Nordstrom Recharges Omnichannel Effort with New Innovation Team

Retailer moves to augment store and digital integration
January 11, 2017David Gill

ThomasGeevyFULLGeevy Thomas
SEATTLE-In a sweeping move to better integrate its stores and digital channels, Nordstrom has formed an innovation team and promoted Geevy Thomas to the new position of chief innovation officer.

Previously president of Nordstrom Rack, Thomas will lead the integration of Nordstrom’s stores with its online and mobile retail operations, in what Erik Nordstrom, the retailer’s co-president, described as “the most forward-looking, customer-centric effort that Nordstrom has taken on to date. Creating a fully separate team will help remove restrictions or boundaries around what’s possible for the innovation team to test and try.”

The move is the latest in a series of changes in Nordstrom’s e-commerce business. In September, Ken Worzel, previously executive vice president of strategy and development, was elevated to president of, in charge of accelerating the retailer’s e-commerce, digital and mobile operations.

Last week, the retailer also announced the departure of its chief technology officer, Kumar Srinivasan, who had been on the job for less than a year. The technology area has been shaken up in other ways over the past year. Last May, according to a story from GeekWire, Nordstrom cut 120 jobs from its technology team and said it planned to lay off a further 400 jobs throughout the company in April. The GeekWire story also said Nordstrom has been spending about $300 million a year on the technology involved in its digital channels. During a conference call to financial analysts after the release of the retailer’s third quarter numbers in November, Erik Nordstrom said this expenditure has started to bear fruit.

“We have a redesigned homepage experience that is performing well,” he said. “We have a store mode in search and browse that is both on our full website and in our app, and that again would be an example of really connecting the online and offline shopping experience. We’ve improved our navigation, had some personalization, small steps that we’re excited about, and a redesign of our order confirmation, order history.

“On the app, in addition to the store mode, we launched visual search,” he said. “We had a separate catalog app we’ve integrated into our main Nordstrom app. We also launched search and messaging within iMessage [Apple’s instant messaging service]. And all these are looking to make the shopping [and customer returns] experience more friction-free.”

The retailer’s efforts have won praise from industry observers. “Going forward, we believe leveraging [Nordstrom’s] unique multichannel approach should benefit the top line, given that multichannel customers spend [three to four times] more than other customers,” according to a research note from Cowen and Co.

Retail futurist Doug Stephens believes Nordstrom’s omnichannel strategy is on track. “Nordstrom has a very good sense of self,” Stephens told Retail Dive. “They understand who they are and what makes them strong ... And they are a company that is in touch with technology. They aren’t afraid to try new things and experiment.”

David GillDavid Gill | Senior Editor

David Gill covers home textiles, small electrics housewares, personal-care products, cleaning products, mattresses, consumer electronics and major appliances. He also reports on retailers and writes about the business and financial side of both vendors and retailers. He has more than 30 years of experience in business journalism, and has worked for other publications and websites that cover consumer products from both the manufacturer and retailer sides. His outside interests include sports (he is a big fan of the New York teams and of British soccer), cooking, movies and theater. He occasionally enjoys a good cigar as well.


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