Neiman Marcus to be completely mobile by fall: senior exec

NEW YORK - Neiman Marcus will be completely mobile by fall as part of its multichannel contact strategy to drive long-term growth, according to the company?s top executive who keynoted the Luxury Interactive 2010 Conference.

During a keynote at the Luxury Branding Conference, the company addressed three key parts of its multichannel integration. The mobile site will let consumers buy designer products via their handsets.

?We will be completely mobile by August with any type of mobile device,? said Gerald Barnes, president/CEO of Neiman Marcus Direct, Irving, TX. ?We currently have an app for Bergdorf Goodman, which is widely viewed with 30,000 viewers each day.

?We?re also upgrading that,? he said. ?It?s one shoe a day and we want to keep it that way. It?s fun, you get to click on it and see what crazy shoe we have there.

?By August, you?ll be able to see the entire shoe salon.?

Neiman Marcus is a luxury department store known for its elegance and customer service.

Mobile endeavors
According to Mr. Barnes, Neiman Marcus will also release a new application in the fall.

The company is looking at social media and better ways to use search.

Mr. Barnes is surprised that the industry is not further along in accomplishing its task of multichannel integration. He claims that it is critically important because it offers a long-term advantage and sustainable sales and profit growth.

The company is looking at mobile devices as a longer term higher tech solution and something that will be comfortable to its consumers.

?I think that the customer considers branded stores as different entities and they go to them for different reasons at different times,? Mr. Barnes said. ?Mobile devices [can] make everyone familiar with the brand.

?I think we?ve got to think of ideas to reward the sales associate, give them some kind of reward that?s based on their performance,? he said. ?[Imagine] a customer sitting in our store with an iPad or mobile device, where they can order and the sales associate can get commission for.

?I think there are some technologies that are not working perfectly and we have to think about how we can get around these things.?

Shoe app
In February, the company entered mobile commerce with its Bergdorf Goodman iPhone shoe application.

The application offers 24-hour access to the season?s must-have shoes.

When customers access the application they can view the featured shoe of the day, as well as the name of the designer, name of the shoe, description, size, price and the amount of time left to buy it (see story).

Online integration is another important aspect to Neiman?s multichannel strategy.

The company entered into the dot.com boom with little thought on how it would affect the customer and as technology is evolving, so is the company?s view on the Internet.

?Online should be seen as a rule,? Mr. Barnes said. ?No longer does a sales associate have to wait for a [customer] to walk in, now the sales associate can go online with the customer.

?We have new features on the site, which is a tremendous tool to further connect the customer to your brand,? he said.

The customer is always right
Additionally, collecting customer information is key.

Neiman is looking at online behavior, disruptive purchase patterns and looking at the future of the company to see how many consumers download its application or click on its mobile site link.

According to Mr. Barnes, the company cannot operate online and brick-and-mortar channels as separate businesses ? it needs to be cornerstone of a multichannel contact effort.

?Even if you do have a great contact strategy, it doesn?t matter if your customer is disappointed with your lack of multichannel integration,? Mr. Barnes said. ?Multichannel integration is key to prove that we?re customer-centric, 21st century luxury retailers.

?When you think about the customer, the customer just really expects you to get the merchandise from wherever the merchandise comes from,? he said. ?You need to be able to move back and forth between your own channels.?

Multichannel integration is about 17-18 percent of total company sales.

Neiman?s sees different penetrations by category and by brand.

In addition, the company has seen a pattern that on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the majority of consumers shop online, while on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, customers shop in-store.

Neiman also sends out emails to customers who opt-in.

?We email at least once a day,? Mr. Barnes said. ?We have over 2 million email addresses.?

The company is looking at making technology more available to consumers.

?There are a lot of customers who have iPads and there are a lot that don?t,? Mr. Barnes said. ?I think there?s a lot [to do] to make your store more technologically interesting for the customer.?