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Seeking Advice


Kittykat
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Hello!

A while back I asked some advice here on this forum.  Always having a love for jewellery I turned into a diamond enthusiast shortly after getting engaged.  I had many questions surrounding the trade ie how to get wholesalers to take you seriously and how difficult the pre-loved market was.  I got the most candid and cerebral advice, particularly from Neil and Davide.  It wasn't that everyone else wasn't great, but I just always remembered the generous sharing of knowledge from Neil and the clever and unique way of thinking from Davide.

Fast forward to now including having a baby in the middle who is now 18 months old, and a lot of sleep deprivation, I've found a little niche for myself.   My 2018 plans are to also expand beyond this niche. 

I'm at a point now where I have my own website that I also blog on. The reason I'm here again, as vulnerable as it makes me feel is to consider asking for feedback and advice.  

I know incredibly experienced people like yourself are not my target market, so I don't want you to be too harsh on me, but I'm wondering if maybe I could be given some insights that may help me be better.

Please let me know your thoughts and if you would be willing to share some advice :) Thank you.

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Children and be stressful and are definitely time-consuming but they become less so when they get into their 30s.  Hang in there. 

 

That said, I’m happy to help although it’s easier to answer slightly more specific questions.  I’ll offer a few general pointers for the jewelry industry.

 

Jewelry is a trust-based business.  There are a zillion websites that sell jewelry and gems, and the consumer will choose at most a few to do business with.  How is that decision made and how can you improve your odds?  Most amateurs think it’s about prices, but there’s a fair amount of evidence to the contrary.  It’s about TRUST, and building that trust is hard.  You can do it with time, like Tiffany has, and you can do it with money like Blue Nile has, but small businesses, like yours and mine, do it with work (in addition to time and money).  You mentioned your blog.  That’s good.  Promote it. Crosslink wildly. The link in the footer that ‘A-listers’ get in posts here is a free advertisement and, specifically, improves your Google placement.  Pay attention to your site.  There's a lot of competition but you get ahead of about 90% of them by simply having a good site. Spell things correctly. Have useful content. Take good pictures. Be clear about things like your prices, shipping policies, turnaround time, and similar details that customers are likely to be interested in. Promote it.

 

Pay attention to your internal systems. Returns for example.  I haven’t seen your site but people routinely come here and ask questions about retailers we’ve never heard of and the first thing I look at is the terms and conditions page.  You have a certain amount that’s stuffed down your throat by eBay and the credit cards anyway, but if you want to be selling to strangers, this page is where the ‘rubber hits the road’. 

 

eBay is a mixed bag. It’s expensive, and shoppers there tend to be cheap.  That’s a tough combination.  Selling directly can easily double your profit margin and that goes back to my first comment. Jewelry is about trust. Earn it.  Deserve it.

Edited by denverappraiser
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Hi Neil,

Yes, my apologies for not being more specific, but I was unsure how much I was able to share because I didn't want to also look like I was self promoting.

You have already answered quite a few questions already without even realising it though :)

Essentially my issue is this:

As you mentioned, the key to jewellery is trust.  The niche I am selling in maybe even more so. 

The niche that I sell in, if I am with an affiliated site, such as eBay, the inherent trust users already have with the platform, combined with my knowledge and the feedback I have enables conversions ie sales.

What I've noticed however, is with my website, as a stand alone, despite getting traffic, the conversions, should be higher.  I know the design could improve but I am trying to figure out as you say, how to build that trust.  I get people reaching the cart, but then not checking out?  The people who have bought from there was a referral from a friend or googled me via my eBay user name. 

Someone has suggested making a clear link direct back to my eBay store, but I worry that defeats the purpose of promoting and having a website?

With the blog, I'm actually enjoying that which is great. When you mention cross linking, do you mean getting other bloggers to link to your blog or do you mean occasionally linking to your blog article in cases where it matches say in a forum?  

With my niche I also feel like I'm in a little island.  I'm not part of one group because of certain reasons, and not part of another group because of other reasons. If I am allowed to share more it may make a bit more sense to people. 

With the internet these days, people are so wary it scares me a bit to come across as spammy.  I am in a natural conversation with a few bloggers who are interested in my website so I hope this helps too.

Okay, so I've gone on and digressed a fair bit.

With regards to the website, is there any obvious things I should include for trust in the design format for example, or the check out process - or, is it simply getting more actual referrals?

Thank you SO much for your time already, and even reading this post which has gone on for a fair bit already.

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Give us a link to your site.  Hermann may delete it, which is certainly his right, but I suspect it'll stand because it's relevant to the discussion.  (warning, we can be brutal).

Crosslinking is what I"m doing here.  I've got 6800 posts and every one of them says what I do and includes a link to my site.  This is not the only forum I participate in.  I"m pleased that Hermann likes me, and he's correct that I don't overtly advertise in my posts, but promotion is why I do this.  It works by the way.  :) If you write educational content for eBay, they link it to whatever you tell them to.  If you're in a niche, and you're an expert, you can write content for information sources that are only tangentially related to you.  Their Google search becomes added to yours. 

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Thank you Neil.  I'm also based in Australia just to put things in perspective as well as most of my market is local. 

My niche is very small, but I've become an expert in this area :) which has had this turn into a hobby/venture.

My website is https://www.catherinetrentonjewellery.com You can find my eBay store within the site, but as I mentioned I don't overtly promote it on the website because I wasn't sure if that was counter intuitive. 

My niche is selling pre-loved Diamond Designer Jewellery from luxury brands such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Bvlgari etc. I only deal with fine jewellery, ie diamonds and 18ct gold so no sterling silver whatsoever.

I'm in a little island for the following reasons, and when I refer to islands I mean finding communities I belong to, where I can value add:

1. I'm pre-loved, so suit bargain hunting, savvy, consumers etc, but 2. I'm also luxury, because it's branded jewellery the price point is higher 3. as I'm pre-loved I'm not making custom jewellery so not a jeweller and and finally 4. our whole conversation around trust is very important as it is pre-loved.

There are people who sell second hand Louis Vuitton, Chanel etc who could match my niche, but these guys are massive in the US already and in Australia not as big a market.

In Australia I would be the biggest re seller in this exclusive niche. 

 

Edited by Kittykat
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Nice site.  Truly.  I think you'll do well.

1)     Personally, I would never buy from a store that doesn’t take returns.  By the way, I had to dig deeply to even figure that out.  If I had been a real shopper, I would have cut and run well before I found it.  You have policies, if nothing else because they're forced on you by ebay, the law, and your credit card processor so there's nothing lost by being up front about it.  For me, 'no refunds' is a total deal killer, but others may see it differently and you might as well be up front about it. Not only is this an advertising issue, I think it sets you up for some significant liabilities (at least in the US it would).

2)      Your feedback page looks fake.  I’m not saying it is, but I would not trust this as a shopper.  I may even count it as a negative.  Link directly to the feedback company.  If there's not a 3rd party in the middle here, get one. 

3)      I’m a bit surprised you’ll take layaway (I wouldn’t) but, given that you do, the terms and conditions should be listed.  The same is true with zingers around consignments like cancellation fees and how prices are set (and there SHOULD be zingers or you’re going to get burned)

The classified section here is a bit of a mess (sorry Hermann).  This could be a very valuable section of the site but it sees very little traffic and I think this is part of the reason.  Looking at the most recent 10 posts only, it goes back to April 2015 and at least half of them have serious issues (not selling anything at all, highly suspicious merchandise, etc.).  Sellers are routinely operating under some serious misconceptions and they're not always eager to hear about it. 

 

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Thank you SOOOO much for the feedback Neil.  It also means the world to me that you think its a nice site and that I'll do well!!

Okay, for the feedback, should I make a link direct to my eBay store?  I can place this above my written reviews, then people can click on my eBay store to see the real reviews.  You can see these here: https://www.ebay.com.au/usr/catherine-trenton-jewellery  and as you know eBay reviews are the real deal. 

I've worked really hard on getting these reviews, so they do mean the world to me.  As I said though I worry that I'm driving people back to eBay. However, I want people to see the real reviews.  

I have feedback on my Facebook store too, these too are genuine however I get that people could get their mates to do this so may not hold as much weight. 

When you say a 'third party' do you mean an app?  I can install this, but unless people buy direct from my site, it's a catch 22 to get the feedback. It would be hard to get people to leave feedback on eBay and then expect them to leave it on my website, as they may not even connect the two, if you know what I mean? I do think I can find an app for this though and look into it.

Please let me know if you think I should do both. ie link to eBay as well. 

Regarding returns,  when I started I was so small, my account was set up to not accept returns. However as all my items are purchased via PayPal or eBay - I guess I am accepting returns regardless.  So I need to just bite the bullet and accept returns.  Thank you for your candid advice. If it is affecting my website conversions, I can definitely accept returns.  Someone also said, if you get 100 extra customers from accepting returns, and get 10 returns, you are still 90 customers ahead.

Now, if I accept returns, please can you provide some advice on how do I protect myself against receiving the exact item I sent and not be scammed?

Why would you not accept layaway?  Accepting this has been organic.  I have had many people contact me for Layby purchases so done quite a few of these.  I do have terms and conditions, so I can include these or consider removing it altogether.

I am in two minds about consignment.  1) it would help me grow but 2) it is a lot of work and extra hassle, so unsure about whether I want to do this.  I don't promote this a lot and thinking about whether I should remove it altogether.  However, I think people like the sound of consignment stores.  

Re the forum:

I can provide information about people buying pre-loved or selling pre-loved.  I can't just repeat my blog articles as I think that's a google penalty, but I do have a lot of knowledge in this area.  I could do a few guides but did notice the 'classifieds forum' it was a low traffic forum with the old posts. I can help with luxury purchases.  I can keep thinking about this.

Edited by Kittykat
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5 hours ago, denverappraiser said:

If you write educational content for eBay, they link it to whatever you tell them to.  If you're in a niche, and you're an expert, you can write content for information sources that are only tangentially related to you.  Their Google search becomes added to yours. 

Just to clarify what you are saying here, do you mean if I write on the eBay forum, I can link it to an article for example on say 'How to Buy on eBay?'.  Or does Google just connect the two? 

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I've just updated all my eBay listings to accept returns.  I need to figure out how to put this on the website in an attractive way.  I just got an enquiry via my website just now too! 

I told you Neil and Davide are geniuses.  Davide is lateral and Neil is just so methodical. Both extremely smart with different approaches. 

I find sometimes in forums, etc, sometime people don't actually get what you are saying, but I have never had that happen here. 

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I've made many of the changes that you suggested already Neil :)

I included a tab for 'Returns' and I also included a link to the eBay store for real reviews.  Please let me know what you think if this looks a little better. https://www.catherinetrentonjewellery.com I haven't installed the 3rd party app for reviews, I can do this too, but need to explore it a bit. Please let me know if the Returns policy is clearer now. I've also updated all the Returns on eBay too. 

Please let me know your thoughts so far. 

I am so excited!! Thank you!!

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Davide's boss David is a master of mixing eBay with his webstore.  spend some time digging through his store and notice how he does it. 

eBay has articles.  I'm not an eBayer but they are tutorial type things.  There's probably good education there too, but what I was suggesting is that you get into the position of writing them. 

By 3rd party, I mean Yelp or Google or some such thing.  Something that's visibly on someone else's site (so it's hard to just make it up).  I have no idea what people use in Australia but at least here, these things are becoming incredibly important. 

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I probably wouldn’t pay return shipping, but that’s just me.  I’m cheap.

Look into insurance.

Look into your systems for documenting what’s in the package when you ship as well as when you get it back.  Keep videos of both directions.  Be careful to vet your customers and don’t do even slightly stinky deals. Talk to your credit card processor about your procedures.  It’s important.  Paypal is not the best by the way. You can mitigate the risk but there is definitely risk.  This can wipe you out if you’re not careful so pay attention.

 

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No worries I can look into security tags etc, I have considered this already so have many ideas.

Okay, great feedback re: postage costs, I can look at supplying a return paid envelope maybe. I think in the US returns are mych more smoother in retail, in Australia and eBay not so much. Could be good to learn from the US though as well and take this on board.

I have been looking at credit cards too - I was actually more scared about fraud! with them!! But do you think if I simply vet suspicious activity I can minimize this as well? I will have a think about the best way for this. 

I will browse a few ither sites too like Davides if he doesn't mind me getting some inspiration. 

Sorry to sound so ignorant, but when you say insurance, do you mean when they return? Or general holding of stock?

I thought Davide and David were the same person!!

 

 

 

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In pseudo-random order, but I'm short of time... some comments and anecdotes on building trust and loyalty coming next.

1. Nope. I'm Davide. David is posting here as @diamondsbylauren though I'm generally the one "looking after this forum". And I don't think he would mind at all you looking around our site and eBay shop (not that anyone could stop you, in any case ;) )

2. FWIW, I think the link to eBay is a good thing to have - as long as you can ensure that your site can be found easily with a simple google search (which eBay aren't keen on, for obvious reasons, but there are people that will trust eBay more and there are people that trust YOU directly more). Do make sure that whoever contacts you via eBay also knows that there is a site that is you and only you.

3. On feedback/reviews: I don't think there is anything forbidding you from quoting eBay feedback, but what is wrong with asking your customers to review on sites like iVouch, reevoo, google reviews or whatever? Especially if you have anyone that is a repeat customer, I would be rather shamelessly (again!) asking them directly if they could provide a reference/review/feedback and enable you to post a link to it.

4. I think Neil is referring to shipping insurance - making sure that if there is a scam pulled on you, you don't suffer unduly (I have known people that had to shut down businesses because of "shipping losses").

Edited by davidelevi
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Thanks Davide :)

eBay is extremely strict on anyone selling on their platform and in no way whatsoever mention can you have a website on their platform.

I suupose I can link to my eBay store, particulalry if it does help trust. I maybe can put an * to explain my prices are better on my website...OR I simply make my prices better on my website and a savvy customer figures that out themselves. 

eBay fees are very high. However having a website driving traffic can be expensive with Google Adwords, FB Ads etc If someone stumbled across my website and then chose to buy off eBay I feel I'll end up paying twice in a way for that exposure.

However as I'm building my brand maybe its something I move towards and have as a long term strategy moving away from eBay..

I can try to be a bit forward asking for reviews on a third party platform. Yelp isn't huge here, but I can try. No harm in asking right?

Makes more sense than asking people to review me on Facebook.

 

Edited by Kittykat
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Absolutely no harm in asking. And guess what? Many people say yes. I wouldn't see it as forward, especially if I'm a repeat customer (and here I'm speaking as a jewellery collector and buyer, not as a member of the trade).

Not only are eBay fees high, but sometimes one ends up with huge limitations on cash flow because they tend to hold back money "in case the buyer wants to return"... which is why I think that visibility of your site is crucial in the long run. eBay is a great way to start, but it's by no means the end-all to an e-commerce platform.

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Yes, I 100% agree. Long term goal is to move towards the website. Maybe for the time being I need to link back to eBay as eBay hold trust with a lot of people already, but long term the goal would be to move towards the website.

eBay is also so unpredictable. Particularly with all their changes to the algorithms etc.  They are in a funky patch in the moment, well in eBay Australia they are at least.  

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Thanks, Kittykat. Interesting. Searching for "diamonds by lauren" (or one word, without spaces) on ebay.com or on ebay.co.uk comes up with a clear connection. On ebay.com.au, nothing. Even though (as far as I know) we pay for worldwide exposure... I wonder how worldwide it really is.

FWIW, the store is here: http://stores.ebay.com/diamondsbylauren

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I did find your eBay store by googling.  I just couldn't find it via your website.  I think they do prioritise which country you are from, so that is a challenge for us in com.au.  I would love to spend 6 months in Hawaii and just buy things from the American ebay store lol!! You have so much more stock it's incredible. 

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Still need to get to one of these trade shows too.  Nearly went to one in Sydney, but then I got pregnant and started passing out randomly!! I passed out 3 times.  The first time I woke up and there were 20 people standing over me.  The next 2 times I was with my husband which was much safer.  So I missed my first trade show I had registered for.

Edited by Kittykat
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11 hours ago, Kittykat said:

I did find your eBay store by googling.  I just couldn't find it via your website.  I think they do prioritise which country you are from, so that is a challenge for us in com.au.  I would love to spend 6 months in Hawaii and just buy things from the American ebay store lol!! You have so much more stock it's incredible. 

That's quite deliberate... I was worried that you couldn't find it ON eBAY!!!

re: trade show - there's going to be plenty of time, and more as your baby grows and starts going to nursery.

Edited by davidelevi
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