Kroger, Nordstrom Executives Share Insights on Retail's Rapid Transformation
In a session last month at Shoptalk 2022 in Las Vegas, executives from Kroger and Nordstrom discussed the new technologies and business models their companies have embraced to succeed during retail's rapid transformation.
Ken Worzel, Nordstrom's chief operating officer, and Yael Cosset, The Kroger Co.'s senior vice president and chief information officer, agreed the past two years presented wide-ranging challenges to retailers, as the goods consumers prioritize, the supply chains that deliver them, and the ways shoppers buy them have all transformed dramatically.
On Discovery Shopping
Worzel said discovery is the "life and blood" of what Nordstrom does. He noted that consumers want to be pushed out of their comfort zones, just enough to feel like the product is relevant to them. A great in-store salesperson can make that happen naturally.
To bring that experience to a digital discovery platform, Worzel said Nordstrom has tens of thousands of videos with Nordstrom stylists describing product — including its material and how it's made — as well as offering suggestions for what to pair the product with to make a great outfit.
"What that replicates for customers is that sense of discovery, but also confidence," Worzel said.
Nordstrom also developed a set of digital selling tools, including one-on-one stylists and "request looks" to aid in discovery.
"For us, product discovery can't just be, 'You bought this, and people like you bought this,'" noted Worzel. "There's a portion of that, but that fades pretty fast for customers. We had to find a way to bring new discovery in, and to do it in a very original context and create confidence for folks about why they should try something."
On Acquiring Great Talent
Cosset said acquiring great talent has become incredibly difficult, especially now that remote work is more widely available. He said Kroger sets itself apart with its purpose of being at the "intersection of transforming how people eat and shop, and how it impacts their livelihood."
Furthermore, Cosset said Kroger is flexible on where and how it hires.
"It's a new era where the opportunities are more visible; to the extent that you have something special, it will be a fit for somebody," said Cosset.
Worzel added that the heightened competition for talent is a good reminder that companies need to create an environment and a position that people are excited about every day.
"My experience is that folks like to work on hard problems, and they like to work on hard problems with teams they're excited to work with, and with the notion that they're going to be empowered to have an impact," Worzel said. "And that hasn't really changed. I think the war for talent and the environment we're in right now has made it clear that you've got to be consistent about that proposition every day and listen to your folks."
On E-Commerce Profitability
Nordstrom has been in the e-commerce space for 20 years, and while that environment is challenging, the upscale department store chain relishes the opportunity to get close to customers digitally.
"We're in the fortunate position of saying, 'When we say we're agnostic about serving customers how they want to be served at Nordstrom, it's really true'," noted Worzel.
At Kroger, Cosset said the grocery retailer's commitment is to remove the compromises customers have had to make in that sector. Part of that is achieved through the retailer's e-commerce platform.
"Whether its a quick dinner solution or a weekly shop, we don't want to force you in making choices on what you get, when you get it and how you get it," Cosset said.
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