The retail sector probably took the hardest hit over the last few years, with its constant attempts to adjust to the newest, relevant, and effective in giving shoppers the services and products they want. A focus on how it looks instead of what it does for the shopper is a highly shortsighted perspective of the relationship between seller and buyer. Nordstrom, among the rare companies who have been operating since 1901 and with the original family owner still involved in the business, might be the first retailer to realize this, as can be seen in its decision to launch Nordstrom Local, its first store that won’t sell clothes.
In retail, the container is often mistaken for the content (pun intended), and the only way to escape this problem for a retailer is to think like a software company. meaning, accepting that the market is constantly changing and shifting focus to the company’s mission. The former should force retailers to reevaluate the tools in their disposal so as to minimize expenditures and avoid exclusive investment in any technological or other sorts of platform. The latter redirects all company efforts to the emotion their mission has promised the customer.
Nordstrom Local, the latest of the luxury retailer’s ideas as it tinkers with new ways to deliver, guarantees an in-store bar with wine, beer, coffee, and juices; eight fitting rooms; alterations; comfortable merchandise pick-ups and returns; manicures; and expert image consulting tips from its incredible personal stylists. Instead of a point of sale, the Local strives to be a physical representation of the Nordstrom brand, creating top of the line customer experiences that can be completed with buys through any of the retailer’s other channels. That’s how Nordstrom interprets modern fabulousness, and that’s what it will deliver via the Local.
This new format for retail will create more personalized visits with less friction—shorter waiting time, lower return rate, and less frustration on returns and pick-ups in general. In short, it is designed to eliminate multiple shopper pain points and meanwhile provide the retailer with information on tastes, lifestyles, and specific behavior—all of which will lead to improvement of products stocked in its other stores, as well as overall customer experience with the Nordstrom brand. The Local store will build on data collected from Nordstrom’s website and mobile apps (quantitative) additionally actual face-to-face contact via its styling experts (qualitative) while at the same time ensuring that providing for specific needs is achieved through expert advice. Nordstrom Local will be contributing to customer loyalty as the retailer will be reinforcing a key performance metric, the customer’s “intent to return.” Additional information (quantitative and qualitative) will help formalize smarter inventory and processes. It also encourages further innovation in ways of engagement and delivery.
Nordstrom’s mission is to “provide a fabulous customer experience by empowering customers and the employees who serve them.” This huge, Seattle-based retailer has gone through its fair share of problems, including large labor disputes in the 1990s. It was at that all-important point that its leadership refreshed the company’s mission to focus on a culture of companionship, respect, and personal growth, ushering in a time of employee satisfaction and consequently, astounding growth of its customer base all through the early 2000s.
With its mission and now its new concept store, Nordstrom is asking the question: “Who wants to feel fabulous?” old school retailing is based on easier questions. These questions are great examples of older ways of retailing. They may also wrongly represent a business as a whole when in practice they give only partial answers:
“Who needs clothing?” decides the geographic location of a clothing store.
“Who wants clothing?” decides market positioning, customer age etc.
“What type of clothing do you want?” connects the retailer to ways of life that will eventually become obsolete, as is happening with formal corporate attire. With casual Fridays leading to more open office environments, casual dress is now adjusting itself to a moderate form of athleisure. One has not entirely replaced the other, but a shift is going on.
When companies follow one of these product or service questions too closely, they guarantee failure. When they focus on a certain emotion to deliver, they catalyze their own development. Think about Amazon, that delivers instant gratification, or Apple, that delivers temptation.
Retailers after the next technological platform or alternative retail format need to remember that the change to value creation is delivered is real and deeply rooted in human psyche. Each retailer needs a clear mission statement that both directs it now and eases it into the future. Emotions are at the core of human nature and should be the only factor in what a business should do next.
To put in simply, if Nordstrom intends to keep its promise to deliver fabulousness, it will be around for many years. Let’s stop thinking about the container (is it a department store, an e-commerce site, an omnichannel retailer?) and let’s instead think on the content. That’s what the retail market is about.