Nordstrom has a way with customer service and the customer experience. And if you haven’t been keeping up with the Seattle-based retail giant lately, you’ve missed some approaches and enhancements in how it does business online, offline, and via mobile. By emulating Nordstrom’s digitally-informed, friction-reducing, millennial-friendly approaches, you can help your own business adapt to the modern customer landscape as well.
Of course, Nordstrom has long been used by customer service consultants and retail experts as an example primarily of timeless customer service rather than as an example of a cutting-edge or blatantly tech-driven customer experience; Nordstrom’s long-established quality of customer service is famously based on empowered employees, careful hiring, and customer-friendly returns. But what’s new at Nordstrom is important as well. Let’s look at what’s been happening of late, specifically the innovations in approach and functionality that focus on allowing customers to shop how they want, where they want, and when they want.
Accepting cannibalization to avoid predation
Nordstrom has made a companywide decision not to care where the customer buys, as long as she buys from one of Nordstrom’s many brands and channels. Certainly, Nordstrom is happy if a customer buys at full price, via their physical Nordstrom stores, Nordstrom Online, or Trunk Club (the company’s men’s-oriented personal shopper brand). But Nordstrom also embraces customers making off-price purchases via Nordstrom Rack, NordstromRack.com and Hautelook.
Maintaining this equanimity isn’t easy. Certainly, some of these channels are more profitable for Nordstrom than others, and the temptation is going to be to try to “graduate” off-price buyers to where the best margins are and bring online shoppers in-store for the full, associate-driven customer experience. The reason Nordstrom doesn’t do this is the same reason that they have off-price brands in the first place, and offer online shopping. They didn’t open these channels out of the blue; they opened them because customers wanted them. And if customers want something, the thinking goes that it’s better to capture this customer with a Nordstrom brand, losing a few points on a sale rather than losing the sale (and customer) entirely.
Support a seamless, cross-brand experience
Not only does Nordstrom offer customers a variety of ways in which to buy their products, they make it easy for customers to buy across brands by keeping all of the customer’s information and functionality within a single account. If a customer buys from NordstromRack.com today and a physical Nordstrom store next week, all of that information from both brands and both channels will be in the system and accessible by/at both brands and by the consumer herself.
Insisting your customers shop only at your store, or only online, is not embracing how your customers want to shop. Nordstrom realizes customers want to be able to shop in a variety of ways, sometimes all at once, including:
- Curbside pickup. Many customers want the convenience of buying online, but need the speed of in-store pickup. Nordstrom makes this a breeze by allowing customers who have purchased products online to text the store to let them know when they are getting close. (Yes, this has safety implications that worry me. I’m just reporting here, not designing.) An associate will run the purchased items out to the car when the customer arrives.
- In-store purchasing, with shipping to the customer’s home. On the flip side, many customers enjoy the in-store shopping experience, but don’t want to lug bags around with them all day. Nordstrom happily accommodates this, shipping in-store purchases home.
- Buying by text. A very high percentage of customers prefer to communicate by text, and Nordstrom’s new TextStyle functionality makes it easy and secure. TextStyle allows a customer to make curated purchased via her smartphone. How it works: a customer or salesperson sends a private text message with a description or photo of a product. If the customer likes any of the recommended items, they can purchase by simply replying “buy” plus a unique code.
- Shopping via app. Nordstrom offers apps for their Nordstrom, Rack, and Hautelook stores, allowing customers to easily find what they want, including new markdowns and clearance items, in-app.
Sounds innovative, no? I suggest you look at each of these updates and see if you need to follow suit to stay in line with what your customers are looking for today, and will be looking for tomorrow.