Site Review | Professional Jeweler

May 22, 2000

"Know thy customer" is good advice whether you're selling jewelry or cement-by-the-yard.

And if you're selling high-end platinum and 18k gold jewelry, that means knowing a high percentage of your customer base is middle-aged and, therefore, probably getting all squinty-eyed like most forty-somethings. In a store, jewelers respond to this by allowing customers to try on the merchandise or using raised walk-around cases that allow the customers to get as close as possible.

But what do you do on the Web?

Of course, you include an "enlarge" feature. At least, that's why New York City-based Simon Sobie did with its necklaces, bracelets and earrings by Italian designer Orlando Orlandini.

On an initial click-through of the site, a visitor finds items displayed in groups of up to a half-dozen pieces. But the visitor can enjoy a greatly enlarged view by simply clicking on the specific piece in which he or she is interested.

The difference can be significant. The interwoven links of different colored metals in Orlandini's 18k love knot earrings, for example, are easily missed when the displayed image is a half-inch wide, but less so at 1.5 inches.

To set the haute couture mood, the Simon Sobie site opens with an image of an expensively dressed woman in a black dress, an impossible hat and, of course, one of Orlandini's gold necklaces. From there, choices are simple and few.

Visitors can see the entire jewelry collection, just the new pieces, read Orlandini's biography or locate a local dealer. When viewing jewelry, visitors have the option of viewing a Java-driven slide show or simply viewing each item manually. For those with an idea what they're looking for, the latter may be a better choice.

Unlike many Web sites that allow searches of dealer lists by state and city, Simon Sobie asks that you enter your e-mail address and the two nearest telephone area codes. And if spam-wary customers shy away from that – as well they might – the system offers the option again whenever a visitor views a new piece of jewelry.

- by Mark E. Dixon