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Neiman Marcus exec says data recreates the in-store relationship online

LOST PINES, TX – It has become easier to collect data on consumers since individuals leave a trail wherever they go, but figuring out how to analyze and use the information can be daunting, according to a panel April 24 at the iProspect Client Summit.

However, if a brand can mine data correctly, it can be used to personalize and enhance the consumer experience while interacting with the brand. This is particularly true of retail, where a consumer expects a level of personalization after beginning a relationship with a store.

“Today we’re the largest omnichannel fashion luxury retailer, but customers are using all sorts of devices and interacting in lots of different ways,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, vice president of customer insight and analytics, the Neiman Marcus Group.

“So the question is how do we use people, data and technology to combine that insight and bring back that relationship so we can know our customer and personalize that experience the same way a top sales associate could speak to their best customer,” he said. “So while a lot of this is really new, it’s using the data to come back to the strength of that relationship in all the touchpoints.”

Loyalty program
Neiman Marcus is more than 100 years old, so the in-store experience was the main data collection in its history, where sales associates would learn about their best customers and be able to provide a tailored experience.

Now the retailer is using data to try to bring the individual attention from in-store to online.

This could mean emails targeted to a specific consumer. For instance, if a woman always buys handbags, Neiman Marcus will send targeted messages containing products that match her purchase patterns.

Anonymous visitors to Neiman Marcus’ ecommerce site can also be targeted through data. As the consumer navigates, suggestions of items that she would like can be presented, much like a sales associate might offer up other options based on what a consumer had selected already from the sales floor.

Neiman Marcus preorder ecommerce
Neiman Marcus ecommerce site

The use of data also goes beyond email for Neiman Marcus, with the retailer examining what sources are bringing consumers to the point of purchase, and then using that data to decide where to spend its media budget and what to show.

Lora Parker, general manager of the U.S. for Amnet group, says that data allows them to reduce media waste, by knowing exactly where to target consumers. She said there is a temptation to go after the big media players, but that that might not necessarily be where the target consumer is, giving the example of a brand trying to reach sports fans on ESPN.

Media comes in handy for Amnet for getting data as well. Ms. Parker said the digital media buying agency looks to publishers for subscriber data, and worked with the Guardian to identify affluent luxury consumers online.

Sifting through data
Arthur Marcoviciu, digital marketing supervisor for Staples Canada, mentioned that it is more important to track data across the consumer purchase path rather than keeping data in separate silos. In order to do anything active with the data,

With the sheer amount of data available, it is best to begin diving into analyzing it with a clear objective in mind, said Neiman Marcus’ Mr. Rosenfeld.

One of the ways that data is being used is in programmatic ad buys, where ad space is bid on in real-time. This could be detrimental for a brand if they end up on a page with content that does not fit their brand image, said Robert Alfano, Prudential Financial’s director of search marketing.

Data driven
Big Data tends to be regarded as a treasure chest crammed with latent sales, which can lure brands away from the benefits of traditional storytelling, according to panelists at a session March 26 at ad:tech San Francisco 2014.

During “The Myth of Big Data” session, speakers sought to clarify the foggy reverence that often surrounds the concept. Rather than viewing traditional storytelling and Big Data as divided methods that achieve the same result, the session emphasized that the two are much stronger together than apart (see story).

Mr. Rosenfeld said that Neiman Marcus will work to integrate more personalization into its recently launched mobile application.

Neiman Marcus released an iOS mobile application that blends content and commerce to promote interaction with consumers on-the-go.

In addition to shopping features, Neiman Marcus’ NM app houses the retailer’s blog and Instagram feed. This separates the retailer from many of its competitors whose mobile apps serve only as commerce platforms (see story).

While data might not be as important in some sectors, data is imperative to a retailer’s marketing implementation.

“I think if data went away, it would have a very material impact on our business,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “We use it a lot in quite a number of ways.”

Final Take
Sarah Jones, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York