I am hoping this question will start a conversation on trust in e-commerce, in particular for e-tailers selling high value items where this is very important. By "trust" I am referring to:
I have now put a bounty as a reward for the best answer, I am looking for answers that do not only include the standard trust queues (SSL, live chat, press endorsements etc.), but possibly psychological or jewelry-specific factors that, in your opinion, will increase the conversion for such a website?
IMO, BBB badges and TrustE mean almost nothing - anyone can buy a badge and stick it on a site.
Here are the things I look for:
As far as buying diamonds goes, if the content is great and I can easily chat with a live agent and get on the phone if I need to - I would totally buy an expensive item online through a site I hadn't used before.
A trustworthy online brand... in your industry has to be one of your top objectives and you are clearly trying to achieve this so well done. To create an online brand that people trust is important for most eCommerce sites, but for one selling very high value items it is imperative.
At the risk of trying not to sounding redundant with edralph and alex cook both making excellent arguments on how to get your jewelry business to a new level of trust.
It is going to be imperative to have a completely open system of reviews on the products you are selling. Both the good and the bad.
Customer support, like the others have mentioned, is going to be the biggest thing towards gaining trust from prospects you have never met. Every customer is not going to jump on and buy an expensive product the first time they see it. They will likely come back five to ten times before they make that final purchase. So you being there for them every step of the way will go a long way with building trust and legitimacy within your market.
You can take this a step further and start web video chat to bring the customers one step closer to touching the piece of jewelry they are going to buy. This can easily get face time with your customers and give you an easy opportunity to display the product in a real light. Think of it as actually going into the jewelry store. This can definitely set you apart from many other retailers.
Lastly, being active in your jewelry community is going to make you look like an authority. Get to know your target market intimately and build those relationships.
I have made all of my recently jewelry purchases based on a personal relationship I have made with my friends who also happen to be jewelers.
Please allow me to elaborate:
First of all, I have been in the jewelry manufacturing business for over 20 years. I was involved in the creation of Mondera.com (now closed as jewelry e-tailer), Gemkey.com (B2B jewelry/diamonds/gemstones trade site ) and Fameo.co.uk (selling jewelry online to the UK Market, now also closed).
In all these ventures, I was the co-founder and CTO but in Fameo.co.uk I was the owner. It was supposed to be the front end of our manufacturing facility based in Bangkok, Thailand. Despite it being closed for reason I won't discuss here as they are out of topic, we still serve the clients who need repairs done, adjustments etc.
To answer your question straight to the point:
From my humble experience, most of the products out there are mass produced and of low quality, few sites provide high end jewelry that you can satisfy your desires. In the end, what matters is trust. In our business trust is above all and if your online jewelry store can establish that trust and make you confirtable and assure you of your purchase then I am sure you will get back for more.
If you need to know more about my credentials to you know what I am saying is true, visit my G+ community https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/100689153072781340162 to know more. I can help you making your purchase experience a nice one and I won't charge you for my advice :-)
One year money back guarantee ?
When I shop online I'm rarely concerned with payment data security. I have no liability for credit card fraud with my bank, so I'm not overly paranoid about loss of card info.
I would be concerned about the integrity and stability of the retailer. Having brick and mortar stores (ideally multiple locations) would lend some credibility and trust to them.
Diamonds are a particularly interesting case because they are so easily faked or misrepresented to the average consumer. For diamonds specifically, some sort of EIA/GIA/AGS cert and laser inscription would be a good way to let the buyer know what they are buying (and verify receipt of correct product).
I purchased an engagement ring a year ago from an online retailer (NSC ).
Trust is definitely a key issue if you want in to the business. I normally have no hesitation purchasing from online retailers, but rings cost much more than a typical purchase. I spent much more time trying to establish validity than I normally would.
Things that helped:
Finally, these weren't around at the time I was shopping, but a bunch of newspaper articles mentioning the firm would have helped too.
Almost nothing. I just use Amazon, and rely on the return and redress policy.
Ability to try it on.
I only intend to get married once, I intend to spend a LOT compared to my income ... its a personal, once off experience ...
Possibly something like the following:
We did a web based application for wholesale rings a few years ago quite successfully, they 4X their order volume in a few months.
I had the designs worked out for software and business model at the time but our client wasn't in the retail market and didn't want to go there.
SSL is mandatory for this type of site. I don't know how many sites I have seen from fairly big companies asking for personal info without SSL. I went to one financial site that wanted to do a financial assessment and asked for salary info, all revolving credit info, etc. and no SSL.
And please, please... if you ask them to register for an account. Do not provide their full password in plain text when you send the confirmation email.