One-on-One with Nordstrom: How They’re Prepping for the Holiday Rush

GroundTruth’s VP of Retail and Restaurant, Alicia DiStefano, sat down with Nordstrom’s Director of Marketing Analytics, Jake Bradbury, to discuss retail during the busy holiday season. In this podcast, they dive into how technology has bridged the gap from the broad reach of traditional media to a personalized touch with customers across all stages of the shopping funnel. From a regional or store level to a customer’s experience on their mobile device, technology is proving its value by creating a tailored and frictionless experience for the customer. Listen as Alicia and Jake discuss media mixes, consumer trends, and the role that location plays in optimizing a brand’s personalization strategy.


Lauren: Hello. My name is Lauren Arcady and I am Momentum’s Business Development Lead. It is with my great pleasure to be here today with Alicia DiStefano and Jake Bradbury for an interactive conversation. Alicia and Jake, welcome.

Alicia is the VP Head of Sales, Retail and Restaurant at GroundTruth. GroundTruth is the leading location platform that leverages data and insights to drive business performance. Using its proprietary Blueprints technology, GroundTruth is able to learn about mobile users and reach them at the right place at the right time. Ultimately helping companies inform their marketing decisions, increase sales, and grow their business. Through its rich data foundation, GroundTruth sees two out of three smartphone users in the U.S. and more than 30 billion physical visits annually across 21 countries globally. She is running the verticalized Team for the Sales and Retail and Restaurant, and she’s been with GroundTruth for over 5 years now.

Jake Bradbury is the Director of Marketing Analytics for Nordstrom. He supports analysts, data scientists, and BI engineers providing business intelligence, customer analytics and marketing measurements to Nordstrom’s Online Channel Marketing Organization. Prior to joining Nordstrom, Jake worked for Nielsen’s Custom Marketing Analytics Team to deliver marketing mix model and measurements to different brand clients. He has an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Puget Sound, and an MBA from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management. I’ll now hand it over to you, Alicia.

Alicia: Thanks Lauren. Hi Jake, so great to be on with you today, I appreciate your time. I’m really excited to talk about leveraging location and the holiday strategy. I cannot believe next week is October and we’re already approaching the holiday season.

Jake: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Those are all subjects that are near and dear to my heart, so I am excited to chat too.

Alicia: Yeah, super excited and I am a fan of Nordstrom Avid Shopper, so this is definitely a brand near and dear to my heart. And of course, during the holiday season who can’t enjoy shopping all season long, so we kind of love to start off with the different trends in marketing strategies that you’ve started noticing for this upcoming holiday season.

Jake: I think for Nordstrom some of the big trends are – well maybe it’s not necessarily a new trend but a continuation of what we’re trying to do around personalization of marketing. We want to deliver a marketing experience that says to our customers that Nordstrom knows me, and we really see that as one of the things that is a differentiator for us if we’re able to do that well. So, one of the big areas that we’re going to be pushing and leveraging this year for the holiday season is we have re-launched our loyalty program under the new Nordy Club name and I think it’s overall a great program but it’s wonderful for personalization because when people are part of the loyalty program it allows us to have a more personal interaction with the customer. The customer has given us permission to know who they are and know more information about them, and then that allows us to tailor our marketing experiences for that customer. So, that’s something that as a company that sells both online and offline being able to know that customer’s behavior whether they’re in the store or buying on our website that’s really important. That’s something that – now that we’ve re-launched this program in the last couple of weeks we’re really going to lean into it during our holiday season.

Alicia: Yeah, that’s exciting. I feel like you know the biggest trend I’m hearing is all about convenience and personalization and kind of how do you marry the two for people where we know you know no one has enough time for anything and everyone is always on the go, and I think Nordstrom does a great job of combining the two to make it – so that when I go in there I know exactly where I can find what I like, and then I can get out and it’s just an overall great experience and same thing on the e-commerce experience.

Jake: Great. That’s what we love this year.

Alicia: Go ahead.

Jake: I am just going to say that’s what we love to hear about. That’s our goal. That’s what we strive for, so it’s great when a customer tells us we’ve connected the dots for them.

Alicia: Perfect, and this is kind of funny, when we started approaching this topic, I was like, “well I am like an avid customer online and in stores, so this should be an easy conversation.” So, I think what also could be super helpful and interesting is when retailers are thinking about their marketing mix, what all else should there be included, what’s important, in general, and then also going into the holiday season where you know everyone is just over-saturating all of the marketing opportunities and media opportunities available?

Jake: Yeah. So, I think the marketing mix question gets to be really interesting, especially during the holiday season. So, in general when we talk about personalization we want to be doing more and more personalized marketing, and that gets to this idea of one-to-one marketing and just the highly targeted marketing. One thing about the holiday season is that go because for retail and apparel retailers, the market opportunity grows so much during that time that, that’s one of the times of the year where we’re able to maybe expand some of the broadcast media. So, think about your magazines and your print opportunities. And you know, yes, sure your cost per rating point and your cost per impression increase during that fourth quarter, but you are applying that cost to – you’re leveraging that against a much bigger market, and so in terms of ROI it often doesn’t still make sense to heavy up in those time periods. So, that’s kind of how I think of the marketing mix during the holiday period. Obviously, we still want to be doing personalization, still want to be driving that customer experience, and then in terms of the broadcast media we can move away to some of the addressable TV that’s great, but then we do need to supplement it with broadcast media during the holiday season.

Alicia:  Excellent. So, like those tried and true marketing opportunities still work and are still relevant, even personally again like the catalogs, and just like the holiday catalog, and the look books, and things like that that I think kind of help tell the story of Nordstrom and what’s available, and you see it on a model in a magazine you bend the page down and you’re like, “All right. This is what I want for a gift,” or “This is what I’m going to go buy myself for a holiday event or a holiday party.”

Jake: Yeah, I mean that’s a great way – you know talking about catalogs and look books, that’s another great way to think about it in terms of for the holiday you know sometimes some people will say, “Oh, the marketing funnel is dead,” but it’s still a useful framework to think about how you communicate with customers and you want to broadly reach potential new customers, get them introduced to the brand, show what some of those brand values are, and then bring them in and be able to really personalize the experience through things like online experiences and as I mentioned in the previous question the loyalty program.

Alicia: Yeah, perfect. So, I think something that we can all agree to whether it’s in marketing or media is everything is changing. The way I think the people shop during the holiday season, the way we approach holiday, when people are buying online versus going into the store. So, is there anything that you can think about that we can learn from last year’s holiday season and just the overall changes in consumer behaviors to kind of prepare for this holiday?

Jake: Yeah. The word that comes to mind is acceleration. It just seems like everything is happening faster. The spike in cyber sales happening really on Thanksgiving Day instead of cyber Monday, and just the turns of inventory and the spikes in traffic they’re just coming in faster and faster this year and I think that’s what we see around all of our big sales. Around our anniversary sale, which happens in the summer, as well, we see that trend of just people come in faster and they know what they want, and they want to be able to buy very quickly.

Alicia: Makes sense. So, I think kind of on that note obviously being a location platform, how has location been adopted into your overall marketing strategy?

Jake: So, Nordstrom is because we’re a brand that has we have some pretty significant regional skews. We do have a nationwide presence, but we do have a larger physical presence on the West Coast and we’re working to expand it into the East Coast. We’ve opened the men’s store in Manhattan, and then next year we’ll be opening the women’s store. We’re really excited about that. But because our strategy is really around having an online and offline experience wherever the customer likes it, we want to be able to leverage a lot of the local marketing and be able to really focus our marketing in the regions around our stores, where customers are really going to have that true Nordstrom experience and be to enabled to shop online or offline. So, you’ve probably seen in the last year, we’ve opened up what are called some of the Nordstrom Local Stores, and so these are stores that don’t carry clothing inventory but they are places where people can go in and meet with the stylist, pick out the clothes and the outfits that they want to wear, and then have those all delivered to their home. And to support that, we’ve got two local stores in the LA area, and to support that we’re really focusing a lot of our marketing efforts and communications around those areas, and I think that that’s one of the big location strategies that we want to continue to lean into in the next couple of years. and we’ll – I think there is a – As a data science and analytics guy, I think there’s a whole slew of an analytics and measurement capabilities that we need to build out around there and working with partners to get location information on customers that we’re targeting, and then to be able to assess how those strategies are impacting the traffic in stores.

Alicia: That makes perfect sense. I think you know kind of a perfect way to sum that up too, is location is part of that personalization, right? To understand where I live, where I go, where I spend my time, you know, the regionalized trends I could imagine are just as important as well. I am based in Atlanta and what is in my Nordstrom stores throughout different seasons of the year should obviously be different than what might be in other location in the west or even a little bit further north. So, all back to that personalization kind of that theme that I’m hearing, that’s just resonating across the board.?

Jake: Yeah, absolutely.

Alicia: Perfect. So, I think this is kind of a great quick sum up of preparing for the holiday season and Nordstrom is obviously a brand near and dear to my heart, and I think the way you’re approaching the holiday season and the different media mixes to really understand the customers, personalize it, and then have that convenience factor, whether it’s in store or online, you know presents a really great opportunity for other retailers to potentially learn and maybe mimic a little?

Jake: Well, thank you very much. I guess that would be the sincerest form of flattery.

Alicia: [Laughs] Right.  Yeah, great. Well, I really appreciate your time Jake and I hope Nordstrom has an amazing holiday season.

Jake: Thank you so much and I hope you have an amazing holiday season with lots of great shopping experiences.

Alicia: Can’t wait.

Lauren: Well, I would like to thank you both for joining us here today Alicia and Jake, and I would also like to thank you all for listening. To hear more from the GroundTruth and their peers, please join us at the Customer Experience Technology Summit on October 18th in Chicago. Thanks again and have a great rest of the day.