June 21, 2002, 12:00 AM

Wedding bells are driving traffic at BlueNile.com

May traffic soars as the jewelry site targets an Internet-savvy yet jewelry-challenged customer: the would-be groom.

In the highly fragmented online jewelry market, BlueNile.com is attracting top traffic by targeting an Internet-savvy yet jewelry selection-challenged audience: would-be grooms buying a diamond engagement ring. In May, worldwide traffic at BlueNile reached an all-time high of 761,091unique visitors who contacted the site, beating out May visits to the next most-visited jewelry site, Tiffany.com, by 500,000 visitors.

BlueNile is focused on providing value and top service to the buyers of engagements rings with an eye toward making the experience as positive as possible so as to attract buyers back for anniversaries, birthdays and other gift-giving occasions. It’s a strategy long pursued by offline jewelry, but 3-year-old BlueNile is finding a following among a new generation of ring-buyers comfortable with the Internet.

“We are focused on the male consumer as he enters into one of the most intimidating experiences of his life,” says BlueNile vice president of marketing Sue Bell. “We wrap it into a very accessible experience, with full disclosure in terms of information. There is an immense amount of product information on the site and also customer testimonials.”

In addition to a value proposition that offers certified diamonds at up to 40% off retail prices, part of BlueNile’s strategy is to post testimonials on the site from other who’ve just gone through the purchase process. “We get a lot of comments from customers saying that they like reading the other customers` comments and that it helped them make their own decision,” says Bell. The rest of BlueNile`s strategy is extensive customer support via an 800 line. “We try to make it easy for people as opposed to being intimidating. Our diamond and jewelry consultants become confidantes about the whole process,” says Bell. “Some are invited to weddings, some have even been asked about advice on the proposal.”

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