Make Your Website Shine: Expert Tips for Jewelry Brands with Michael Burpoe, Director of User Experience for Punchmark-Part 2

Episode 131

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Why you won’t see results if you have a “set it and forget it” mentality about your website
  • Why jewelers should give their website as much attention as a brick-and-mortar location
  • How jewelers can use tricks of the trade to encourage customers to purchase items online, even if jewelry is traditionally bought in person 
  • How jewelry brands can take advantage of the new shopping feature on Instagram
  • Why the jewelry business is more like Crate & Barrel than Sephora—and why that distinction is important

About Michael Burpoe

Michael Burpoe is Director of User Experience for Punchmark, a digital marketing agency that specializes in the jewelry industry. Michael created Punchmark’s UX team, which was assembled to take very specific initiatives toward fine-tuning tools and features, and improving the platform on both the front-end and back-end. Since early 2019, Michael has also headed up the strategy, planning, and execution behind Punchmark’s Livestream Education program, the In The Loupe podcast, and the Punchmark Community on Facebook. Originally from Saranac Lake, NY, in Michael’s spare time you can find him practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or painting cityscapes. 

Additional Resources:


Design Themes:

Podcast Logo:

Website Samples:

After working with jewelry brands of all sizes for the last several years, Michael Burpoe has learned a thing or two about the strategies that make jewelry businesses more successful online. As Director of User Experience for Punchmark, Michael has helped even the most hesitant jewelers invest in their websites and reap the rewards of a fine-tuned digital marketing strategy. He joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to explain why selling jewelry online is only going to become more common; how to make customers feel comfortable buying luxury items online; and how jewelry companies can use digital marketing tricks to increase sales. Read the episode transcript here. 

Sharon: Do you find that the people who are calling your company, prospective clients, do they tend to be in an older demographic, like a baby boomer? Not that they don’t understand what you’re saying, but do they see themselves in you, let’s say?

Michael: That’s a great question. It depends. If you had asked me when I started out at Punchmark about five years ago what the average demographic of people coming to us for a website is, a lot of the time, it’s an older demographic. Probably 60, 65 or so, looking for their first website or saying, “Oh I have this really bare-bones website and we need to get a modern website.” The reason why is because they went to some jewelry show and they were told by a speaker, “Hey, you need to have an online presence,” and they’re like, “Alright, I’m here,” but they haven’t really been convinced of the value of it. 

Now what I’m seeing is that, again, we’re in a Covid world where the impending-ness and the seriousness of business are paramount. A lot of times the people who are running the website aren’t the owners anymore. They know it’s a full-time job, like I said. You can’t have the business owner being the only one that touches the website. It’s not going to get the love it needs. A lot of times we’re seeing younger people who are involved in the online business, whether that means it’s their store manager or the children of the owner. Sometimes they are specialists who they hired specifically for their website, which I advocate for. We’re seeing a switch in that. I think a lot of people still need to be convinced of the value of a website, but it’s becoming better, I’d say.

Sharon: I’m almost afraid to ask, but once you’ve done the website, do your clients understand that’s just the beginning? That there’s SEO, PPC and social media? Do they understand there’s a lot more?

Michael: Early on when I first started here, they did not know that. They thought that it was a set it and forget it methodology. They get it up, they launch their website, they push it live, and they think it’s going to do all the things for them. That is not the case, and we do our best to communicate that as early and often as we possibly can. I always say to people, “Your website will never be done—ever, ever, ever, ever. It has to be constantly updated.” We do have services for that kind of stuff. This isn’t a sales pitch. We do have services where people can pay for us to do a lot of the ongoing work: creating landing pages, doing their social media, taking on their SEO strategy. There are services out there for them, not just with us, but we need people to understand that you can’t just set it up and it’s going to make $1 million on its own. It takes some work. It takes some thought.

Sharon: You said an important word, strategy. How do you explain to them that you can’t have it look like the Lifesavers package over here and the Tiffany package over there? How do you explain this?

Michael: It depends on your service. Every business, it’s like its own unique person. They all have brand voice and brand ideology and all those things that come into it; that’s the bigger picture. When it comes to the web presence in general, it comes into things like what are your goals as a business? What is your brick and mortar doing as far as dollars? Is it a $1 million dollar store? Is it a $5 million store? Is it a $20 million store?  We service the entire gambit. Are you in a small town? That gives you a different strategy. Do you have competitors? Are there other jewelry stores in your town? I’m from a town of 4,000 people. There was one jewelry store in the next town over, and those people have a different strategy for, for example, pay-per-click or SEO than people in Los Angeles, where there’s a jewelry store every mile. That is a different strategy as far as how centralized they should be targeting, how broad. The people in the next town over who have a jewelry store, they can set their search radius to 40 miles or 50 miles, whereas the people in Los Angeles need to be targeting very hyper-specific keywords. It’s also going to cost a lot more money because the competition is more. So, it all depends. There’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to, “Oh, you need to be doing X,” because it has to be tailored to what your business approach is as well as where you’re located.

Sharon: I’m sure you’re thinking about this when you’re thinking about the user experience, but tell us more about how that role differs. Doesn’t everybody in a sense have direct user experience?

Michael: I think that’s a great question also. User experience is very much the nebulous specter that we’re always trying to catch. I always say I can feel it when I feel it. Buying with Amazon—I hate using Amazon for the experience, but let’s even talk about Nike. Nike makes great shoes. I buy all my shoes from Nike. Well, what Nike does that is so incredible is that they make it so you can find your product as seamlessly and without pause as possible. When I am buying a pair of shoes, I know I can go in and find the shoes I want without having to look. You go on. You click on shoes. They ask you men’s or women’s shoes. Well, I want men’s. Do you want running shoes or trail shoes, because there’s a difference? I want street running shoes. You click on those. They show you all of them. They have alternative angles. Those are all things that go into user experience.

The other things that go into it are kind of magic tricks. For example, people who are listening at home, do this: go to Nike and add a product to your shopping cart. Go to check out in the shopping cart. What you’re not going to realize until I point it out to you is that the entire navigation goes away; it disappears. The only thing that shows is the Nike logo on the top. This is true for Burberry. This is true for Amazon. When you get into the buy funnel—buy funnel, that’s a fancy word for when you get into the checkout process—they get rid of as many distractions as possible. They understand that you are as close as possible to taking out your wallet and paying for those shoes or what have you, and they don’t want to distract you with the opportunity to go back and read about the latest tube tops. They want you to go in and buy those shoes, and they get rid of all the distractions. That’s one thing we’re trying to improve as well as our checkout experience. 

You can see this in real life. There is user experience in real life, and one of those examples is Michael’s, the craft store. There’s a reason why they make the checkout line so frigging long. It’s because they don’t want you to get in line and see how long the line looks and then leave. They want you to get into it, and the chance of your leaving and not converting on your sale is much lower if you’re going to have to bump into other people and exit the—what is it called—the cattle line. It’s very important. People have done the strategy and thought about this kind of stuff, and you can see it everywhere on websites with user experience.

Sharon: That’s interesting. Maybe you do this on some of the sites—I’m thinking maybe it’s Postmates that does this—but you check out people who bought what you bought, those pants or this top or whatever.

Michael: Right, upsells.

Sharon: I guess. It seems like that might be another strategy. Is it Home Goods where the checkout line is full of all the little impulse purchase things, the dollar items?

Michael: Well, they know that those impulse purchases, that’s exactly what they are.  They’re impulse, which means I’m going to reach over and grab the stuffed animal for my significant other at home without thinking about it. If they took that stuffed animal and put it in one of their aisles, the chance of my doing that is going be less. Also, the time I’m going to spend in front of that stuffed animal is going to be quite a bit higher while I’m standing in line as opposed to walking down an aisle. 

It all comes down to data. There you can find all these really interesting things. I use this example all the time; you buy a pair of sapphire earrings. Well, if you have a little bit of a budget, maybe you should get a sapphire bracelet or a sapphire necklace and those sorts of things. Maybe you don’t; no problem. But when it comes to offering that and the chance that they convert on it, one in 10, even one in 100, well, you just sold double the amount of your product. It’s all about those little things that go into having a successful website. It’s taking into account previous trends and things that are hot, you might say, and leaning into them.

Sharon: As the Director of User Experience, I know it’s all about data no matter what, but are you looking at that data and saying, “This is how we can improve the experience”? What are you looking at, exactly?

Michael: You can do things in a variety of different ways when you look at data. Two years ago, Punchmark had a big switch where we measure everything now internally and externally. The mindset is that you can’t fix what you can’t measure. A lot of what we’re seeing is that the average transaction size is going up. What that means, if you think about it a little bit, is that people are becoming more comfortable buying stuff online. The other thing we’re seeing as far as data is financing. There are companies like Sezzle and Affirm where you can see a variety of different options. We’re seeing that retailers that offer some type of financing, shoppers want the opportunity to use that. Affirm allows you to split payments into up to 12 payments. 

Why is that good? Well, buying jewelry is a luxury. It’s expensive. If I’m going to say, “O.K., you need to throw down $1,000 for this bracelet,” maybe they don’t have $1,000. Maybe you won’t ever be in a financial state where you can afford $1,000 off the top and hand it over, but if I was to say, “O.K., you can pay me $100 for 12 months,” the odds are that fits a little bit better. We are looking at the state of these retailer websites that offer financing options, and we see that they are converting on higher-ticket price point items a lot more frequently. That’s an example of the things we look for that we can reverse engineer.

Sharon: What differences do you see between a website for the rest of us versus for those in the jewelry industry? Are there certain things that jewelry industry professionals, whether you’re a jeweler, a retailer, a maker, a bench jeweler, should keep in mind, as opposed to somebody who manufactures widgets?

Michael: To make sure I’m answering your correct question, you’re saying a difference between a small-town jeweler versus a Tiffany?

Sharon: I’m saying more if somebody who manufacturers bandages decides they’re going to do a website because they want to attract wholesale clients versus a jewelry industry retailer or manufacturer, are there certain things that you think are different?

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. We have to look at the similarities in the products and also the prices of these products. Back to jewelry and luxury items, it’s a one-time purchase, one-time meaning if you buy this $1,000 bracelet and you wear it every day for a year and you love that bracelet, you’re probably not going to go back and buy the same bracelet again. Maybe you would, but probably not; that’s not what we see. The reason is because that bracelet is still as good as the first time you got it, and that has to do with luxury, long-terms items. 

A similar industry that has a similar buying state of mind is the furniture business. For example, think about the similarities if I buy a couch. Couches are really expensive if you’re curious. We’ll pretend this couch is $4,000. I love that couch. If I sit on it every single day for a year and I think to myself, “Man, this couch is awesome,” odds are I’m not going to go back and buy that same couch, but I could buy a matching loveseat. The same thing with jewelry. If I like that bracelet, I’ll probably buy a matching earring. You mentioned bandages. Bandages would be a recurring purchase. I try my best never to compare jewelry stores to websites like Sephora. They make makeup and beauty products. I’m very fascinated by Sephora’s business model. If I buy a concealer, for example, and I love that concealer—some women get really attached to certain products if it’s the right fit for them—and I use it every single day for one year, I will probably run out. If I really like it, I’m going to buy it again. That’s why there’s a different mindset in the purchasing and buying state-of-mind for shoppers for luxury one-time purchases and recurring purchases. We try to lean into other sites, like a Burberry who sells a fashion product like a trench coat. If you wear it all the time, you’re not going buy the trench coat again; you’re going to buy something similar.

Sharon: Interesting. There’s so much to talk about when it comes to marketing this stuff. 

Michael: Thank you.

Sharon: What do you see as the top three mistakes that those in the jewelry industry make on their websites or when you’re talking digital marketing?

Michael: I think the first mistake—and we’ve already talked about this ad nauseum, so I won’t spend too much time on it—is the crockpot methodology, thinking that it’s going to sell on its own. That’s unfortunately just not the case. You need to be thinking about it. You need to be updating things and creating new pages and working on your SEO. That’s probably one. 

Number two has to do with imagery. Jewelry is the most visually impactful product that might be out there. I really can’t think of anything else, because what it comes down to is not the functionality of the jewelry. A bracelet, it’s on your wrist and it looks good, and that’s the functionality of it. Beyond that, maybe with earrings, how they move, but not really. It comes down to what it looks like. The end goal is I see it, I want it and I get it. I think a lot of times, these retailers don’t put enough time into finding the right products, taking their own product photos or having lifestyle, which is to say having models with the jewelry on their website. As an example of a product details page, when you’re shopping for a specific product, you can have, for example, a front view of the piece of jewelry, a side view of the piece of jewelry, maybe an up-close version if it has embossing or engraving or something like that, and then a photo on someone. You probably have a worker in your store; have them put the jewelry on. Snap it with a nice background. Now people can see how it wraps, how it looks around that person’s body. I think that that is absolutely a driving force in how you can sell, so that’s a good one too.

Sharon: That’s interesting. The positive would be that the websites that do have that—I see it more and more, where now it’s frustrating when you swipe and that’s it. There’s only one hero shot and that’s it. 

Michael: If it’s just one thing, like a pendant, I want to see what the back of the pendant looks like. It’s going to be common that I have to see the back of the pendant. I want to see what the clasp looks like. Does it have a lobster clasp or some fancy clasp? Showing that information, like we talked about in the beginning, aids in that comfortability and that confidence when they fork over a couple of thousand dollars on this piece of jewelry. They need to feel confident it’s the right purchase.

Sharon: You want to see how it looks on somebody’s wrist, even if it’s just a plastic mannequin. How does it look on a neck? I don’t know if this is my last question because I could ask you questions all day long.

Michael: No, I appreciate it.

Sharon: What I noticed, and I find it a little concerning being a baby boomer who’s looked at marketing for a long time, it seems that everybody is moving onto Instagram. Every jeweler has moved to Instagram. They may have a Facebook page and they may have a Twitter—I don’t know what the others are—but it seems they’re skipping a website. It’s like, “Oh, I don’t need the website. I’m just putting everything on Instagram.”  What are your thoughts about that?

Michael: Again, I might be biased—I’ll get that out of the way first. I will say this: I think the shopping tools on Instagram are absolutely marvelous. Full disclosure: I really dislike the company Facebook. I’m not a fan of them, but what they have done is make a whole suite of tools that go with Instagram. For example, if you do these collection photos where you show a bracelet, a necklace, earrings and a ring all on one page, you can tag those products. A lot of the time, they do rely on having a website as the hub, so they’re feeding the information in. I don’t know if the website’s time is heading toward the sunset and going fully Instagram is nigh, but I will say the tools on Instagram are incredible. 

The other thing they do offer is fantastic retargeting. If you go on there and you like a product, as in double-tap it, they’re going to re-serve that to you, and they can get better at fine tuning it. You can tell that Instagram is serious about being a shopping tool because they’ve replaced one of the five icons on the bottom of the Instagram app to become a shopping bag so people can buy easier.

Sharon: Very smart. I also find it annoying, but understandable and smart, that every time I say, “Oh yeah, I like this,” “Well, we need your email address. Do you want to see anything else you want on your email address?” No, don’t give me the discount. I don’t want to give you my email address. Let me just see the product. But you can’t do that.

Michael: It’s all about that retargeting. It’s because it works, unfortunately.

Sharon: No, it does.

Michael: As someone who has worked in the industry for enough time, it can be very easy to get jaded about this kind of stuff and be like, “They’re just flooding my inbox with all this stuff.” I get it. If I was on the edge of buying this product and I don’t buy it, and you’re hitting me back with a discount code: “Hey, get 20 percent off on this thing,” well, I was going to buy it for 100 percent. Now it’s a little bit off, and now I can rationalize it better and get it. It does work.

Sharon: Absolutely, or they wouldn’t be doing it. I’m sure they’re looking at the data. Michael, thank you so much. This is so interesting, and I’m sure it’s given a lot of people ideas about what they need to go back and revisit or start doing. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Michael: Thank you so much, Sharon, for having me on. I really appreciate it. If you guys want to hear more about emerging tech and information regarding the jewelry industry, we have a podcast called In the Loupe. That’s on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, whenever you want it. We have a lot more information about different merging tech. You can learn more about Punchmark general at

Sharon: Thanks. I do want to mention that you have a lot of very informative articles on your site.

Michael: I appreciate that. Thank you so much.

Sharon: It’s definitely worth checking out.

We will have images posted on the website. You can find us wherever you download your podcasts, and please rate us. Please join us next time, when our guest will be another jewelry industry professional who will share their experience and expertise. Thank you so much for listening.

Thank you again for listening. Please leave us a rating and review so we can help others start their own jewelry journey.

Sharon Berman