Customer Engagement Gone Wrong: When Bad Things Happen to Good Brands – Saks Fifth Avenue

Soft lights, the smell of perfume, drool-worthy merchandise displayed to perfection — welcome to Saks Fifth Avenue. The luxury department store is as iconic as they come. Saks was founded over 150 years ago and has maintained its reputation as one of the best retailers in the world thanks to their exceptional selection of designers, fantastic customer service, and an incredible customer experience.

The touchpoints of that customer experience have expanded over the last couple centuries as technology has evolved along with consumer expectations. Saks has kept up with these demands with a website, a mobile app, some personalized email campaigns based on site behavior, and more.

These days I shop Saks online more than going into a physical store. The online experience is easy to use and shopper friendly. It’s a breeze to narrow down the thousands of options within a single category to view only the most relevant items. For example, when I look at the “Dresses” category there are over 6,000 choices. Too much to look at! From there, I can select my size, sleeve length, colors, and more.

Unfortunately, Saks’ digital channels don’t quite measure up to the fantastic in-store experience. There’s a disconnect among systems within the online customer experience. I recently purchased a dress from Saks and received an email confirmation that the order was received, when it shipped, etc.

A few days later I received an email from them suggesting I buy the dress based on my browsing history.

Whatever systems were in place did not recognize that the person who had been browsing the dress online, was the same person who had purchased the dress online and the same person who had returned it in-store and as a result, was not able to pass the info back that this sequence of events had transpired.

It appears to me that this customer engagement faux pas might be the result of data silos and bottlenecks across the different systems Saks is using to engage with customers. With the right technology stack, Saks would have a unified customer view that would enable them to stream data from in-store POS systems, CRM system, my website browsing history, purchase data, and more.

A few days later I returned my dress in-store, and I received another email from Saks with a promising subject line.  

I excitedly scrolled down, expecting to see some items by the same designer or other evening gowns like the one I had purchased. What I saw instead, however, was a completely random assortment of products that have seemingly no connection to the item I had purchased.

I love how Saks followed up with me after my return and that they referenced the specific item I purchased in the body of the email. It would have been more impactful and might have driven a purchase outcome had their recommendations demonstrated that they understand my category and designer interests.

Achieving a seamless customer experience is no easy feat. I realize that the issues I’ve pointed out don’t have an instant fix. I also understand that the aforementioned issues probably keep the marketing and IT teams at Saks up at night and that they might even be on the hunt for solutions as we speak. So, Saks–if that’s the case (and you happen to be reading this!) just know that SessionM can help.