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Nordstrom Email Gets It Right

A little more than two years ago, I wrote an open letter to Banana Republic in this blog. I asked the company to please stop sending me emails for women’s clothing, and instead only send me notices about gear for men. I also hoped for something more meaningful than the constant reminders of items for sale—perhaps “fashion tips and suggestions” for an almost 40-something guy with little sense of style?

Alas, there was no answer to my call, and the company continued to spam me with what even a basic database lookup would confirm as irrelevant. I finally unsubscribed from the email and now I rarely go into a Banana Republic store. But today, dear reader, my belief in the goodness of retail marketers is renewed—as Nordstrom sent me this very meaningful email.

I don’t recall signing up for a Nordstrom email, but when it started arriving in my inbox, I was willing to give it a chance. I was immediately impressed that the company only sent me information about men’s clothing. Shocking, I know, because Nordstrom sells so many other types of items, and virtually every other retailer has failed to discriminate in its approach. Nordstrom’s email made a positive first impression, and I kept the relationship going.

Naturally, upon seeing offers for men like me, I started to open the emails. And today I was blown away to see not just a list of what’s on sale this week, but rather a message that felt like real-life content:

“The Basics of Business Casual” is an interesting topic; many of us struggle a bit to figure out what the best office look is in a world far beyond the suit and tie. And I was so surprised and delighted to see content instead of a sales push that I clicked on the “Men’s Style Guide.” Suddenly, I was at Nordstrom.com and learning about some of the “rules” to look good by. I learned that one should keep at least one button buttoned on a polo shirt, and that plaid works great with no suit or tie required. I know; it’s probably basics to you female readers, but give us guys a break. Some of the suggestions came from actual Nordstrom employees. I could tell because they included their corporate email addresses.

Suddenly, I found a shirt that I liked and discovered a discrete link to purchase it. I then noticed that there was free shipping with a $200 order so I went ahead and picked up a few more items to take advantage of the offer. I checked out with a smile and went back to whatever I was doing before, looking forward to my new clothes and happy that Nordstrom was helping me stay stylish.

Sure, I’m a focus group of one, but a sale is a sale, and meaning is meaning. In the battle for my wallet, Banana Republic loses, and Nordstrom wins. Not just today, but likely for years to come. I imagine this is rippling across quite a few other email inboxes of men like me.

It didn’t take much for Nordstrom to develop this content, just a few suggestions and pages. Just enough to make it feel like they care about how I look, rather than just closing a sale. Interestingly, this “novel” approach happens to come from a company that is well-known for its service. It just goes to show that a meaningful marketing strategy can work everywhere from the retail floor to the Gmail inbox.

This is actually the topic of my 60-second speech in the upcoming Future of Marketing 2 event, which will focus on “Technology-Driven Personalization.” My point is that consumers are increasingly expecting your business to use their data (which they know you have) to make their experience better. Those businesses that choose not to personalize will not only fail to get their email read, but will lose customers for life. And competitors like Nordstrom that respect their customers will pick up the revenue and loyalty.

One Response to “Nordstrom Email Gets It Right”

  1. Mandi says:

    Great example. When did relevance, product placement and creativity become so mutually exclusive?

    I don’t understand how we have all this technology at hand and yet instead of attempting relevant and useful outreach companies continue to send blanket emails.

    Even when they base personalisation on recent purchases, the assumption is not quite right – how many people get recommendations from Amazon based on purchases they made for their kids/parents/next door neighbour’s dog? How much better would it be if I told you I needed to buy something for my kids/parents/next door neighbour’s dog once a year in April and that’s when you sent me those recommendations?

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