Top Websites Every Jeweler Should Know
Compiling a list of the top websites is a bit like trying to put together a list of the top music albums of the last 40 years. No matter how much time we spent testing and clicking and browsing, we know some people will complain that we left off the cyber equivalent of the Velvet Underground. But that’s good. Because we have also put our choices up on INSTOREMAG.com (which, yes, did make the list) and we hope you’ll log on and point out the useful sites we missed. In the meantime, here are our favorites: Everything from carat calculators to insurance quotes to sites that will allow you to check if that nice young man who applied for work this morning is possibly a whacko. Just about all for free.
INDUSTRY NEWS SITES
Better! Faster! Stronger! Yes, we’ve relaunched with a new site and have already been named one of Business Media Magazine's Top 10 Business Websites in 2012. Tons of daily updates, news and fresh content. And, oh so many bloggers. Visit it daily, or risk being a failure at selling jewelry.
We couldn’t forget this one, and you won’t want to either: Up-to-date vendor information and online registration for the smartest trade show you’ll attend this year.
And the rest in alphabetical order ...
You may know IDEX from its online diamond-trading operation, but its news service is also very useful, particularly the weekly columns and analysis.
An authority on gemology, diamond grading, jewelry education and gemology research.
Industry’s oldest title. Offers news at all levels.
The industry’s most fashion-conscious magazine sadly closed. But the website is still operating and you can go through tons of good material in its archives. And the best thing is you don’t get newspaper guilt: This pile doesn’t expand.
Offers daily updates on industry news.
THE BIG GUYS
What you knew: That Amazon represents at least a part of the future of retailing. What you may not have known: That you can get your piece of that future through websites like rubylane.com, which offers stall fronts for antique and artisan jewelry retailers.
What you knew: It’s a good place to dispose of inventory but a really tough place to make a profit. What you may not have known: eBay formally launched its business and industrial marketplace site several years ago, creating a central location where small and medium-sized businesses can buy or sell anything from drill bits to dump trucks to coffee machines. The savings can be substantial.
What you may have heard: If you're not on Facebook you're missing a tremendous opportunity to reach your customers in a more personal manner. It's true. But if you're going to do it, do it right. Don't post sporadically. What you quickly realized if you set up a site: That it’s time consuming, and to keep conversation going you need to update your site two or three times a day at least, and respond to those that take the time to comment on your posts — so don't think you can easily do it yourself in a few minutes every day or lump social media on an employee that has a ton of other responsibilities because that person will burn out. Being a social media manager is at least a part-time job that needs 20 hours per week to effectively manage, create content for and engage users for your business to reap the benefits. Budget for it so it's done right.
What you knew: That it’s the first place most of the world goes to start the search when buying jewelry. What you may not have known: Where to start? We suspect Sergey Brin and Larry Page don’t know all the shortcuts and features. A great place to try to keep up with everything that Google offers is the official blog, googleblog.blogspot.com. Many terrific ideas on how to get the most of the world’s dominant search engine. Alternatives: Microsoft’s Bing, a “decision engine” that has introduced ways to sort through photos online and to search for products and WolframAlpha (which calculates answers to user queries, but takes a little time to learn.
What you may have heard: That, like Facebook, you have to be on Twitter to engage younger shoppers. What you quickly realized if you set up a feed. It’s surprisingly addictive and a potentially dangerous time suck. Best uses? For updates to short-term promotions, such as VIP-customer-appreciation sales, and to keep an ear out for what people might be saying about your store in the Twitterverse. And please learn the proper use of a #hashtag before pushing out tweets!
What you knew: That it’s easy to waste hours watching Kate Upton's Cat Daddy or previews of Channing Tatum's Magic Mike. What you may not have known: There’s a huge amount of good educational stuff on YouTube from tips for bench jewelers to advice for sales associates.
GENERAL BUSINESS NEWS SITES
We were going to recommend the websites of what we’ve come to think of as the Big Seven of small business news — Entrepreneur, Inc, Fast Company, Fortune Small Business, AMEX Open Forum, Small Business Trends and the small business sections of BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal. Then we found BestOfSmallBiz.com, which gathers features, columns and tips from all these websites on a daily basis and presents them on one page. Take your pick from stories on credit trends to emergency fixes for your photo-copier.
The National Retail Federation’s daily SmartBrief news bulletins gather dozens of retail-related stories from around the country. A sister newsletter, Shop.org SmartBrief, provides a similar service for online retailers. Exhaustive is the only way to describe the coverage.
Too conservative in terms of news presentation for some, too liberal in terms of its editorials for others, we still think it’s the best source for keeping up to date on what’s going on in the world.
Better than a browser bookmark, easier to manage than an RSS reader, it’s all here: headlines from the most popular news and opinion sites, blogs and vlogs on one giant Web page. There’s nothing to remember to check or install. It’s the perfect home page for the news junkie.
JEWELRY AND GEMOLOGY SITES
The online retailer had taken over for awhile from big-box stores as the main bogeyman for independent jewelers, but it’s worth logging on regularly to check prices, styles and promotion offers. As one Brain Squad member noted: “It’s like a free Rapaport.” The trend information on colored stones can be useful.
Martin Rapaport’s site. Members can see the diamond price-master’s lists. Non-members can access industry news from the Rapaport feed.
More industry project than simple website, ganoksin.com features an archive of more than 250,000 technical articles, blogs, instructional videos, networking functions, forums and a gallery where members can display their work. You can get lost for days, months, possibly years, in here.
The virtual home of Jewelers of America offers a number of features for retailers and consumers, including marketing resources such as PR templates from the Jewelry Information Center, education resources such as free training articles, updates on government and industry affairs.
The website of repair-pricing guru David Geller. Lots of columns, sample pages from his Blue Book, GMROI worksheets and more.
Live quotes for gold and other precious metals, market reports, and charts as well as columns and a forum for gold traders.
Arguably the No. 1 online community for jewelers and a contributor to INSTOREMAG.com. Has more than 3,000 members, many of whom are willing to share advice on how to source diamonds and other materials, deal with customers and other business issues. You can also search hundreds of diamond vendors with the click of a mouse or put the Polygon diamond database on your website and have an instant diamond inventory of thousands of stones for your customers to peruse. Membership involves a paid subscription, but that seems to keep the trolls away. Some of the discussions still get heated, though.
Site offers distance learning classes in gemology and appraisal, and if you sign up for the ISG newsletter, the crusading gem research of the school’s founder, Robert James, as well as postcards and other free retailer products.
Reports for buyers, sellers and collectors of gems by the former gemstone editor of JCK, Gary Roskin.
If Google is the first place most buyers of jewelry go to begin their search, stuller.com is often the first place for sellers. Cool, clean site, offering a huge range of goods and services.
Want to know the latest in wedding trends? Here’s the place to start. Polls, stories and research into what your bridal customers are looking for.
SMALL BUSINESS SITES
Simple, effective and affordable small business marketing tools and advice. You can buy the manuals or coaching programs or browse the huge article archive for free and subscribe to the free weekly marketing e-newsletter. Founder John Jantsch is a human wellspring of common sense and good ideas.
The home of Quicken financial software, this site also provides free tools to help you plan and manage your assets.
Useful site for all retailers with how-to articles, specialized online retail calculators, open-to-buy and cashflow planners, benchmark data and online educational courses. Much of the good stuff is free, although two-thirds of the material is kept behind a “walled garden” that requires a $24.95-a-month fee to access.
Not a resource as such but a test of your commitment to the small business community. Sign up and pledge to spend $50 a month to support your local counterparts. Go on, do your part.
If you’ve ever wanted to peek into the mind that creates the Dilbert comic strip, here’s your chance. Scott Adams muses on everything from business to politics to assisted suicide. Most of the blogs have the tag “general nonsense” but there are good actionable ideas here as well.
Your vision of a good life may differ from that of Tim Ferriss but lots of productivity ideas here. Best benefit may be just in getting you to reframe the way you view your workweek.
Journalist Malcom Gladwell has made a name as a sociological trend spotter. Interesting insights into human, and often consumer, behavior.
Don’t know what new tax incentives are available under the economic stimulus package? Think “paperless printing services” is an oxymoron? You need to brush up on your reading. Got2BeGreen is a daily reminder that being eco-friendly is just plain business smart.
Cindy Edelstein keeps a sharp eye on what’s happening in terms of marketing and business developments at the designer jewelry end of the market
Home to the Jewelry Insider. That’s Laura Parker, whose goal is to “wow, disgust, and inspire you” with jewelry tidbits from around the globe.
Optimize your whole online and offline life with this site’s tips and how-tos. Especially good on getting the most out of your gadgets, from keyboard shortcuts to turning your iPod into an iPhone.
Founded on the insight that the power of Web 2.0 doesn’t stem from all the information that’s suddenly available, but the connections generated, Mashable provides ideas on how to best use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube.
Fancy yourself as something of a style consultant for your customers? You’ll find Omiru’s laser focus on practical fashion advice a help.
If you’re a regular reader of INSTORE, you’ll know we’re big fans of marketing expert Seth Godin. His blog is full of insights about the social changes wrought by technology and the nature of creativity. Offers plenty of practical advice too.
RESOURCES & SERVICES
The website of the American Society of Interior Designers lists most of the professionals in this field in the U.S. Click the “Find a Designer” link.
Need information on who’s visiting your website? Here’s a good place to start. Also check out statcounter.com or promo.sitemeter.com. And to see how your website is ranking — Alexa.com.
Like it says, checks for less.
Newsletter templates and direct marketing campaigns for jewelers.
Banks don’t make it easy to compare creditcard programs. To get the inside skinny, click on CreditCardGuide.com, CreditCards.com or TransFS.com, a marketplace for card services.
First place to go for freeware. Second, third and fourth places? Try tucows.com, SourceForge.net and AlternativeTo.com.
Job it out, everything from SEO programming to research to copywriting. The site works a bit like eBay, but for services rather than goods. INSTORE used it to find a designer to help with our website rebuild. The experience was almost revelatory.
Reduce waste and swap your “junk” for someone else’s “cool reuseable item.”
Health insurance is now a whole new ball game. Healthinsurance.com will give you detailed estimates. And if you want a second opinion, try eHealthinsurance.com.
Return to the pre-cash era and barter your way to prosperity.
Specializes in building commerce-enabled websites for jewelers.
Play IM traffic controller. Meebo allows you to operate all your instant messaging accounts from one window.
Sure there are BizRate, Shopzilla and Yahoo! Shopping, but NexTag is probably the simplest, easiest and fastest comparative-shopping site on the Web.
Payroll is one of the first jobs you may want to consider outsourcing. Other Web-based providers include surepayroll.com and paycycle.com usps.com.
Want a slightly slimmer version of you to greet visitors to your “About” page? Picnik gives you the power of Photoshop, for free. (You can also try avery.com)
Never pay more than the lowest price again for a phone call.
Direct marketing is often still the best way to target customers. (Also try purepostcards.com.)
Logo shirts for your team of crack bench jewelers.
Score, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a nonprofit partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration that provides free online counseling on everything from accounting to workflow analysis, by a volunteer corps of working and retired business owners and executives.
Business resources for entrepreneurs with a disability.
Great suite of tools for small businesses looking to build an online presence. Also take a look at officelive.microsoft.com, storefront.homestead.com and ratepoint.com (a collection of widgets, including customer reviews, surveys and newsletters, which can be downloaded to any commercial website.)
Handy resource for website and SEO management.
This Web-based tax software is part of the Internal Revenue Service’s Free File program. But unlike other IRS partners who limit free-filing services to those with incomes of $54,000 or less, TaxACT is open to all.
Producing your own video for your website is not the DIY job many Web 2.0 advocates would lead you to believe. At turnhere.com, you can list a project and have eager young pros bid for your job.
Provides a free, easy-to-use tool for adding a blog to your company’s existing website. If you want to go cheap — and skip a formal website altogether — blogger.com (owned by Google) and wordpress.com (not wordpress.org) will host your blog for free. The only drawback: The generic domain name (blogspot.com or wordpress.com) can look unprofessional.
For news, blogs, product launches and other visual merchandising and store design content.
There’s enough free or cheap software here (everything from CRM systems to Web-hosting and recruiting software) that you’ll be able to give a money-saving pass to Microsoft Office. (Sun Microsystems’ OpenOffice.org is also very generous with the office freebies.)
Need something printed and delivered quickly? Go here.
Need something imprinted and delivered quickly? Go here.
Back up your computer. In fact, do it today. Your hard drive will crash one day. Believe us.
Calculate gemstone weights.
This file-sharing service allows you to dump that flash drive and abandon the hassle of e-mailing yourself files from your home PC. There’s nothing to learn, just open drop.io, select the files you want to take with you, and when you arrive home — or anywhere with a Web connection — there they will be. It’s a great way to share a lot of data with other people too: Just e-mail them the key.
Productivity maverick Tim Ferriss called it the most impressive Web tool of 2009. Evernote allows you to easily capture information from anywhere (wine labels, product descriptions, business cards) using whatever device is at hand — iPhone, laptop, the Web — and then converts that information into an easily searchable word document.
Now, this is a cool site. The company has mapped out the automated customer service phone trees of 200 companies. Log on, click on the department you want to reach (your credit card company, for example), and Fonolo will make the call, navigate the system, and call you when it has reached your desired department.
Puts the smart in phone. Dictate a message into your phone and Jott will transcribe it and e-mail your sales team, or send you a reminder, all while your hands are on the wheel of your car.
Log in to your office computer from home.
Thought of using Evite to support your ladies night? That’s so 2007. Mobaganda.com simplifies online party invitations and RSVPs. To create an invitation, simply enter a name for your event, then add the date and details. Mobaganda will then generate a custom URL you can e-mail to friends, and keep an updated tally of yeses and nos. (Best of all: no maybes allowed.)
Send large files over the Internet (useful for when you want to send us — or other media outlets — print-quality images of your cool store.)
The amazing URL shrinking tool!
LEGAL AND SECURITY
If you don’t have updated anti-virus protection on all your PCs, load up here with the free AVG Anti-Virus. Then give serious thought to more comprehensive protection.
Run the free check to see what Social Security and credit-card numbers, direct-deposit bank account data, addresses, passwords and other sensitive information are lying exposed in your computer.
Tips for improving all areas of security in your business, from protecting against power surges to why you need to be extra careful on Mother’s Day. There’s also an insurance calculator to give you an idea of the potential cost of coverage.
Crime headlines, video of crimes in action, JSA’s most wanted list, security company directory and more.
Want to know if you can cut the salary of that underperforming sales associate? Start your search here. Nolo is the pioneer of do-it-yourself law.
DATA AND INFORMATION
This site will tell you the demographics of your customers around the store. Married? Single? Income? You’ll be amazed.
Thinking of a store refit next year? Find out what shades and hues are going to be hot with free color forecasting reports from the influential Color Marketing Group.
Compare what you’re paying staff to what other jewelers in your area are paying. Probably best to keep this site away from your employees. They might find out there's greener pastures to be found.
Slightly alarming site if you worry about your own privacy but a handy way to work out if the person you’re dealing with or thinking of hiring is a nut case. You enter the e-mail address of a person and Spokeo searches the public records of 50 social sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, Amazon Gifts, and the blogosphere. Then Spokeo produces a report including photos, shopping lists, blog comments, tweets and other matches that it’s found.
Burdened by guilt for a sales transaction that didn’t live up to your normal high ethical standards? Lay your case before the court of online opinion and see if the Web will forgive you.
Nothing to do with jewelry, but 20 minutes looking at some of the likely glorious photos collected here of your local community should give you a newfound appreciation of the town or suburb you call home.
David Geller says he knows “some folks” who pipe Sirius radio into their store. Alternatives include Pandora.com and last.fm.com.
Stressed? Spend five minutes enjoying the soulsoothing comfort of popping virtual bubblewrap.
For the customer looking for the sardonic rather than warm and fuzzy sentiment to accompany a gift, suggest they go here. Example: “Dad, it’s still hard to believe you’re someone’s father...”
When you finally get around to taking that hardearned vacation, here’s the place to start planning it. You can get so lost in here, you might feel like you’ve been on vacation by the time you finish.