Am I missing out on online?

My family-owned bespoke diamond jewellery company has been successful for many years, but we feel we are missing out on the online age. Our jewellery is highly specialised and sales depend on feel and touch. We believe this cannot be fully appreciated online and therefore we are reluctant to go ahead with this strategy. The costs of a trial are prohibitive; insurance costs for diamond and other expensive pieces in transit are astronomical, as is the back-end technology and secure warehousing as well as online security. Will we be a casualty of the information age?


A. Alysoun Stewart of Grant Thornton writes:

This is a classic dilemma facing many businesses at the luxury goods end of the market, and it is a debate that has been going on since the internet fi rst got into its stride. The craft industries always feel that experiential products can’t be effectively presented on the web. Yet that is to miss the rich brand experience that many companies now achieve by using it.

On the subject of the cost of supplying jewellery, you should bear in mind that the internet is both a marketing vehicle and a sales channel and it’s up to you to decide whether you do one or both. Fortunately, the pioneers have broken the ground for you and there are thousands of both general jewellery retailers and bespoke designers there. Almost every outlet in London’s Hatton Garden has a website, as well as the big brands of Cartier, Tiffany, Bulgari and others.

The real question is what you want it to do for you – eg showcase collections so that real and aspirant purchasers can explore the collections at their leisure and plan store visits, rather than buy online. A web presence allows you to build a brand, reach a broader audience and showcase your capabilities. Look at how Cartier delivers a broad brand experience, of which the jewellery is but one expression. Unlike a printed brochure, you can grow your presence over time at relatively low cost without necessarily moving to a full e-commerce experience.

If you do want to sell online there are bank independent secure storefronts, such as SECpay or subsidiaries like Royal Bank of Scotland’s WorldPay, that offer commissionbased transactions that are easily incorporated into existing websites, so you don’t have to worry about your site’s security. Remember, it is better to start small.

Alysoun Stewart is director of commercial and strategic services at Grant Thornton, the leading global accounting, tax and business advisory firm. www.grant-thornton.co.uk

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