Retailers, How to Get the Right Fit with Content

CMO Spotlight: Wanda Gierhart, Neiman Marcus

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In retail, as in marketing, a good fit can make or break a sale. Big spending on big data testifies to this fact, as fine-tuning the customer experience has proven time and time again to draw in more leads and sales. It's no wonder, then, that personalization was a successful part of the content marketing program that earned Neiman Marcus CMO Wanda Gierhart a Content Engagement Award from The CMO Club in late 2015. Her team has built what might be the world's smartest fitting room, and, as you'll see below, I mean this both figuratively and literally.

Content as couture

Wanda Gierhart took a moment to discuss Neiman Marcus's initiatives with me following the CMO Awards and told me that content has always featured among its top marketing priorities -- it's how many customers first interact with its wares, after all. "We invest significant time in telling the story of our products and the trends we see in the marketplace to our customers through our magazine, The Book, our emails and our blog," says Gierhart. As the digital landscape expands, she says they'll continue to explore and seize opportunities to expand into a larger content hub. "We know our customers celebrate their achievements in life with luxury purchase milestones," Gierhart says. "So continuing to educate customers on our amazing brands and their products is essential."

A ready-to-wear experience

Lest you believe that Gierhart and her team would let customers roam the aisles of its products without guidance, they've instituted a program tailored to the needs of each potential purchaser. "Some of our largest successes have been in personalizing product recommendations, personalized search, and email personalization," she says. Her department is currently experimenting with different tactics across platforms, but Gierhart notes that what works well on desktop also works well on mobile, "after customizing the experience to the needs of the smaller screen." This fact is important, given that approximately one quarter of the company's revenue comes from e-commerce, an area in which, having seen the potential for growth early on, it began heavily investing before many other retailers.

Indeed, Gierhart tells me that personalization both online and in-store helps deliver superior customer service, which translates to a great experience for shoppers and a higher chance of purchase. For example, select stores feature Neiman Marcus's newest secret weapon -- the "memory mirror" -- which lets customers take a range of still and video shots in the fitting rooms. The images, says Gierhart, "can be shared with friends and allow the customer to see how an outfit looks front and back and while moving." As you can imagine, the memory mirror is garnering lots of attention, and Gierhart says it will be introduced to additional stores soon. "The initial reaction has been very positive," Gierhart says. "We have had so much demand for the mirror that we added it as a fantasy gift this year."

Creating statement pieces

With so much retail content lining the closets of the internet, how does Gierhart help Neiman Marcus's pop? With good balance and relevance, she says. "Our customers are busy, and we need to make sure our content is sharply edited and always inspires and provides a value." Neiman Marcus also offers something that many retailers cannot: access to designers, who provide shoppers with content featuring that ever-so-coveted insider's perspective on current trends.

But perhaps most notably, Gierhart's team dreamed up a platform called Make Some Noise that celebrates women and takes content well beyond pushing product. In her own words: "We are focusing on bold women with bold voices, finding new ways to inspire our customers through these women's contributions." Now, that's a content marketing program that flatters everyone.

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