To many people, Neiman Marcus still evokes the luxury retail clichés, like its $31,000 crocodile handbags, $600 moisturizers or over-the-top his-and-her holiday gifts. But to core fans, Neiman Marcus’ digital strategies are as cutting-edge as its fashion collections: Precise, personal and unexpected.
In recent months, the Dallas-based retailer has begun testing smart “memory mirrors,” large iPad-controlled screens that allow shoppers to photograph outfits they’ve tried on, comparing themselves in one outfit versus another (as well as emailing friends for reactions.) And it launched "Snap. Find. Shop.," an app that lets users photograph shoes or a handbag they covet, and then tracks it down. CMO Wanda Gierhart tells Marketing Daily about the retailer’s goal of making shopping easier and more exciting.
Q. Most people wouldn’t describe the typical Neiman-Marcus shopper as much of a tech geek. Can you explain her interest?
A. I don’t look at tech as geeky. Our customer is extremely high-end, and she travels the world. She is in her late 40s, with a household income that’s upwards of $250,000, and she is very busy. So we are always taking it back to her — if there is something that is going to enable us to make it easier or more convenient for her to find what she wants, then that’s a plus.
Q. What’s the most important tech-driven type of marketing you do?
A. We’re on a mission for personalization. So we send email recommendations based on her past history and algorithms. It might be suggesting something that might go well with an item she has already purchased or something new. It makes her shopping experience easier and more relevant. We should be her editor and her eye.
The "Snap. Find. Shop." app is an example. Macy’s has since introduced something similar, but you need to type in words. Our app is purely visual — if she sees shoes she likes while she’s at a restaurant, she can take a picture and it will search our entire inventory, to either find the exact item or something similar. The memory mirror is also an example of technology that is a marketing touchpoint.
We feel like all these interactions should be as good as having a relationship with one of our sales associates. It all goes back to what our customers think is important: She is crazy about fashion. And she loves service and an edited point of view.
Q. Given her digital passions, have you shifted marketing away from print?
A. We don’t think print is dead. We are in print magazines, as well as on all the websites she browses for fashion inspiration. She keeps up with trends, whether it’s watching fashion shows online or reading Women’s Wear Daily. Catalogs are still very important. We publish eight a year, and our customers tell us they proudly display them on their coffee tables.
Q. What are her social media preferences?
A. Because she is so visual, Instagram is one of her favorite places, and Pinterest is growing tremendously. Twitter is not as strong, and Facebook has leveled off.
Q. How important is shopping the physical store to her, as opposed to browsing online?
A. Our core customers probably come in three to four times a year, but many come in as often as once a month.
Q. What’s next?
A. We have push notifications, and we will soon be launching geo-fenced alerts that will highlight new arrivals when she is in the store.