What We Can All Learn from Nordstrom’s Exceptional Success

Downtown Seattle Retail Shopping District with Nordstom Departme“Improve customer service.”

With these three simple words, Jamie Nordstrom (President of Nordstrom) described the “secret” strategy that has powered the company’s spectacular success…

This may seem more like common sense than a grand vision for the company, but when you consider how this retail superstar performs on a regular basis, it’s worth taking a closer look.

Compared to the industry average, Nordstrom earns double the sales per square foot of retail space, and over the past five years, the company’s share price has risen 120%.

As Nordstrom’s CEO points out:

“Customers will buy more when they’re happy.”

Empowering Employees

Most retailers talk about the importance of customer service, but few are meeting the standards set by Nordstrom…

So, what does Nordstrom do differently? One giant clue comes from the freedom that they give their employees.

Nordstrom employees are free to make decisions for themselves. Rather than having to ask a manager, they can approve customer requests with their own best judgment.

Businesses are often reluctant to shift decision making to frontline staff – mainly because of concerns that mistakes will be made, or that uninformed employees will allow the company to be taken advantage of…

But Nordstrom seems confident that happier customers outweigh any potential downsides.

Nordstrom’s “million dollar club” is another indicator of the latitude that the retailer allows its employees. The “club” is made up of employees who have been able to bring in at least $1 million in sales. The success of these superstar employees comes largely from their ability to build their own client lists…

Employees can use these lists to cultivate relationships with their clients in any way they deem appropriate.

Customer Service For The 21st Century

Like many retailers, staying at the forefront of technology has been an important part of Nordstrom’s growth strategy. The company now ships to over 40 countries, and says that ecommerce sales have increased 40% in the last year.

However, delivering the same kind of customer experience encountered in-store has been a challenge.

Consequently, Nordstrom’s has come up with a couple of clever, 21st century fixes to provide the same level of personalization online. The solutions include allowing customers to instantly purchase items that have been featured on Instagram.

Nordstrom is also investing heavily in big data…

Nordstrom has established an “innovation lab,” where they collect and analyze the shopping patterns of their customers to help refine their marketing and promotional techniques.

They are able to leverage data from social media feeds to make in-store decisions. For example, products that are popular on the company’s Pinterest account are given greater prominence on the sales floor.

Guaranteed Satisfaction – For Life!

One of the primary ways Nordstrom has distinguished itself from the competition is their lifetime guarantee policy. This legendary return policy is best exemplified by the (perhaps mythic) tire story:

A man walks into the Anchorage, Alaska Nordstrom store and wants to return a set of tires, despite the fact that Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires… The store that previously occupied the same space did, though, and the Nordstrom manager still decided to refund the customer their money – for a product they didn’t even sell.

Lifetime guarantees aren’t the only way that Nordstrom makes the decision to buy even easier…

They also offer free delivery and free returns. The company says that it’s working hard to make sure that customers receive their parcels as soon as possible, with the eventual goal of offering same day shipping.

Personalized Service

When you go into Nordstrom, you know that you will receive the help you need to make a shopping decision that you’ll be happy with. They achieve this with their super popular “personal stylists.” In response to the demand, they’ve significantly increased the number of these stylists over the past few years.

Nordstrom’s advice on how to keep customers is actually quite simple. New employees are given a card with the following instructions:


Going The Extra Mile

One story that truly exemplifies how far Nordstrom is willing to go for happy customers is sometimes referred to as the “diamond story.”

In North Carolina, a woman lost her wedding ring while trying on clothes at a Nordstrom store. When a security guard saw her searching for her ring, he asked her what the problem was. After her explanation, he joined in the search. When this proved fruitless, the guard asked the janitorial staff to help out with the search… Upon opening up one of the vacuum cleaners, the wedding ring was found at last!

It’s this kind of story that can produce massive good will and long-term customer loyalty!


Nordstrom’s pillars of success can seem relatively simple: premium pricing, fantastic customer service, and an exceptional shopping experience…

But again, as the Nordstrom CEO points out, “Customers will buy more when they’re happy.” 

Are you going the extra mile for yours?

In your corner,


How To NOT Lose Your Customers

What’s the secret to holding on to your customers?experience conceptual meter

Exceptional customer service.

Check out some of these stats from an American Express survey:

  • 78% of customers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience
  • Seven in ten Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service
  • 80% of Americans agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer service than large businesses
  • Americans tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and tell about sixteen people about poor experiences

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When I first read the title, I knew it was going to be a unique approach (and right in line with my mission to deliver the best value at every turn).

The book is called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – and it looks not at how people buy products, but how they actually use them. If you want to sell products that people love, you’ve got to understand how (and why) people develop relationships with the things they use…

Well, not only did I thoroughly enjoy the book (and learned some fantastic stuff), I reached out to the author, Nir Eyal, with some questions…

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How Samsung Won Back Its Reputation

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More recently, a reevaluation of sorts has taken place at the company. The electronics brand (like many other companies) has to come to realize just how important delivering fantastic customer service is for the bottom line…

So, what have they done to fix the problem?  [Read more…]

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And that one of the best ways to build that trust is with informative, entertaining, and relevant content.

To put some concrete numbers to it:

60% of customers say they have a more positive view of companies that deliver custom content.

Author and marketer Seth Godin goes as far as saying that he believes:

“’Content marketing is the only marketing left.”

Technology is empowering consumers to filter the marketing messages they are exposed to…

But content marketing provides a way to reach those consumers through entertaining and educational material that they actually want to dig into.

For some industries, content marketing is a natural fit. Companies like Red Bull and Nike have access to a rich supply of content through involvement with adrenalin pumping sports…

But what if you are in a “boring” industry?

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How Harley Davidson Revs Up Sales

Close up of classical Harley Davidson motorcycleIn the third quarter of 2014, Harley Davidson sales beat an already strong previous year…

Harley isn’t just an iconic American brand, it’s also a fantastic case study of successful marketing.

They’ve managed to stay relevant and build a huge brand despite a changing marketplace and an aging buyer demographic.

Let’s take a look at how they became THE legendary American motorcycle – and how they’ve managed to stayed on top… [Read more…]

David and Goliath Marketing: Disrupting The Music Industry to Make History

Microphone on the mixing deskHi everybody, Mike here for another marketing article from a slightly different perspective…

Charlie likes to refer to me as his “rock star” assistant – partly because of the role I play in the Predictable Profits team, and partly because, well, I’m more or less obsessed with music…

I’ve been playing drums for 16 years, play in half a dozen bands, make hip hop beats, write lyrics, arrange parts for other musicians, and recently took up learning the guitar… [Read more…]

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Seriously… 25%

Obviously, developing trust is a major challenge…

But is also a real opportunity for businesses. When a company is trusted by customers, this opens the gates for premium pricing.

Developing a Win/Win Mentality

Why are so many businesses failing to win their customers’ trust?

The answer is often because they are focused solely on the sale… [Read more…]