Scott Emmons, Head of the Innovation Lab at Neiman Marcus, shares how the luxury brand is implementing new in-store technologies to empower and delight the experience-driven consumer.
Scott Emmons is interviewed by CX Factor host and CEO of Fanatics Media, Mark Fidelman, with additional questions from CX influencer Denise Lee Yohn, Best-Selling Author of “What Great Brands Do”.
Mark Fidelman: Welcome to CX Factor, the Oracle sponsored series that features executives from top brands delivering insights on creating the most engaging, effective customer experiences.
On this edition of Oracle sponsored CX Factor, I travel to Fort Worth to meet Scott Emmons, Head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, to discuss how the company’s infusing physical locations with digital technologies to create a whole new kind of retail shopping experience.
Scott, how do you define the customer experience here at Neiman Marcus?
Scott Emmons: You know, we’ve spent lots of years building that experience. It’s a high-touch experience of our customers. The environment that we create in our stores is part of that. The textures, and the art, and of course, the merchandise that we carry are all important components of it. Then, our sales associate team is our secret sauce and our secret weapon to winning customers over and keeping them coming back.
Mark Fidelman: Tony Robbins has said that companies need to create raving fans. In your case, more like customers. Can you give me some examples of Neiman Marcus creating raving fans?
Scott Emmons: I think the key to the answer is already is baked into that question, that is, put the customer first. That’s how you turn a customer into a raving fan. If I’m always thinking about her first, then I’m doing retail right. When I think about my own piece of this, the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, that’s in our mission statement. Deliver technology that solves real problems for our customers.
Mark Fidelman: Is there anything specific, like, one little program that you do to create that raving fan, and make them fall in love with you? I know they’re out there. My wife is one of them.
Scott Emmons: We were one of the first, if not the first, retailer to have a loyalty program. I think that’s a piece of it, that not only do you get this great shopping experience, but by shopping here, you get amazing benefits and rewards for doing it. I think that’s the first thing that comes to mind.
Mark Fidelman: How do you deliver customer experience as a luxury brand? How is it different than, say, some other brand that’s not in a luxury space?
Scott Emmons: In the luxury world, we are trying to create a whole experience around that shopping journey, and we try to encourage discovery and exploration throughout the store and maybe into areas that you hadn’t thought about before.
Mark Fidelman: Is it just what’s around us, what we can see, or are there other things behind the scenes that you’re doing to create that luxury experience?
Scott Emmons: If we think about how the sales associates approach you, and their ability to be in contact with you even when you’re not in store, if you want that – it’s the continuation of building that omni-experience with our digital channels as well, so that Neiman Marcus product and Neiman Marcus know-how is available to you, no matter where you are. At home, traveling, whatever. The Neiman Marcus team’s available to help solve problems for you and to help get merchandise into your hands, the merchandise you need for the event or whatever it is that you’re shopping for.
Mark Fidelman: You also have these mobile experiences, right, where you can use mobile technology to work behind the scenes?
Scott Emmons: That’s rolled out across the Neiman Marcus organization. Every sales associate has an iPhone, and on that iPhone is this amazing app that we’ve built for them that lets them know everything they need to know about their customer and answer any question that their customers might have for them. That app has got their back.
Mark Fidelman: What are some of the things that you do to empower those sales associates to be more effective in terms of customer experience?
Scott Emmons: When I’m thinking about my technology projects, right after I think, “Does it solve something for the customer?” I also have to think, “Is it helpful for the sales associate as well?” If I introduce technology that gets in the sales associate’s way, and introduces any kind of new friction into her interaction with the customer, my technology’s going to probably end up in a corner with a sheet over it. Right? I do have to take careful consideration when I’m delivering technology, that I’m delivering technology that is useful for the sales associate.
Mark Fidelman: When you’re rolling out these programs, and you have rolled out a lot, especially in the store, how are you measuring the efficacy of these programs? I assume it’s not a straight ROI.
Scott Emmons: That is the trick. That’s one of the pieces that makes heading the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab a job. I do a lot of things that are just fun. Trying to figure out ROI on some of the technology projects can be difficult to do. We RFID tag these shoes here in the ladies’ shoe department to help the store make sure that all the shoes that we have for sale are actually out and on the floor. It was very easy to go prove ROI on that. Before, there was always a percentage of shoes that weren’t out on the floor.
With the RFID tags we were much nearer to 100% of everything that was available for sale was out on the floor. We could measure the difference in the lift of the sales by and prove that project paid for itself very easily. If you take a look at the fashion memory mirror, that’s an example of when it’s difficult to prove ROI, as I would have to be able to figure out what things you were actually trying on in the mirror, and tie those back to our sales transactional logs.
Mark Fidelman: You introduced a lot of technologies into the store, and a lot of things going on behind the scenes. What are some of those outcomes?
Scott Emmons: We see customers surprised and delighted by the experiences that have been enabled by a technology that we brought into the store. We can take examples of things like the charging stations for phones, where we’re allowing customers to keep their phone charged and stay in the store longer.
As an example, we are just starting down the path of doing digital directories to help the customer find the things she needs in the store faster and to be aware of promotions and events that are going on in the store. Those are all examples of things that we’ve managed to accomplish in just a short amount of time with technology.
Mark Fidelman: Now I have a question for you, Scott, from Denise Lee Yohn. She is the author of the book “What Great Brands Do“.
Denise Lee Yohn: Hi, Scott. Department stores seem to be on the decline and luxury or upscale department stores seem particularly challenged to appeal to younger, high income customers who seem to be more interested in spending their money on experiences than products. How are you creating a customer experience that promotes and actually leverages what a brand like Neiman Marcus uniquely has to offer?
Scott Emmons: Thank you, Denise. As I look around the store that I’m sitting in today, we, I think, designed the answer to your question into the store. We have that core customer, the one that expects the traditional Neiman Marcus experience, and we are delivering that at this store for sure. But, with the help of beautiful textures, and art, and all the new technology that we got to do in the store, I think that we are trying to also speak to the younger customer that is looking for experiences, and is looking for a shopping experience that is about discovery, as we build new stores and think about how we deliver an experience in-store.
Watch more interviews with Mark Fidelman and leading brands:
- Vitamix Cultivates a CX Culture Through Raving Fans
- Clorox: How the CPG Company Gets Closer to the Customer
- Mastercard Harnesses Data as a Customer Experience Differentiator
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