New York Does Not Need Another Department Store. But It Does Need a Nordstrom.

Such were the words uttered by the Nordstrom brothers on one of television’s quaintest programs – “Sunday Morning” – which airs, yes, every Sunday morning. Its programming is insightful, educational and uplifting, every time.

On December 15, one of the segments opened with a spiffy, quite stylish gentleman standing in front of Nordstrom’s new flagship store in mid-town Manhattan imploring the crowds “C’mon in!  C’mon in!”  Throngs heeded his call.

When is the last time we saw such demand and enthusiasm for a bricks and mortar store in one of the world’s most commercially competitive markets, especially against the backdrop of the recently closed headquarters of Lord & Taylor, Bendels and, saddest of all, the now-shuttered Barneys?
What is the marketing lesson to be learned from a retail store that on October 24, 2019, opened in what it says is its largest market for online sales?

Playing to win

As stated the Nordstrom brothers, it is about “playing to win.”  The New York flagship store honors rather than shirks from its beginnings as a shoe company dating back to 1901 by offering an entire floor of just shoes.  Over 100,000 different pairs of them.  Think of how much real estate is dedicated to shoes.  I am hard-pressed to think of another retailer that devotes that much real estate to one category, not to mention its six other floors chocked full of carefully curated and displayed items.

In working with my clients on business development strategies and tactics, the term “adding value” is a constant mantra.  Value is what clients get minus what they pay for.  It is the sum total of the gestures you offer up, to each one individually, that makes them feel appreciated, important, constantly on-your-mind and cared for by you.  These gestures earn you client loyalty – a quality that is critically important in a disruptive marketplace where relationships are ephemeral, many purchasing transactions are commoditized and sellers often have to battle to earn every new buyer they get.

Nordstrom says its business is built on service, and so it had to offer plenty of [that] in the new store

After seven years of planning and research, New York’s new Nordstrom opened its doors with offerings either not seen in or matched by any other retailer.

Examples include: 
• Seven spots for dining, depending upon mood and tastes, including a martini bar on the shoe floor and a gluten-free donut shop 
• Customer-service reps that deliver your meal to you while you shop
• Fine-dining restaurant that remains open after the store closes for the night with a terrace that overlooks Times Square
• Dedicated, permanent space for Nike brand products 
• Home for brands born on the Internet such as the beverage “Dirty Lemon”

What do any of these amenities have to do with buying your next outfit? To Nordstrom, which describes itself as “customer-obsessed,” the answer is “a lot!”  You can probably buy that same outfit at nordstrom.com, or possibly at other online sources that may even discount it.  But Nordstrom knows that if you feel important, appreciated, understood, pampered and uniquely special every time, its role will not be that of a retailer but, instead, a destination experience that you will choose not to go without . . . “you could spend a whole day there, hopping from one appointment to the next.”

We really take all things back to the customer. That focus helps leaders avoid simply chasing the latest technology or retail trend.

  • In an article entitled “Nordstrom sets the standard for customer experience. Again and again” published by the National Retail Federation, we read the following: 
    “While Nordstrom may be known traditionally for its stores, today that national store infrastructure – and its associates – represent an incredibly valuable advantage that can be leveraged to serve customers however and whenever they like.
  • Wowing customers with exceptional service today takes constant innovation designed to enhance speed and convenience. Nordstrom continuously evaluates feedback from each product or feature launch, which [it] says is the key to staying on top. ‘We’ve learned that as important as delivering a great experience is delivering an experience that your customers want fast. The balance of speed versus perfection becomes important as you’re testing and learning.'”
  • At the top of this post, I asked what the marketing lesson here might be. It is not to sell you on Nordstrom. But, it is to sell you on delighting your clients, connecting with them on an emotional level, and being ever-mindful of their experience in working with you and your firm, and how doing so makes them feel.

Some questions to keep in mind, especially at holiday season when gestures of appreciation and gratitude are at a premium:

• What do you do to “WOW” – to surprise and delight – your clients?
• What do you do that is exceptional and memory-making?
• How would you define the experience you deliver to your clients?
• How would your clients define the experience you deliver to them?
• How do you balance perfection + great customer experience + speed?
• How do you continue to add value once you have “closed the deal?”
• What have clients received from you in the past year that is over and above what they paid for?
• How are you shaping the future of the practice of law at your firm?

I ask you to please think hard about what personal client-focused gestures you have put in place to distinguish yourself and your practice in deference to your clients.  Do your gestures stand out?  Do they differentiate you?  Might you do more?  If so, go for it!