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Insight

When selling rocks to the digirati

Over the past few years, Nordstrom has been the go-to case study for how to adapt traditional customer service into the digital world. Here is another reason the company is doing well online.

By
Kristina Podnar
,
on
December 14, 2016

This week the high-end department store provided another digital learning moment. The company's offered of an $85 stone wrapped in a leather pouch. The item sold out but was mocked across social media and the store's product review section. If the uproar over Nordstrom selling $85 and $65 rocks (the later is still available at select stores) seems like a natural opportunity for jeering, maybe it is. Could scorn have been avoided with some broader focus group testing, or consideration of timing ; it being the Holiday season when many struggles with basic needs? Perhaps. 

But consider the Nordstrom audience and that most items the department store sells, like the $1,200 Little Cloud Bronze Fine Art Sculpture or the $65 Tie Dye Indigo Leather Sand Incense Burner. These items are not targeted at those scrambling to meet the basic needs in life. In fact, these items are targeted at a very specific market demographic that Nordstrom has been cultivating for a long time. 

If your organization has a digital presence, you should be aware of and keep a balance between risk and opportunity. I don't work with Nordstrom, nor do I have visibility into their digital operations. I don't know if the department store has a policy on comment moderation or if that policy needs to be improved. I do know that Nordstrom managed to get existing and new audiences discussing a luxury product. That product completely sold out. The communications effort was free and generated much web traffic. 

So in my book, it was a genius marketing effort; intentional or not; that paid off, without immediate and evident risk to the organization. And this is an effort that should be managed or quashed by digital policy.

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