Ramble On Ron

Diamonds, Music and other Facets of Life

Role Reversal: Jewelry E-tailers Now Trying Brick and Mortar

Posted on | December 12, 2013 | No Comments



A recent article in National Jeweler magazine, “Blue Nile Now Displaying It’s Rings In A Store,” discusses how Blue Nile, the biggest and baddest online diamond seller, is now showcasing their rings at Nordstrom in Seattle, where both companies are headquartered.  I’m sure Blue Nile wants to get their name out a little more and what better place than a luxury department store like Nordstrom? What’s even more interesting is that you can’t actually buy Blue Nile rings at Nordstrom, but you can look, ask questions and order online. So they are obviously looking to give their brand more of a human interaction. I’ve always thought that Blue Nile could open it’s own flagship store in Seattle or even on Madison Ave if they wanted. The real question is does this add to the customer experience, or completely turn it upside down? It’s one of those problems that even small businesses deal with – that you can’t be everything to everyone. If you’re an online seller, then stick to that. If you’re a brick and mortar retailer, then know that’s your game. We’ve seen very few traditional retailers discover a high volume e-tail model – not impossible, but very difficult. Why? Because it’s not what they do!

Another company that is giving retail a shot is custom online jeweler Gemvara. They have raised over $50 million in funding since they started in 2006. Their online jewelry building technology is very slick and they seem to have their act together from customer service to fulfillment. They opened a pop-up store in a trendy Boston neighborhood with the tag line “Do You Dream in Color?” Then you can look at gemstones and create your ring on iPads and computers just like you would online. This idea may be better than Blue Nile’s for two reasons. One is that it’s their own spot – not a space housed in a department store. Two is that the idea of a retail store integrated with technology and fun is the way of the future.

Just like with Samuelson’s, it’s all about trial and error. It’s also about planning and a thought process. I’m sure these larger companies have put a lot of time and resources into these decisions. I think the only fail here may be a confused customer. It will be very interesting to see where this goes…