As technology advances and customer expectations evolve, stores are faced with two choices: innovate and thrive, or continue business as usual and fade into irrelevance. Presenting to a full room at a recent conference, Scott Emmons, head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, made it clear during his keynote that the retailer would not be passive. Instead, with Emmon’s guidance, Neiman Marcus is making strides to be a role model for the store of the future through forward-thinking technology initiatives. As Scott demonstrated throughout his presentation at the conference, his vision boils down to one key goal; exploring different ways to deliver great customer experiences using new digital methods throughout the retailer’s channels.
While some believe that the storefront is on a path towards extinction, savvy retailers realize that, if utilized correctly, physical stores still have a major role to play in the life of the consumer. For example, at Neiman Marcus’ Fort Worth, Texas store, the retailer has been introducing unique digital features to engage with customers.
For example, one unique offering is buttons in fitting rooms that customers can use to ask for assistance while trying on clothes. These buttons are connected to each employee’s company iPhones that are equipped with an in-house CRM platform to help associates quickly manage and organize fitting rooms by customer. Additionally, Neiman Marcus has installed “memory mirrors” that record eight second videos of a customer in an outfit which customers can review, share via social media and decide if they like what they’re trying on. The concept has successfully expanded to sunglasses and beauty makeovers, to make it easier for shoppers to decide what they truly want to purchase.
Other in-store, customer-centric offerings include digital signage, a platform that allows customers to select the music they hear in the store, as well as cell phone charging stations. While charging stations may not seem like an advanced technology, Neiman Marcus uses the stations as an important opportunity for a marketing touchpoint with customers – asking them to log into their system so they have yet another avenue to find out valuable information about the person.
On the Digital Side
Scott Emmons and the Innovation Lab team recognize that digital initiatives inside and out of the store are essential to creating a superb omnichannel experience. One option available on the Neiman Marcus app allows shoppers to take a picture of an article of clothing they want, and the retailer will find that item or a similar one available for purchase. Also, the Innovation Lab recognized the value of understanding the customer’s context, and has started by investing to upgrade their existing live agent online chat with addition information about customers, including their shopping habits and past interactions. In a move to truly become a leading innovator in retail, with the help of Linc’s Customer Care Automation platform, Emmons and Neiman Marcus invested in voice-assistance platforms to assist customers with “Where Is My Order” inquiries. The brand’s Alexa capabilities are fully operational, with Google Home coming soon.
With a focus on putting the customer in the center of everything he works on, Emmons noted that conversational commerce is important for the future of retail and with these advancements, the retailer has made a good start to what will be a very important part of commerce moving forward.
It’s refreshing to see thought leaders and visionaries like Scott recognize the necessary areas of investment in the retail arena both within the physical storefront and throughout digital channels. While Emmons’ work with the Innovation Lab is providing great technology for Neiman Marcus, these methods and products aren’t an end in themselves. As Scott mentioned at the end of his discussion, it’s not about the store of the future, it’s about the customer of the future. As long as brands focus on the customer and her evolving preferences, the technology and success will fall into place.