Live from eTail 2005: Neiman Marcus Loves E-mail

Palm Desert, CA–Luxury products marketer Neiman Marcus is a prolific e-mailer, according to Brendan Hoffman, president/CEO of the Dallas-based company’s Neiman Marcus Direct unit. Addressing attendees of the eTail conference, Hoffman admitted that many industry observers contend that Neiman sends too many e-mails, but its customers appear to love them. Why? The company aims to communicate a message without directly pushing product.

“People see us as the fashion authority–we tell them what’s hot,” Hoffman said, citing examples such as the handbag of the season. What’s in it for the marketer if the e-mails don’t promote product? If the e-mails prompt customers to visit the Website or go into a store, they tend to make a purchase, he said. “Get them into the ‘store’ and they will shop.”

Hoffman also noted that some catalogs may become less important as stand-alone mail order pieces. “Neiman Marcus by Mail’s business has been terrific,” he said, growing by double-digit rates, until the past holiday season, when it slowed down. A lot of the company’s sale catalog business and gift purchases, however, have shifted to the Web, so it’s not as if Neiman as a whole suffered a slowdown. On the other hand, Neiman’s full-priced spring catalogs are so far doing very well, Hoffman said.

Neiman Marcus recently formed strategic partnerships with select luxury suppliers, enabling them to sell goods from the site. This past fall it created “sitelets” for the Salvatore Ferragamo and David Yurman brands by adding a “shop” button to the vendors’ sites. For instance, when a customer on the Ferragamo microsite clicks on an item to purchase it, the next screen says “brought to you by Neiman Marcus” so that the shopper knows the retailer is handling the fulfillment.

Both Neiman Marcus and the vendors are “thrilled” with the results, Hoffman said. “It’s driving a lot of new traffic to our site.”

The marketer plans to create two more sitelets by the end of the calendar year, Hoffman said, but he cautioned that the two initial sitelets proved to be a big distraction to its employees working on it. “It was a lesson on how much something like this can take away from our core business,” Hoffman said.

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