On the Scene at eTail 2001: A Tale of Two Marketers

New York–In their Aug. 1 presentations at the eTail 2001 conference at the New York Grand Hyatt, representatives from the online units of cataloger/retailers Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus presented contrasting views on how they merchandise their Websites.

In his morning session, Dan Korn, Neiman Marcus Online’s executive vice president (and the former president/CEO of defunct dot-com Gazoontite.com), talked about the Dallas-based retailer’s philosophy that “more isn’t always better. We want to provide some editorial [focus] to what she will want to buy online,” he said. The marketer avoids “the temptation to saturate the site with unending products.”

Nordstrom takes the opposite approach. Nordstrom.com general manager Internet Julie Bornstein said that since launching online in 1999 with a site that sold only shoes, the Seattle-based company has expanded to offer all the shoes and apparel sold in its catalogs, as well as best-sellers from its chain of department stores—more than 2,000 SKUs in all.

“To the extent that we can provide a larger assortment, we do,” Bornstein said. “And as a result, we’ve seen a massive migration of our catalog shoppers to our site.” In fact, the Web now accounts for about one-third of Nordstrom’s direct sales.

Bornstein also explained how, in addition to conducting weekly focus groups and user panels to gauge customer satisfaction with its site, Nordstrom.com has conducted A/B-split testing on its Website. “We can tell which of two home pages of ours is converting customers at a higher rate,” she said.