Customer Engagement Gone Wrong: When Bad Things Happen to Good Brands–Neiman Marcus

A couple weeks ago we discussed the pitfalls of West Elm’s customer engagement strategy. This week we’ll visit the scene of the customer engagement crime of another otherwise wonderful brand–Neiman Marcus–and try to provide some guidance using our experience helping hundreds of other brands correct similar infractions.

As one of the most well-known high-end department stores in the country, Neiman Marcus caters to clients seeking not only top designers, but also top service. You can’t have a bad time shopping at Neiman Marcus–there’s amazing merchandise, beautiful displays, and attentive salespeople who graciously offer assistance and a dressing room so shoppers’ arms don’t have to bare the weight of piles of garments as they browse. A sales associate will also unobtrusively check in to see how things are fitting, get you another size, take away unwanted merchandise, or offer you a water to quench a marathon shopping-spree-induced thirst.

If only Neiman’s digital experiences lived up to the in-store ones I so enjoy. One of my favorite pastimes is browsing through my 1,000,000 shopping apps (sad, I know), Neiman’s among them. When I first downloaded the NM app I was surprised to see what a low rating it has in the app store, as well as how few ratings it has in general. The Neiman’s app isn’t horrible. It’s fine. It has a similar layout and user experience as the Neiman’s website, which is OK, up to a certain point (more on that later).

Neiman’s loyalty program InCircle, like many retailers’ is spend-based. This is a common, effective basis for a loyalty program, but in order to differentiate from the competition retailers need to provide opportunities for customers to earn points through other, non-spend-based activities, such as referring a friend, sharing content or answering a survey.

I was looking at some amazing Balenciaga boots that just went on sale. The app made it easy to filter the thousands of results so that I could just look at certain designers and sizes. When I scrolled down on the product page, I also noticed that it recognized my zipcode and told me that same-day delivery is unfortunately not available. No worries! I like that Neiman’s recognized my location. However, that fondness quickly faded when I saw the “You May Also Like” section below this. As far as I can tell, there’s no rhyme or reason to the selection of a YSL color palette, embroidered tunic, and men’s velvet sneakers that were offered (and none of which interest me).

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I also found the “MyNM” section confusing. In one area of the menu it appears that the only thing for “MyNM” is the ability to favorite items, but when I was actually in the section there were more options like favorite designers, favorite store, favorite sizes, order history, payment information, and NM credit card. Unfortunately, when I tried to click on those other sections, the links were unresponsive, and I remained on the screen viewing my favorite items. Had I been able to get to the favorite designers section and select some of the brands I like best, I would hope that Neiman’s could then use that information to send me a push notification or in-app message when new items by one of those designers arrive, are low in stock, or go on-sale.


This type of engagement also would have been preferable to the push notification I received the day after favoriting some items with a call to action to…favorite items (see below). I favorited those Balenciaga boots, but didn’t pull the trigger. This would have been the perfect opportunity to remind me that they’re still available!

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Depending on an individual’s communication preferences, Neiman’s could also take the opportunity to use a customer’s favorite designer selections to send her emails specifically about that brand. Instead, I received the below email about Kobi Halperin’s off-the-shoulder tops–neither a designer, nor style I have ever purchased.

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There’s also a section of Neiman’s app that points customers to inventory that may be new or on-sale since their last visit. The images in this section made it clear to me that Neiman’s is treating mobile as an extension of their existing digital strategy by using images that are not optimized for mobile (as you can see in the distorted photo below). As our CTO Scott Weller explained in an article “3 big mistakes brands make on mobile”, “There are different rules of engagement on every digital platform, and mobile is no exception. Being mobile does not just mean offering your existing content on mobile devices. Mobile is its own entity, and should be treated as such.”

distorted nm app image 2.png

It’s crucial that brands consider how the protocol differs for mobile versus other channels in order to provide a unique, yet seamless omnichannel experience.

Creating that seamless omnichannel experience is tough. I’m certainly not suggesting in my critique that fixing the aforementioned issues is as easy as a snap of the fingers. Neiman’s: (if you’re reading this!) I realize that you’re probably well aware of the areas for improvement I described; and they’re probably what keeps your Marketing team up at night.

But retailers, just remember: the cost of investing time and dollars into choosing the right technological resources to assure you deliver a flawless experience across all devices is far smaller than the cost of losing loyal customers.