Talking to Jim Brusilovsky of Marks Jewelers About His Diamond Search Engine

Jim Brusilovsky puts the diamonds right where you can see ’em: online

Unlike many of his contemporaries, fine ­jewelry retailer Jim Brusilovsky isn’t intimidated by the tide-shifting prowess of the Blue Niles of the world. “Having a human being is important” when selling diamonds, asserts the owner of Pennsylvania’s Marks Jewelers, with locations in Levittown  and Montgomeryville. But that doesn’t mean he’s not hustling to compete with the industry’s major e-commerce players. Brusilovsky recently souped up his company’s website by integrating an online search tool, Diamond Search Engine, that allows consumers to browse the retailer’s inventory of diamonds before setting foot into either of its locations. The easy-to-use tool lets them search by cut, clarity, and carat size, then sift through the results, which are almost always extensive. “All the [big] online retailers are linked to some kind of ­diamond search engine,” says Brusilovsky. “Now we look at least as strong as they are.”

What inspired your digital diamond finder? 

The consumer who’s shopping online is completely different from the one shopping in-store. I wanted to have something that [reflected] that price-sensitive, no-salesperson ­mindset. I think that’s a particularly millennial mindset. People that are looking online are searching out information, and Diamond Search provides them with that. People don’t want ­information to be filtered through a salesperson anymore. They want to find it themselves.

Who maintains the inventory listings?

There’s a dedicated team of people on my staff working on it. It’s been a long process setting it up, and it’s an ongoing ­process. We’re always maintaining it; it’s the kind of process that will never be done.

How do you see fine jewelry retailing evolving in the future?

The fact that there’s not quite an answer to that question is what has all of us wracking our brains. I definitely don’t think that, long-term, the current model of e-commerce fine ­jewelry retailing can survive. Major online retailers are allowed to make very little profit and survive right now, because stockholders are giving them [latitude], thinking they are representing the future model of jewelry retail. But I’m not sure that’s the future. People are going to, at some point, hold these websites accountable for not producing top-line revenue.

Aside from the touch-and-feel factor, why do you think jewelry retailing ultimately favors brick-and-mortar?

Everything’s become commoditized: a SKU. If you’re buying an engagement ring with a colorless diamond with the highest rating, you can buy it online and you don’t have to worry about clarity. But most people have a budget…so they want to see the thing before they buy it.

Why is the search engine a particularly good tool for modern bridal buyers?

I think millennials are most turned off by being sold. They want to be informed and even entertained. They want to be guided. They want to be educated. They’re very in tune with their finances, and very insecure over their lack thereof. A millennial is so geared up to go online for everything and see the price of things. I sometimes have people sit with the Blue Nile app open in my store, literally scrolling through the app while they’re getting a diamond presentation. Millennials are good at shopping by themselves.

So it wasn’t online sales that prompted you to ­implement the search engine?

Though we have had diamond ring sales online, I don’t think it’s ever going to be as deep a revenue stream as some people think. We’re going toward the Wal-Mart and Target model [of omnichannel sales] rather than Blue Nile. We’re very fortunate to be in an industry where people want to touch and hold things. If you don’t have a website that shows your customers that you are the place to stop into, you’re losing customers. Your website is what used to be your phone book page. The best I can hope is that my site makes people feel they should stop at our store. I definitely want to be one of the stops.

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