NRF 2017: How Neiman Marcus Aims To Combine Data With Store Associate Insights

We're entering an era in which relationship management matters more than targeting, argued Neiman Marcus' Jeff Rosenfeld — and data can bolster those one-to-one interactions.

Recent brick-and-mortar store closings were naturally top of mind at the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” — but in a panel entitled “Data: The new currency for retail marketers,” execs from Neiman Marcus and Home Depot brought to the table strategies for transforming retail’s physical footprint from a liability into an asset.

It’s not a secret that many traditional department stores like Macy’s are physically overextended, at least when viewed in light of how customers now divide their shopping time between mobile, desktop, and in-store visits. But with over 90 percent of purchases still taking place in stores, and a slight uptick in in-store shopping during key holiday periods, there is still a place for physical retail — if the right revamped balance can be struck.

As such, the upscale Neiman Marcus, with its 42 locations across the U.S., might in some ways offer a model for bridging the digital and the physical in a comparatively smaller number of stores dedicated to an enhanced consumer experience.

Giving Data A Human Touch

Data drives the creation of individualized, one-to-one shopper experiences across devices and in person. But Jeff Rosenfeld, Neiman Marcus’ VP of customer insights and analytics, started the conversation elsewhere: with the human element.

“Before [incorporating] the data piece, I like to think about just the personalization piece. We have great sales associates in store, and I actually think they’re a great analogy for the process of personalization,” Rosenfeld said. “They’re going to observe what the customer is doing, they’re going to listen to what they’re saying, and listen to their preferences.

“To really develop the [consumer] relationship over time, they’re going to remember information about that customer, so each experience isn’t a new experience, but a continuation of that journey,” he continued. “[The connection] starts there, and only then can we translate that to the data piece, and what that can add to the conversation.”

The next step for retailers, he suggested, is to combine the “memory” of online and placed-based data — e.g. where a shopper went or what they clicked on — with the humanity and skill of a trained retail associate.

“I think this is where I’m most excited about seeing the advances in the technology — how do we combine that data and tease out a little bit of the strength of what a sales associates would [naturally] notice,” Rosenfeld added.

This might mean equipping all sales associates with tablets or smart devices, so that they can more easily make personal recommendations based on data about a shopper’s concrete patters. It also means prioritizing mobile communication with consumers that focuses on a long term dialogue, rather than real-time offers, notifications, or even ads.

“I think the next frontier is asking, how do we not just manage for what we think the customer is going to do now — even if we can customize and send that message — but really think about the optimal mix of things to send her over a length of time,” Rosenfeld said. “Right now, I think there are not a lot of folks out there doing that very well. So, we’re starting on that journey.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.