September 21, 1998
Curt and Elizabeth Parker, owners of Curt Parker Inc. in St. Louis, MO, consider the Internet to be one of their most successful forms of advertising. On the Web since 1996, the business attracts inquiries from consumers throughout the U.S. because of its extensive on-line resource of jewelry and gemstone information.
Curt Parker spends about half of each day maintaining the site, which he designed himself, as well as designing the store's magazine ads, doing jewelry photography and preparing other marketing materials. A major part of the Parkers' daily Web-related work is answering all the e-mail. Because the store specializes in cultured pearl jewelry, the Web site is often produced in search engine hunts for the term "pearls," spurring consumer questions. The Parkers answer every e-mail.
In the past year or so, Curt Parker says consumers have become interested in buying over the Internet, and he's actually made sales by e-mail, although the site is not e-commerce equipped. Knowing about the Web has also helped him "bond" with many of the young professional men - often computer programmers or engineers - who come into the store to buy bridal jewelry.
Among the interesting things the site includes are:
- A frames and a no-frames version, friendly to users with any type of browser
- Three ways to search for information: browsable pages, an alphabetized "table of contents" and a search engine
- "What's Hot," a sampling of current fashion trends and examples of the styles from the store's inventory
- Detailed information about diamonds, the various gemstones, metals, cultured pearls and buying jewelry in general, reprinted with permission from the Jewelers of America "What you should know about" series and information from the American Gem Society, Platinum Guild International and the Cultured Pearl Information Center
- Reprints of all the national and local magazine advertising the store has done
- Warnings to consumers about jewelry safety (based on the Parkers' experience with people having their rings cut from their fingers in emergency rooms), the real reason stores discount and underkarating. There's also a list of questions to ask insurance agents when insuring jewelry.
- A section promoting the Parkers' many travels: there are pictures of jewelry from Germany, Italy, Portugal, France, England and Russia.
- A small catalog of collections
There's also a place on the home page for customers to view pictures of their "special requests." Parker hopes to soon add a feature that would give each customer individual "What's New" updates based on the last time he or she visited the site.
- by Stacey King