The effective melding of Web site and retail store, like the making of custom-fitted haute couture, requires weaving many threads into a cohesive virtual and physical fabric. The seamless stitching of Seattle’s Nordstrom between online and offline, including the launch of new Social Media features this fall, is attracting Web shoppers at both ends of the etail funnel.
While others in the high fashion category have been taking cover during the economic doldrums, Nordstrom has blossomed. The company’s Direct division, which includes its website and catalog, took in $144 million for the first quarter this year, a 38 percent increase from a year ago. and direct sales were up 34 percent in Q2 over last year — nearly triple the growth rate for overall sales.
Inventory control and distribution have been critical. “We understand that if you’re shopping online, and we don’t have it, you’re going to go back to Google and say, ‘Who else has it?’ said Jamie Nordstom who runs Nordstrom Direct. “We have 115 full-line stores out there — chances are one of them has it!”
Just one year ago, the company wove those individual stores’ inventory to the Web site, essentially creating a networked virtual warehouse for online. The percentage of customers who bought merchandise after searching for an item on the site literally doubled on the first day, and the search-and-sale ratio has stayed there. Nordstrom recently began shipping online orders seven days a week.
Highlights include improved navigation and enhanced product pages that simplify the process of finding merchandise in the right size and color, as well as richer content to help the customer make a more informed purchase decision. “The simpler navigation and cleaner look probably was designed with mobile devices in mind,” said marketing professor Mary Ann Odegaard, who directs the Retail Management Program at the UW’s Foster School of Business.
But the biggest makeover for Nordstrom this fall will be in Social Media.
“Conversation” is a new destination for fashion editorials, interactive content, videos as well as a Fashion Forum. “This forum enables customers to share thoughts and ideas directly with us, says spokesperson Colin Johnson, “as well as post, share and rate content (including comments, photos and videos) along with other fans of Nordstrom. Our customers are very vocal and have told us they want a platform where they can talk about fashion, shopping and all things Nordstrom. We’re excited to see where the customer takes this.”
“There is no finish line,” said Jamie Nordstrom, who estimates a couple hundred employees in Seattle focus on the website. “on this. “Every time we launch a new function, the next day we have 10 more ideas. This is what retailing is about for the next 10 years.” [24×7]