NRF 2018: Neiman Marcus chooses personalisation over payments

In March 2019, Neiman Marcus will open its 43rd store at Hudson Yard in NYC. This huge 190-square-foot store will be one of the largest in the luxury department store’s portfolio.

With over a year to go until the Hudson Yard store opens its doors, building a store for the future in a time of dramatically changing technology is a big challenge.

Speaking during Tuesday’s payments keynote at NRF 2018 in NYC, Karen Katz, outgoing president and CEO at Neiman Marcus Group said personalising the shopper journey both online and offline is the retailer’s main focus.

“We are thinking of how the Hudson Yard store is going to look and feel different, but we always come back to how we connect with the customer,” she said.

“As a 110 year old company, one of our founding principles is developing relationships with our customers.”

When asked whether the new store would futureproof the way it takes payments from customers, Katz said developing new payment technologies was further down the technology to-do list.

“Payments are important to make as seamless as possible, but in the line-up of things we have to make frictionless, payments isn’t as big as making sure the customer shopping online can find that product in the store, or connecting with the social media agents she follows [to make sure] she is able to find the kinds of things that influenced her online, or if she buys something online and wants to pick it up in store.”

She added: “How do we take the experiences she is having online and make that really seamless [in store] from a personalisation perspective?”

Katz admitted payments are evolving very quickly: “If you walked into a Neiman Marcus store 10, 20, or 30 years ago, and you were a known customer, you never had to take your credit card out of your wallet.”

She pointed out that this knowledge of individual customers was the “ultimate in personalisation”.

“If you walked into our store and an associate recognises you, it doesn’t get more personalised than that,” she said.

Bitcoin and blockchain

Also speaking about technology to-do lists, Visa’s CEO Alfred Kelly, advised retailers not to worry about bitcoin, but to keep an eye on the development of blockchain.

Bitcoin in my mind is much more of a speculative commodity investment and we won’t process a cryptocurrency-based transaction,” he said. “I would put the challenges dealing with cryptocurrencies lower on your list. “

He said he didn’t think the bitcoin trend is going to take off due to its dramatic fluctuation, using purchases such as plane tickets and hotel stays as an example of the difficulty in the value of bitcoin – would the customer pay the bitcoin value at the time of booking or time of flying or staying the night in a hotel?

Meanwhile, he believes that blockchain – the technology that enables bitcoin – has many more interesting applications in the B2B world. Visa has opened a research centre in Paulo Alto with 250 PhD data scientists who are experimenting with machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain and other emerging technologies.

“You’re in a world so competitive to find your edge to be more efficient and more effective – you should look at what these technologies can do on a pragmatic level to help your business.”