Nordstrom’s superior customer engagement has always been a hallmark of the brand. But COVID, and subsequent demand for online experiences, spurred the retailer to rapidly dial up their digital options. And while the pandemic-related pivot taught Nordstrom a lot about reaching consumers online, it was also a valuable lesson in how quickly shopping habits can change—and why it’s critical to adapt and connect with consumers where they want to be.
“As our customer evolves, so do our services and the experiences we want to offer them,” says Debbi Hartley-Triesch, Nordstrom Executive Vice President and General Merchandise Manager for Beauty, Accessories, and Home. “We do believe offering both virtual and in-person events allows us to serve customers when, where, and how they want to shop.”
Successfully serving customers requires talking to them regularly about their shopping preferences—and being able to efficiently incorporate that feedback. “We work hard to listen to our customers’ needs and strive to evolve our in-store and digital experiences based on what they say,” says Autumne West, Nordstrom’s Beauty Director. “We’re fortunate that our customers are vocal and willing to share what they like and the ways they think we can improve these experiences.”
For example, Nordstrom has a team of online beauty experts that provide the same level of product guidance as their in-store counterparts. The retailer launched online shopping channel NLive in 2021 to provide customers a virtual version of in-store meet and greets that allow them to shop products in real-time and interact with experts and brand founders, like makeup artist Gucci Westman or brow guru Anastasia Soare.
“Livestream shopping is an evolution in Nordstrom’s remote-selling capabilities, and it gives our customer access to Nordstrom employees and brand partners, as well as experts in the beauty category,” says Hartley-Triesch. “Livestream shopping also enables us to create interactive and engaging discovery, along with real-time shopping that allows for personalization and service at scale.”
Similar to in-person trunk shows or meet and greets, NLive events require RSVPs (at nordstromrsvp.com/nlive), and there are incentives for those who sign up early, like the chance to win product bundles. This October, NLive beauty events include a holiday makeup event with the Charlotte Tilbury team and a skincare session with Dr. Elena Jones, chief dermatologist for Humanrace.
The Nordstrom team has also learned that it’s important to today’s customers that they can easily toggle back and forth between engagement options. “Our customers are shopping across channels, in-store and online, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, and with our Closer to You customer strategy we’re focused on making that a seamless experience,” says Hartley-Triesch. “We like to give them choices on how to shop with us and we let them pick what works for them. Sometimes that is speed and convenience and other times it’s a high-touch moment with great service during an event. The best metric we can measure for success is happy customers that return to shop with us.”
West has seen lots of overlap in how shoppers are choosing to connect with Nordstrom. “I’ve found a number of customers who like to engage with us in both channels,” she says. “For example, someone may join us during an Instagram Live, where they learn about a brand and can ask questions, and then they will go into a store later for an in-person experience. And we’ll often see customer comments in our virtual event chats that say things like ‘My salesperson was just telling me about this item in-store the other day’ or ‘I am heading to Nordstrom right after this.’”
Understanding that customers want multiple ways to engage is also influencing how Hartley-Triesch and her team approach planning Nordstrom’s legacy events. For instance, Beauty Trend Week, which highlights the latest styles and products in the fall and spring, has traditionally been a series of in-person experiences. But this October, Trend Week, which kicked off October 15, can be found “across all stores and online through various marketing channels and platforms including, email, online assets, social, etc.,” says Hartley-Triesch. “We engage customers, along with our best brand partners, for experiences that include private masterclasses, artistry events, founder appearances and trunk shows, NLive digital events, and deals and unique offers that are available just for that week.”
“Our in-store team of beauty experts are the ones who help bring Trend Week events to life and make them so successful, but we also now think about our customers who engage with us digitally and how we can create meaningful experiences for them,” adds West. “That includes an increased number of Instagram Lives to capture our social audience and sending an exclusive experiential kit to consumers so they can follow along at home during a brand’s NLive beauty trend event. It helps bring that in-store, tangible experience to their doorstep.”
Nordstrom Beauty Instagram followers (handle: @nordstrombeauty) will have the opportunity to tune into Instagram Live events co-hosted by West and an assortment of brand partners during Beauty Trend Week, as well as get a sneak peek at the Beauty Trend Show in the NYC Flagship store on October 19.
“The Live Trend Show, viewable at select stores in our major markets, is like a fashion show but focused on beauty with guest speakers, a DJ, models, and giveaways,” says Hartley-Triesch. “Approximately 500 customers attend the show before they go to their brand of choice for a personalized makeup, fragrance or skincare appointment.”
Finally, Nordstrom’s commitment to reaching customers on multiple platforms is also translating into helping them navigate unmet needs—like what to do with all those beauty empties. “I genuinely love all of our beauty programs and events, but I am most proud of the BEAUTYCYCLE program that launched in 2020,” says West. “We are working towards a zero-waste beauty routine by reducing hard-to-recycle packaging. And with the help of our customers, who can bring in any beauty empties, from any retailer, we’ve already recycled 50 tons,” says West.
The BEAUTYCYLE service is currently available at all Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and Nordstrom Local locations, and “you can walk into any of our store locations with empty beauty jars, bottles, and tubes, and we will help recycle it,” says Hartley-Triesch. “As a company, we believe the impact we have on our employees, customers, and communities extends well beyond our operations. We know that it’s important to protect the environment and give back to the communities we serve. And not only is this a Nordstrom value, we believe it aligns with our customers as well.”
And aligning with consumers is Nordstrom’s goal today—and tomorrow. “Our commitment to serving the customer has never changed. What has changed is the interconnectivity between stores and digital,” says Hartley-Triesch. “And now we know it’s critical to deliver great service in both areas and to continue to improve upon our customer experience.”