I was in a department store over the weekend and left empty-handed. I couldn’t find anything and eventually opted to go online instead. Writing about “the new luxury landscape” a few days earlier, I learned a lot about Neiman Marcus’ dedication to omnichannel. And I couldn’t stop thinking about that app and how much better my shopping experience would be with one just like it.
In the age of ecommerce, the mall is increasingly becoming an endangered species. Analysts have predicted that 25% of them could be out of business by 2022. Macy’s, JCPenney and Kmart are shuttering locations, while Sears tops USA TODAY‘s retail death watch list. Neiman Marcus, on the other hand, had two positive quarters in a row, citing the brand’s digital-first strategy as the catalyst for the turnaround.
In a way, Neiman Marcus’ app epitomizes that digital strategy, focusing more on where their customers are (online and offline, often at the same time) rather than where they used to be (the mall). We’ve mentioned some of its features before, but here’s a deeper dive into the app and what retailers can take away from it.
1. Make everything ridiculously easy to find (and re-find)
Department stores are overwhelming. And in many cases, so are their websites, laid out like digital circulars and your eyes don’t even know where to begin. The Neiman Marcus app has a clean layout, without too much going on. The best part is the horizontal list of categories. That saves space on a small smartphone screen and prevents shoppers from having to click “see more.” It doesn’t sound like a big ask, but that doesn’t mean consumers agree. Haven’t you ever X’d out of a YouTube video rather than watch six seconds of an ad?
Once you get off the homepage, the app has a great search function. The infinite amount of products are in very specific categories, ultimately making everything ridiculously to find. You can apply multiple filters at once and save favorites, making everything ridiculously easy to re-find, if need be. Notice that in addition to adding favorites to your cart or emailing them to yourself, you can send them directly to your sales associate. Not “a” sales associate; “your” sales associate. And if you’re a consistent shopper, the search function remembers your size.
2. Utilize your talent
What feels like one million years ago, I worked at Bloomingdale’s. On the first day, the trainer from HR said, “The only thing people can get here that they can’t get somewhere else is you.” We were encouraged to build personal loyalty and create relationships with regulars, who feel like insiders and shop more. Neiman Marcus almost certainly works the same way.
Sales associates are incorporated into the app, making it an omnichannel shopping experience in and of itself. You can find sales associates, and call, email, text or FaceTime them.
Another similarity between sales associates at Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus: They probably have a lot of the same conversations along the lines of, “I’m looking for a shoe I saw but can’t really describe…” With Snap. Find. Shop., consumers can take photos of products they see and image recognition technology serves them up the closest approximations Neiman Marcus has in stock.
I tested the visual search feature to see how well it works. Notice that it doesn’t make any assumptions about what I had in mind. Am I looking for a black T-shirt or V-neck T-shirt? Or both? I like that the search results aren’t so literal.
4. Make it fun
People are very particular about the few apps where they spend the majority of their time. What do the most popular mobile apps have in common? Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat all provide mindless fun.
Neiman Marcus offers that, too, with Flip to Find, where consumers swipe on products, dating app-style. It’s for gifts, purchases where you’re less likely to something in particular in mind. Anything you like goes right into your favorites. And if you want, straight to your sales associate.