiting days for a response. The Internet is all about now.