TECHNOLOGY

Nordstrom streamlining its buying process

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Nordstrom is using the cloud to evolve its merchandising efforts.

The department store retailer is adopting a cloud-based wholesale lifecycle tool from NuOrder that will enable collaboration, assortment selection and enhanced visibility into product. Overall, it will help the company streamline its buying process and evolve its merchandising approach, according to NuOrder.

The platform enables Nordstrom and its brand partners to upload product catalogs, take notes and capture purchase intent. Additionally, NuOrder will offer Nordstrom’s buyers a complete view of the merchandise they plan to buy for the upcoming season. This will allow buyers to identify gaps or opportunities across their available spend, and better curate a wide range of products for customers.

In addition, the platform helps brands improve their market to order process, reduce manual efforts, and expedite the retailer’s commitments with them. It also automates product data that filters into the downstream Nordstrom systems, and empowers buyers to use digital whiteboards. A visual merchandising tool will enable brands to digitally showcase their products and personalize their presentations to Nordstrom buyers to better market themselves and promote themes, products and collections.

“We’re excited to partner with NuORDER and leverage their capabilities such as a digital market tool,” said Teri Bariquit, executive VP merchandise planning, inventory and solutions, Nordstrom. “Having a tool with shared visual information allows buyers and brands work much more effectively together.”

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TECHNOLOGY

First Look: Walmart’s tech incubator has a sleek, industrial feel

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart upped the cool factor when designing its first-ever technology incubator.

The lab, called Walmart Tech ATX , is located in a renovated warehouse in Austin, Texas, considered a hotbed of tech talent. The building, houses tech professionals from both Walmart and Microsoft, with the team focused heavily on the development of emerging predictive technologies.

The building carries the sleek, industrial feel of its former warehouse design, the original location of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater. The space also features a mural by local artist Mike “Truth” Johnston. The mural design blends the heritage of both Walmart and the city of Austin, with iconic images like Sam Walton’s red pickup truck, the Austin skyline and the Alamo Drafthouse.

The space is decorated with an eclectic color palette and furniture from Walmart’s online store as well as its online brands, Hayneedle and Jet.com. The office features high desks and chairs, as well as pockets of seating space for different teams, creating a warm, comfortable environment resembling a living room rather than a traditional office.

The designer behind the vision is Katey Barron, director, IT program management at Walmart Technology. Barron joined the discount giant in 2012, as a temporary worker in Walmart’s then-new Innovation Lab. (This concept has since evolved into Walmart’s tech incubator Store No. 8.) At the time, she was responsible for company leadership tours of the futuristic technologies that could help empower associates and make different areas of the business more efficient, like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Over time, Barron realized she had an interest in the startups that were presenting their technologies to Walmart, experience that earned her a position helping to renovate Walmart’s David Glass Technology Center, and design Exchange, a co-working space for select startups in Bentonville, as well as Walmart Tech ATX.

“My passion for design comes from wanting to serve startups and give them what they need – and really, I’ve just always loved furniture,” Barron said. “At Walmart Tech, these associates genuinely enjoy being around each other and diving into the work they do. We wanted to make it a space they could be comfortable in, proud of and enjoy coming to work every day.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Teen apparel retailer ‘gets schooled’ on predictive analytics

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Rue 21 made a strategic decision to ensure it could get the biggest return on its predictive analytics investment.

To accurately complete the adoption of predictive analytic technology across the company, Rue 21 used Action Learning, a core methodology used by the University of Liverpool. Action Learning is an experience-based and action-oriented approach to organizational learning.

The organization worked with First Insight to adopt consumer-driven predictive analytics when making design, buying, planning and pricing decisions across its apparel, footwear and accessories categories. These decisions were based on customer sentiment. To ensure the company stayed on the right path, the organization implemented action learning with executives, merchandising teams and planning and inventory teams, a move that Rue21 fully adopt the solution within three months.

The program was championed by Mark Chrystal, the company’s chief analytics officer, and a graduate of the University of Liverpool’s Doctorate in Business Administration program. He studied the learning process while attending Liverpool University.

“Too often organizations take a top-down approach when trying to integrate new solutions into the company,” Chrystal said.

“Action learning empowered the merchandising team at Rue21 and has given a voice to every individual, no matter the level,” he added. “Organizational adoption of the First Insight technology and its incorporation into our business processes has been instrumental in improving our business performance.”

Since adding the solution, Rue21 is evaluating a greater number of products, and reflecting direct consumer input in their buying decisions. “We have already seen margin improvements of up to 600 basis points on the products we have processed through the First Insight platform,” he added.

Rue21 currently operates 752 stores in 45 states.

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