Brilliant Earth Expands Stores, Adds Joy To Jewelry

Brilliant Earth, the digital sustainable jewelry company, is expanding, opening new showrooms around the country. It's looking to strengthen its connection with its core millennial and Gen Z audience, emphasizing a relaxed educational introduction to one of life's big moments. Kathryn Money, senior vice president of merchandising and retail expansion of the San Francisco-based company, tells D2C Insider what's in store.

D2C Insider: Give us a little background on the company and the brand's personality.

Kathryn Money: We're a digital-first omnichannel fine jewelry company and a global leader in ethically sourced jewelry. We're committed to changing how people shop for jewelry, offering a joyful, personalized, and meaningful experience.

It helps to understand a bit about the company's founding. When we started in 2005, Beth Gerstein, our CEO, was in the market for her engagement ring. She couldn't find a responsibly sourced ring that reflected her values.

So she partnered up with Eric Grossberg, a business school classmate, who was passionate about and responsible sourcing -- and looking at jewelry through the lens of a high-touch, tech-enabled customer experience. That mission makes us unique. We create jewelry you can feel good about without compromising quality and conscience.

D2C Insider: So it's primarily sustainability that sets you apart?

Money: Yes, in that we offer Beyond Conflict Free Diamonds, both lab-created and recycled, ethically sourced gemstones and recycled precious metals. And we're focused on giving-back initiatives through our Brilliant Earth Foundation.

But we're also differentiated around experience. We try and be joyful and seamless, whether people shop digitally or in stores. So that means 360-degree videos, virtual try-on, and the visualization tools that power our Create Your Own Ring experience. Design also sets us apart -- we have an award-winning in-house design team.

D2C Insider: Millennials and Gen Z are your primary targets and most likely to be shopping for engagement rings. Any particular group within those demographics?

Money: Yes, those that share our mission-driven values. They mostly learn about us on social media and seek beautiful, trend-forward designs and high-quality craftsmanship. They also value transparency, sustainability, inclusivity, and giving back. They value authenticity and self-expression and think a lot about expressing themselves through personalized products. They want to show their style.

D2C Insider: You just opened new stores in Santa Monica, Palo Alto and Baltimore. What's the showroom experience you're trying to create?

Money: When we started to design our showrooms, we thought about how to be different from traditional jewelry retail. It can be intimidating, particularly for engagement rings and bridal jewelry. It's an emotionally weighty decision and a very considered purchase. It's often very expensive.

So we wanted to create a welcoming, approachable and relaxing space while delivering an elevated and premium customer experience. It's low-pressure. And it feels joyful. Most customers, often couples, come into showrooms having personalized appointments. It's very consultive. We spend a lot of time on education.

D2C Insider: What do you gain by expanding retail?

Money: We've found that our showrooms generate an uplift within the overall metro market. They drive growth in our average order value and deliver a strong return on investment. They also help build brand awareness with new customers and bring back current customers. So the showroom strategy continues to be a catalyst for building our brand.

One of the benefits of being an online retailer is that we have access to a lot of data, which gives us a lot of confidence when we decide to open a physical location and where to expand.

D2C Insider: There's evidence that people are cutting back on large purchases. Is that likely to impact you?

Money: Historically, engagement rings have been quite recession-resistant. Once people commit to their relationship, they typically move forward. We just released our latest results, and are pleased. It's our fifth consecutive quarter of profitable growth as a public company. That's an exciting milestone for us. We were a bootstrapped company for many years before we were public, and that discipline is a big part of how we operate culturally.

D2C Insider: What's your marketing philosophy?

Money: We're intensely data-driven, and test and iterate everything -- enhance chat features and evolved imagery. We're able to tap into a lot of different types of marketing vehicles.

Social media is key. We found that 13% of customers learned about Brilliant Earth for the first time on TikTok. And certainly, as we serve a millennial and Gen Z audience, we must continue to evolve and communicate via a broad range of channels. We've tested TV. We're always keen to keep exploring. There's just so much change in the way younger audiences use advertising platforms -- it just continues to evolve.

D2C Insider: Finally, what's the most surprising part of the business to you?

Money: I don't know if I'd say surprising, but I love to see the trends come and go. Five years ago, it was millennial pink everywhere. Then everyone wanted rose gold. Now it's yellow gold, and people love these oval gem shapes that elongate your fingers. Delicate jewelry has been popular for some time -- are we about to see bolder, chunkier styles?

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