I’m Your Store’s Online Secret Shopper

EditorsDec 05, 2018

I’m Your Store’s Online Secret Shopper

Here are three things you’re doing wrong.

Independent retailer Twist, an early believer in fine jewelry e-commerce, gets it right with their user-friendly online experience by always demonstrating the scale of a piece of jewelry. It’s one of the reasons Fashion Editor Ashley Davis finds their website easy to shop.

I have a confession to make: I shop at your store a lot.

I’m that maddening sale you think is going to happen but, 99 percent of the time, doesn’t progress any further than filling up that online shopping cart.

Like most consumers today, particularly my millennial cohort, I shop online a lot but it’s mostly just for research.

With information so easily available online, I can browse your inventory in a few minutes, pick out things I like and check to see if they’re available online anywhere else for less. Then I can fill up a cart with all of the things I’d like to buy and … think about it.

Buying online is second nature to my digital-native generation. It’s become my preferred mode of shopping because it helps me avoid hassles—the time spent getting to a store, dealing with crowds or encountering an in-store selection that is more limited than its online counterpart (the new retail refrain always seems to be, “You can probably find it if you look on our website!”).  

And though browsing jewelry online is part of my job, because it helps me see what retailers are selling, I also find online shopping to be a stress reliever. It is a belief I think many other millennials share, though research about the psychology of “retail therapy” has pretty much only focused on the brick-and-mortar experience thus far.  

Make no mistake, though I love filling up online shopping carts with things I’d potentially like to buy and I take great, anxiety-reducing satisfaction in a well-curated cart, I make the vast majority of my purchases online too.

But there are a few things that stop me.  

As your resident secret online shopper (whom you never hired), I’m going to fill you in on what keeps me from clicking the “Purchase” button at your store to better inform your e-commerce best practices.

1. You’re Not Showing Scale

At a panel at the Vicenzaoro jewelry trade show this year, Farfetch’s global vice president Jamie Freed noted how, over time, consumers have demonstrated their growing confidence in buying fine jewelry online by engaging in increasingly larger transactions, with purchases of pieces over $20,000 on the rise.

But there are special considerations to buying fine jewelry over the internet and a major one is scale.

An image of a piece of jewelry being

worn on an actual person is just as important as the clean product shot of the jewel on a white background.

It’s not easy to visualize the scale of an item by its listed measurements and specifications alone.

Much like a handbag, if I can’t see how large a piece is in relation to the human body I simply can’t picture it, so I can’t buy it. I need to see a ring on the finger, a pendant around someone’s neck, etc.

In my opinion, if you’re not going to show a piece of jewelry being worn, you might as well not show it at all.

The image I need to feel confident in the size and shape of said jewel doesn’t require an expensive professional photo shoot; a clear iPhone snap of the item on a sales associate is all you need.

2. Your Return Policy Is Not Clearly Stated

Call me spoiled, but successful online sellers have set the bar high for the experience I’m expecting to have online and today, that means free shipping and returns.

As shoppers, we’ve become so used to cost-free deliveries that it’s surprising when we do end up with a shipping or return fee and, for me, it’s a purchase deterrent.

Likewise, if a return period is less than the retail standard – 30 days – I feel duped, almost as if a company is hoping I wouldn’t notice and therefore miss the opportunity to send something back if I’m unhappy with it.

Fine jewelry has its nuances compared to other categories and there might be instances where an item is ineligible for return—say, when a piece of jewelry has been made to order.

It’s imperative that that type of information is clearly communicated to shoppers, not in fine print but directly and totally up front to build consumer trust, with potential buyers knowing exactly what kind of commitment they’re making.

3. Your Website is Your Pet Project

My final critique is an issue I tend to encounter more with jewelry designers’ individual e-commerce sites than with the websites of retail stores, independently owned or otherwise.

Again and again, I visit websites with more information than I need, leaving me to sift through content when trying to find simple product information.

I understand why designers do this—they know that it’s not enough to make and sell their jewelry today; they must create stories around it, send out newsletters and e-mails and make note of illustrious press features—but many take it too far.

The most important feature I need to see on a jewelry-selling website is a highly visible menu giving me access to the pieces they’re selling, letting me scroll through all the inventory and items by category (rings, earrings, bridal, etc.).

When I go to a website and get stuck on a fancy, carefully designed landing page that makes me click to “enter” said domain or makes me scroll through beautifully crafted content to eventually select a “Shop Now” button, I’ve already lost some interest.

The underlying issue is the same for the previous tips I’ve shared—a lack of efficiency and ease. Rather than hold online shoppers hostage with content, take them to one homepage that lets them get straight to their shopping via a clear navigation menu and presents some teasers to content, giving them the choice to click on what they’d like.

And when it comes to navigation, please, forego the collection names.

Collections are important to you; they are not important to your audience. We’re shopping with you because we love your jewelry, but we rarely remember which pieces came out when and why.

If you must include, leave an option for browsing by collection and for browsing by category.

Your online shopper is moving faster than you realize—it’s your job to keep up with her.
Ashley Davisis the senior editor, fashion at National Jeweler, covering all things related to design, style and trends.

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