Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: Going down the Internet road

The Retailer’s Perspective: Going down the Internet road

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As I’m coming to grips with this thing called the Internet, I’m realizing a lot of things. For starters, it’s out of my hands. It’s just something I’ve got to deal with whether I want to or not. It’s here to stay and you either get your business on the bandwagon or you walk into one of those big box, chain jewelry stores in the mall and say, “Can I get an application?”

Yes, I’m fully aware that the Internet has been around for over 10 years. And yes, I use the Internet every day for just about everything... but my business. Till now. On New Year’s Day this year we started the process of building our website (which soon became websites). Here’s our progress with it over the last several months.

Before you read any further, if you have a computer handy, check out my websites real quick so you can see what I’m writing about: www.TouchingImpressions.com; www.ConsignmentJewelryNashville.com; www.AnthonyJewelersNashville.com; and www.CMKCompany.com.

The first decision that had to be made was whether to build it in-house or hire someone to do it. That one was easy. Your website has to be built in-house. We’ve all had that one website that someone else built for you who will never return your calls! When you discover a misspelled word or a link that doesn’t work, you have no way to fix it if you can’t get the guy to call you back. Not me. We built ours in-house and we just fix it and move on.

My retail store does a big business with consignment jewelry. When we get a new piece in, we can’t afford to wait 6 months for someone to finally get around to putting it on our website. It needs to be on our website today... before lunch. We needed to have complete control over our website so we researched a lot of programs and decided to use a free website building program called Weebly. It turned out the program was really easy to use, but then came the hard part. The content.

A website requires tremendous amounts of written content. The old saying, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ was obviously coined before the advent of the Internet. Because on the Internet, a picture requires a thousand words. And that’s after you’ve taken the picture, which is a whole nuther world of hurt I’ll go into in another column.

So, we’ve now downloaded Weebly, we’ve got a lot of pictures of jewelry, and its New Year’s Day. My assistant and I have decided to spend the entire day building the website. We should be able to do this in a day... right? Yep. We finally stopped at about 9:00 that night and called it a day.

In reality, neither of us had any brain cells left after doing that all day. Then, on January 2nd we found some typos. So you know what we did? We fixed them... without calling anyone. Then we found a few links that didn’t work. We fixed those as well without involving another human. Cost to date: $0.00. Then it got harder.

Now that the website was up and running we discovered a major flaw; customers couldn’t purchase anything. We spent a few days playing around with a few options before we found a free one we liked and implemented the commerce option. Cost to date: $0.00. Then it got harder again.

Because I videotape all my pieces as well as photograph them, we had to shoot and upload a ton of videos to YouTube. This meant duplicating all of the written information that we put on our website over on our YouTube site. Even though it was a simple cut and paste, it added time to the process, but it was worth it. Then we spent a week or two playing around with all of the options on YouTube before we were happy with that site. Cost to date: $0.00. Then it got harder once again. We needed a Facebook page.

Adding the Facebook page was easy enough, but it also added another new level of work for us. For every update to our website, and every update to our YouTube account, we needed to also duplicate it on our Facebook page. Now it’s all about getting ‘Likes’ on our Facebook page. So... when you look at our website, would you click on the Facebook link and ‘Like’ us on Facebook? Please!!! Cost to date: $0.00. Then it got harder again.

Someone pointed out to us that Facebook was so yesterday and Twitter was the hot new thing on the Internet. So we opened a Twitter account. Now, every time we update our website, our YouTube account, and our Facebook page, we also update our Twitter account. Cost to date: Still $0.00. Then it got harder again. Our pictures and videos sucked.

As part of our whole Internet genesis over the last several months, we started really paying attention to all of the other jewelry websites out there and comparing the pros and cons of each of them. The things we liked, we’d add something similar to our website. The things we didn’t like, we made sure that we didn’t put anything like it on our website. But, the thing that stood out on every single website to us was the quality of the photography.

We became photography snobs and noticed our photography was sub-par and we had to do something about it. Progress stalled while we solved our photography problem. It took several weeks to research and try different things, but we finally achieved a level of photography we were happy with. And, for the record, every single photograph and video on our websites were shot in my assistant’s office in a matter of about 2 minutes each. I think I spent about $500 when it was all said and done upgrading my existing video and photography equipment. So, cost to date: $500.00. Then it got harder again.

All of the photos and videos on our website, our YouTube account, our Facebook page, and our Twitter account had to be re-done. So, with our new photography gear in place, we re-shot everything and spent about two weeks replacing all the pictures and videos with the new ones.

Then it got easier.

Yep, you read that right. Now, it’s a piece of cake. Here’s why. My assistant, Annitta, takes a piece of jewelry from the showcase, carries it into her office, shoots a picture, turns on the turntable, switches the camera to video mode, shoots the video, uploads it to YouTube, cuts and pastes the photos and videos to our website, our Facebook page, and our Twitter page. It now takes less than 15 minutes to update our on-line presence every day.

But, here’s the hard part; you’ve got to dedicate that 15 minutes every day. Now that we’ve got Twitter followers, we’ve got to have fresh tweets every single day. Now that we’ve got Facebook friends, we’ve got to give them fresh content on a daily basis. Now that we’ve got new customers coming into our Internet store every day, we’ve got to keep it fresh for them as well.

We’ve now become obsessed with the number of ‘Likes’, the number of ‘hits’ to our websites, the number of followers we have, and all things statistical about the Internet. I don’t have 100 people a day coming into my brick and mortar store, but I do have 100 people a day coming into my Internet store, which is an exact duplicate of my brick and mortar store.

One of my best customers, a woman in her mid-60s, was in the store yesterday and I was telling her about my new website. She said, “Oh great, now I can look on-line every day and not have to come in the store to see what’s new.”

That just summed it all up for me. People want to see what’s new and they want to do it on-line. So, by golly, I’m gonna give it to them.

Now that I’m several months into this new adventure, I bet you’re wondering if it has translated into $$$$ in my bank account? Not really...yet. But, like someone told me recently, “It’s like the lottery. We’re not gonna win if we don’t play.”

So now I’ve got a question for you. Is your website current within the last two hours? Do you have that new piece of merchandise that came in today on your website already? Have you given your Twitter followers some little tasty tidbit today? Three months ago my answer would have been no. But guess what? My answer today is YES!

Now everyone go online and ‘Like’ me!

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.

If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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