Nordstrom is getting weird! In a good way, that is. The upscale clothing store is experimenting with ways to cater to the growing trend of people buying their stuff online, while still providing the superior customer experience that they’re known for. One recent test was with the launch of a Nordstrom Local store, the first of which popped up in Hollywood last September. It could be just what the company needs to stay relevant and ahead of its competition in an arena that is constantly changing.
These local stores will be just 3,000 square feet, compared to the traditional 14,000sq. foot store you’ll find in shopping centers, according to a press release. At these local stores, customers will still get the outstanding customer service we’ve come to expect from Nordstrom, but without the old-school shopping methods of perusing endless rows of clothes. Instead, the customer experience will be tailored to the customer’s exact needs and wants. They can call on in-house tailors for alterations or help picking out a wardrobe or outfit for a party. Customers can also pick up online purchases, get their nails done, look at style boards, and even get some refreshments, among other services (see the graphic to the left for a full list).
As a millennial, that special twitch in my eyes starts to go when I walk into a department store the size of a city block with rows and rows of clothes neatly folded or hanging up on those circular racks I hid in as a kid when my mother was shopping. I tend to shut down because I just want some pants that fit!
The beauty of online shopping on sites like Amazon (maybe you’ve heard of them) is that consumers can tailor the shopping experience by typing into the search bar exactly what they’re looking for. Options for those keywords pop up in the first couple of pages, with the best choices topping the page and filtered according to algorithms, customer reviews, and employee picks. It’s shopping made easy and efficient (if you’re a window shopper, don’t worry, it’s not dead yet!) However, Amazon is lacking something: The Nordstrom Experience.
In a way, these new local stores could be similar to that online search, but so much better. Don’t know exactly what you need? A customer can head to the store, give the tailor a general description of what they are looking for, kind of like keywords in a search bar. From there, a tailor or customer service rep can guide the customer’s search by perhaps showing off a style board or picking different outfits that will cater to the customer’s needs.
Amazon does have its own customer service magic like its return policy. Our very own Karin Siccardi was able to return a king-sized mattress and get a new one at no charge just because it wasn’t comfortable. Amazon’s customer service representatives, who can be reached over the phone, are top-notch as well and of course, Amazon.com offers some of the cheapest prices in tons of categories.
What’s missing, however? Face-to-face assistance. Human interaction. That personal touch. Keyword searches and algorithms can only go so far in determining the needs of customers, so far. Also, actually being in a store, customers are able to try on a product before buying it. Making sure something fits right, looks good, feels good, and doesn’t make your butt look too big is an important part of the buying process that online shopping will never be able to approach.
And that’s just what Nordstrom is hoping to continue doing with its local store while still providing its noteworthy apparel. Were Nordstrom to just go 100% online, they would risk fading into the darkness and potentially even eventually closing because they didn’t get creative. Instead, they are reinventing themselves in order to maintain the backbone of their brand: customer experience.
Nordstrom’s way of competing with the online marketplace, while keeping that Nordstrom Experience, is by keeping their core competency of building lasting relationships with its customers through a very personal, face-to-face customer experience and providing those customers with services that many online retailers may not have in focus.
Here’s what the Nordstrom’s senior vice president of customer experience, Shea Jensen, who led the local initiative, says about it in their press release:
“As the retail landscape continues to transform at an unprecedented pace, the one thing we know that remains constant is that customers continue to value great service, speed, and convenience. We know there are more and more demands on a customer’s time and we wanted to offer our best services in a convenient location to meet their shopping needs. Finding new ways to engage with customers on their terms is more important to us now than ever.”
Oh boy, we like that last line particularly: “Finding new ways to engage with customers on their terms is more important to us now than ever.”
This isn’t a concept unique to Nordstrom, but one that can be applied to any and every business. We’ve said it before: For a business to continually succeed it must stay ahead of its competitiors by reinventing itself, forging new paths. If it doesn’t, it risks falling behind and fading away.
What are you doing to get ahead of your competitors and remain valuable in your marketplace?