Perhaps I could add my experience to the recent discussion regarding
selling jewellery on the internet. We started doing this about 3
months ago, our site (www.atlanticajewellery.co.uk) is hosted by a
commercial ecommerce provider but was self-built. As they say, there
are advantages and disadvantages, and I think that people are too
quick to jump on the disadvantages because, like us, they started out
with visions of flooding sales. Disillusionment quickly followed.
The number 1 problem is attracting people to your site without
spending huge bucks on advertising. There are lots of web people who
will sell you advertising, with no way of knowing if it will really
atract custom. In general it won’t, and you will waste cash. For
us, web sales have been extremely slow, despite the fact that we have
good stuff that’s hard to find elsewhere and at good prices. So
that’s been a bit of a flop at present.
The second disappointment are the search engines. Basically, don’t
expect to get listed, period. All this about having the
right meta tags and page design is just rubbish. Unless you have a
lot of traffic already you can submit yourself until you’re sick of
it, and you won’t find yourself on any of them. The only way to
initially build your hit number is to get out and talk to people, in
the trade, customers, friends, anyone who will listen. If there is a
trick to getting listed, then someone is keeping bloody quiet about
it because I haven’t figured it out yet.
The advantages are harder to see but they are there nontheless. For
a start you don’t have to maintain retail premises. In the UK you’d
have to think of at least �20k/annum overheads for this, so for a
startup you would need about �100k of business in your first year.
This is a lot if you’re just starting up. Our web site, credit card
handling, and mail order facilities will cost us only about �1500
this year, which is a much more affordable startup. As soon as
you’re on the web you have a much more credible image than if you’re
just a small craftsman working in the shed. Most of my income is now
from custom pieces, but having the web site gave me a way to make the
transition from being essentially an amateur to a professional.
There are other advantages too. You can show anyone your stock
securely without having to lug it about. You can provide backup
on care, cleaning, gemmology, which will attract visitors
and make the site more useful to everyone.
So we’re not expecting to make a lot from the web site this year, or
maybe next. I expect it’ll still be the personal sales that keep us
going. But the presence and credibility it provides is enough to
make it worthwhile.