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Nordstrom goes with mobile checkout at retail stores nationwide

May 17, 2011

Department store chain Nordstrom is continuing its slow-yet-steady emergence into mobile with the commencement of mobile check-out in its retail locations.

Sales associates are now able to look up past purchases via the iPod touch and spend more time with consumers on the floor, which will probably boost Nordstrom’s already-lauded customer service reputation. Nordstrom has not made many moves in the mobile arena, but this in-store incorporation will certainly help.

“I believe having the Nordstrom sales associates use mobile tools will extend the personalized experience they currently give throughout the entire purchase process,” said Doug Fleener, president and managing partner at Dynamic Experiences Group, Lexington, MA. “Now the customer won’t have to stand in line at a counter and the employees will have all of the information they need at their fingertips.

“This will definitely result in a better customer experience,” he said. “With additional information at the employee’s fingertips, it could increase conversion rates and improve the average sale.

“I also think it will differentiate Nordstrom from other department stores. I could also see how this will increase floor coverage as the employees will not be behind the counter.”

Mr. Fleener is not affiliated with Nordstrom but offered to comment as a third-party expert source.

Nordstrom did not respond by press deadline.

Check, please
Perhaps the most recognizable form of mobile checkout is at Apple retail locations.

When consumers are ready to purchase products, Apple store employees use iPod touch or iPhone devices to make the transaction and email the customer a receipt.

Nordstrom plans to place 5,000 mobile checkout devices at 116 Nordstrom stores before the start of its Anniversary Sale in July.

The company has been testing devices at its downtown Seattle and Bellevue Square stores, per various reports.

This move into mobile could do wonders for the brand in terms of its mobile strategy as well as differentiating it from its competitors.

“The future of the store as a selling channel, versus a showroom, is in jeopardy,” said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems and Research, Miami, FL. “As such, it is critical for retailers to find a way to differentiate the in-store experience from other channels, since you can’t just close stores down.”

Although most luxury retailers pride themselves on impeccable and friendly customer service, it is widely acknowledged that Nordstrom is at the top of the list.

Therefore, another huge benefit of this tactic is that it fully engages customers with Nordstrom salespeople.

Mobile checkout will cut down on wait times for not only buying, but for looking up past purchases and inventory information.

“This initiative provides the customer with almost immediate answers regarding store inventory,” said Courtney Albert, consultant on marketing and branding for Parker Avery, Atlanta.

“In this new scenario, the customer does not have to wait for an associate to physically check the stockroom or wait in line at the register for a simple product lookup,” she said. “The sales associate can deliver a customized experience and even though it is a mobile scheme, this means more time spent in front of the customer delivering upon their needs.”

Customer-service call
Nordstrom does not have a branded app, but it does use mobile to its advantage in other ways.

The retailer has a mobile-optimized site which allows customers to browse and buy products via smartphone and tablet.

Also, the retailer uses location-based advertising in the Point Inside shopping center app (see story).

However, as Nordstrom’s main modus operandi is customer service, that image is what should influence its mobile strategy.

“I don’t know if [new technology] is a must-have, but I do believe that retailers who bring the digital experience into their store will capture a larger share of the under-40 market,” Dynamic Experience’s Mr. Fleener said.

“Retailers shouldn’t add technology for technology sake, but rather to improve the customer experience and staff efficiency,” he said.

Rachel Lamb is editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York. Reach her at

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