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.

Kristina Podnar
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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