Luxury brands grab online holiday shoppers through digital disruptors

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Upscale brands are grabbing the attention of holiday procrastinators.

Three in 10 shoppers are still scrambling to finish holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation, and many are jumping online in search of their perfect, albeit “last minute” holiday gifts.

Luxury brands see these harried shoppers as an opportunity to move the needle on holiday revenue, and they are using digital disruptors to ease their pain. For example, Nordstrom launched its first-ever, limited edition chatbot, a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users. Nordstrom’s bot, which is supported by a mobile messaging platform from Snaps, conducts these “conversations” via Facebook Messenger and Kik.

“We know this technology has recently become more widely used, and we were excited to discover a relevant way to integrate it into our offering to help us achieve our goal of delivering great experiences and products to our customers,” Jessica Canfield, spokesperson for Nordstrom told Chain Store Age.

As Nordstrom’s shoppers access the bot through either messaging app, they are asked several questions about who they are shopping for, such as where the recipient spends their weekends, their main interest when eating out, even vacation preferences. Based on their answers, the bot serves up tailored gift ideas.

Chatbot customers can also reach a digital customer care specialist at any time by asking for help or typing in a specific gift request.

“We want to offer our customers a fun, easy and convenient shopping experience this holiday season,” Canfield said. “Chatbot is one way we’re hoping to bring all of these elements together for our customers and help them find the right gift for everyone on their list.”

The service, which went live on Dec. 13, is available until Dec. 24. Following the test, “We’ll listen to our customers’ feedback to determine if there are additional opportunities to apply this technology moving forward,” she added.

Another digital disruptor gaining traction this holiday season is digital gifting options. Nordstrom launched its version of e-gifting through a partnership with CashStar. Shoppers select a gift online and send it, along with a personal message, via email. Recipients select their item size, color and shipping address. They also have the option to swap the gift for a digital gift card.

Neiman Marcus has put its own spin on digital gifting this holiday season through GiftNow, a program supported by Loop Commerce. The luxury brand is using the service as a means of enabling shoppers to choose and give gifts “all the way up to Christmas Day,” Catherine Davis, VP of marketing, Neiman Marcus, told Chain Store Age.

“Online shipping timing has meant that holiday shopping has had to end online two or three days before Christmas,” she added. “We love offering this extended online gifting option as an added service to our customers.”

By choosing the “GiftNow” button on an item’s product page, online shoppers are prompted to select a proposed size and color, if applicable. Then they enter the recipient's email address and enter payment info to complete purchase, and choose delivery date and time.

When the delivery date arrives, an email gift notification and personal note is sent to the recipient. Upon redemption, the recipient is able to choose size, color, and provide shipping address). The recipient can also choose another item if the gift choice is unavailable or not quite what they wanted.

“This is a fun way to give a gift, but also let the recipient choose what they most want — and it feels more personal to some people than a gift card might,” Davis said. “The gift recipient can also send a thank you note back to the gift-giver directly through the service.”

Since adding the GiftNow program, Neiman Marcus has achieved approximately a 90% recipient redemption rate, and a 50% higher average order value compared to generic gift cards.

The chain originally launched the GiftNow service in the spring, she said.


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