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Educating and merchandising
Having the most technologically advanced site with the fastest connection speeds is not always the best for an Internet retailer. Take Zales.com, the online operation of jewelry chain Zale Corp. Sometimes Zales customers need to take a little longer to get to the products they want, but often the travel time can be beneficial.
“This site is not real tricky and it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles,” says Mary Brett Whitfield, senior vice president of consultants Retail Forward Inc. “But it is a non-threatening site that is helpful to customers who are new to buying jewelry.”
The site is geared primarily to men who are buying jewelry for wives, girlfriends and fiancees and it assumes the men need help finding the right gift. It even has a “hints” feature where potential brides and other women can register items they like so buyers can check to make sure what they’re purchasing will be well received.
While Whitfield notes that the Zales site is not the fastest in getting consumers right to where they want to be, that is not always bad. “A lot of sites let you tell them exactly what you want then take you to those products,” she says. “But a lot of
Zales’ customers may be unsure of what they want, so the site asks a lot of questions, then slowly narrows down the choices.” In the process of navigating the site to find products, the customer can learn more about jewelry and reflect better on what he or she really wants.
The site also has educational content about jewelry, such as sections that explain the differences in diamond cuts, color and carat size, or that tell customers how pearls are made and valued.
At the same time, images of products are clear and give the customers a good idea of what the potential purchases really look like. “The pictures are sharp and they give good details on items like earrings where you need to see them up close,” says Whitfield.
The web site is also well integrated with Zales’ other sales channels as it has a store locator and Zales’ catalogs emphasize that a larger product selection can be found on the web site. Zales also allows store return of merchandise purchased online.
Zales.com’s customer base is similar to that of its retail stores—middle-income consumers accustomed to shopping in suburban malls. “Zales is competitively priced, but it’s not a discounter and it’s not a high-end jeweler,” Whitfield says. “It knows its Middle American consumer well and everything in the web site reflects that understanding.”
Unique Visitors (monthly)