Experiential Retail – See How Nordstrom and Vans Are Luring Customers In

Nordstrom’s NYC Men’s Store, Photo Credit: Nordstrom

Nordstrom’s NYC Men’s Store, Photo Credit: Nordstrom

By Tricia McKinnon

As retailers struggle to drive traffic into their stores, experiences are heralded as a way to lure customers back.  Both Nordstrom and Vans have made experiences a priority but in very different ways.  Nordstrom’s experiences focus on personalization and convenience.  Vans on the other hand focuses on community, education and entertainment.  Which strategy is most effective depends on the target customer but they both have elements that are worth taking note of.   

With the opening of its men’s flagship store in Manhattan, New York, Nordstrom has taken experiential retailing to the next level.  This store is Nordstrom’s first store that is dedicated solely to men.  It is also the chain’s first full price store in Manhattan. The attention is in the details and this store does not disappoint with an array of services that provide a great customer experience including:

Reserve online and try-on in store.  Customers can reserve up to ten items that they want to try on when they arrive in-store. When the customer is 0.2 miles away from the store a sales associate places their items into a fitting room and notifies the customer when the fitting room is ready.  Customers must opt-in on Nordstrom’s app to give Nordstrom their location details. According to Jamie Nordstrom: “geolocation is a big unlock for us.  What's important about that is: we know where you are and that's not because we're doing some weird, creepy thing, [but because] it's actually better service for you.”

Buy online, pick up in-store and curb side pick-up.  Nordstrom is pushing the convenience factor by allowing customers to pick up orders 24/7 (whether the store is open or closed).   Nordy loyalty club members can also schedule to have their orders picked up at a certain time and a sales associate will walk to the customer’s car to give them their order.

Free personal styling services.  Customers can increase their style level by using the services of a personal stylist free of charge with no pressure to buy.

Clothing detailing.  The store features a Levi’s Tailor Shop where customers can have their denim jeans or jackets distressed, hemmed, repaired or elevated with studs and decals.

Food and beverages.  The store has a café and a restaurant where customers can purchase drinks and food. The store has its liquor license so that customers can walk around with a drink in their hand while they shop.

Other services. Shoe shining, sneaker cleaning as well as cell phone charging stations are available to customers and a barbershop is also on-site.

Vans has created an entirely different form of experiential retail with its House of Vans concept.  There are House of Vans locations in London, Brooklyn, Chicago as well as pop-ups across the world.  The London House of Vans, for example, is a 30,000 ft venue that features an indoor skatepark, an art gallery, a cinema, two bars and a restaurant.  Two-hour skateboarding or BMX lessons are available for free. The venue also hosts live music concerts.  According to Vans, the House of Vans is “a place where imagination lets loose over concrete bowls, art installations, workshops and concert stages, inspiring every person who runs, rolls, or stomps through its door.” 

In September of 2018, House of Vans popped-up for three days in Toronto.  The three-day installation included: a skatepark that was built for the event, an art show, a live concert, a community-based market featuring local vendors, a photography exhibition and a photography workshop.  The event also included “Get on Board”, an initiative focused on getting women to partake in the skateboarding culture by offering skateboarding clinics.  All events and activities offered by the House of Vans were free of charge. Success of the concept is not based on sales but on creating a strong connection within the community. According to Alex Auchu, Marketing Manager at Vans Canada: “if the skate industry is healthy, then our brand is healthy.”


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