Data sets the stage for amazing retail experiences.

Incredible retail experiences don’t just happen. They unfold through carefully choreographed efforts. Nordstrom, which has transformed itself from a brick-and-mortar luxury retailer to an e-commerce powerhouse by offering exceptional customer experiences online and offline, knows this better than anyone. 

From its partnership with Curalate and their Like2Buy product — which allows shoppers to go directly from an Instagram post to a Nordstrom shopping page — to teaming up with Twilio to launch a service that allows salespeople and customers to communicate via text about merchandise, Nordstrom is continually elevating the customer experience. But every move it makes online is also carefully aligned with its offline presence in order to build a customer experience that is seamless across channels. 

Customers of Nordstrom’s flash sales site HauteLook and online clothing service Trunk Club order online, but they use Nordstrom’s traditional brick-and-mortar stores to make returns or access exclusive in-store services such as free alterations and tailoring. 

Nordstrom’s strategy is a simple one: build better experiences for customers — whether online, in stores, or on mobile devices —by capturing and using customer data. And it’s working. Nordstrom ranked as the the favorite U.S. fashion retailer for the fifth year in a row in Market Force’s annual retail industry study.

In an environment where many retailers are hanging on for dear life, it’s time to take note of what those leading the pack are doing and how they’re doing it.

According to research by Forrester, customers don’t think in channels. They think about the firm they interact with as a single entity and expect those channels to feel unified. Nordstrom not only understands this sentiment, but has mastered it — capably delivering a unified experience to its customers. 

If you want to do the same, take a peek behind the experience curtain — where retailers are using data to create memorable customer experiences online and offline.

Personalized experiences require precise alignment image.

Personalized experiences require precise alignment.

In a theatrical performance, the emotional experience delivered to the audience doesn’t just come from the actors. It comes from precise coordination behind the scenes with set designers, lighting designers, costume and makeup experts, choreographers, directors, and more. Only when all the pieces of a performance are aligned can the audience truly experience the full emotional effect of the art. The same is true when it comes to personalizing the experience for shoppers — to make that emotional connection requires alignment across the organization.

In the Econsultancy and Adobe 2017 Digital Trends report, 51 percent of businesses indicated that they plan to increase company budgets around personalization. The growing importance of creating personalized experiences in retail isn’t surprising given that, according to Swirl Consulting, 88 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with retailers who deliver personalized and connected cross-channel experiences. 

But how to create personalized campaigns, especially across channels and at scale, is a question many retailers are struggling to answer. For L’Occitane, a global skincare, cosmetics, and fragrance brand, creating personalized experiences was a significant challenge — due largely to a lack of data alignment across the organization — despite knowing the value of personalization. 

Different teams were responsible for handling email and direct-mail campaigns. Order histories, store visits, customer service exchanges, preferred products and channels, offers received, coupons redeemed, and so on on were splintered across marketing, sales and service departments. There was also little connection between online communications and the customers’ in-store or call center experiences. Teams relied on manual processes to design, execute, and measure campaigns. As a result, only a limited number of campaigns could be launched annually. And when they were initiated, they were based on roughly defined customer segments because there was no operational central source of customer information.

Using data to connect with customers wasn’t easy or even possible at this earlier stage in the retailer’s digital maturity. But L’Occitane knew that to get to the next level, they needed to invest in technology that would give them a cohesive view of the data from across the entire organization. Only then would L’Occitane be able to deliver the types of experiences that would be emotionally motivating to their customers.

Content and campaign agility relies on automation image.

Content and campaign agility relies on automation.

What L’Occitane realized, and what other retailers who want to stay competitive must also realize, is that if they wanted to decrease churn rates, increase revenue generated through email and direct-mail campaigns, and transform customers into multichannel shoppers, they could no longer afford a haphazard approach to data management.

For starters, better-connected data produces a better-connected customer journey. To avoid customers having to navigate disconnected journeys, L’Occitane needed to design experiences that would reshape customer behavior and be relevant at every turn. This would require better data management and alignment of systems across the organization so that L’Occitane could capture a unified picture of the customer. But there were other hurdles to overcome as well. 

To deliver the right content at the right time to customers, L’Occitane also needed a segmentation strategy. With better segmentation capabilities, L’Occitane could create relational campaigns triggered on events such as past purchases, abandoned shopping carts, or even customers’ birthdays. However, they would also need a way to deliver this content rapidly and on a large scale to improve personalization to multiple segmented audiences.

The challenges faced by L’Occitane are not unique. Recent research by IDC shows that 85 percent of companies are under pressure to create assets faster, and 76 percent say personalization is driving this need.


IDC research on content creation and personalization.

Of companies are under pressure to create assets faster

Dynamic content requires dynamic data.

Say personalization is driving this need


For companies like Tastemade, which engages its fans on Snapchat with content that disappears in 24 hours, fresh and frequent content is huge. But this remains true even for more traditional retailers delivering content in more traditional formats, such as on their website. 

With over 30,000 products, 200,000 items, and over two million pictures, La Redoute, the top French online retailer in clothing and home furnishings, found that as their web traffic exploded they were struggling to keep up. “To remain a leader, we had to and have to be more efficient,” says Christine Lamarque, who leads the web division in the IT department for La Redoute.

For La Redoute and L’Occitane, automation has allowed the retailers to bring their data together in a meaningful way that improves the customer experience. Using automation technology, L’Occitane has been able to coordinate every channel interaction to create one-to-one exchanges that resonate with customers. What’s more, with capabilities to now launch automated, relational campaigns based on segmented audiences, the beauty retailer has seen a 40-percent increase in revenues and quadrupled conversion rates from personalized email campaigns. La Redoute has also noted that being able to classify and personalize content so that the repurposing process can be automated has helped improve productivity.

Dynamic content requires dynamic data.

Dynamic content requires dynamic data.

Another key component to delivering personalized customer experiences is the ability to create dynamic and engaging content. Here again, it’s the backstage data that helps drive deeper personalization.

Retailers that can assemble offers dynamically — whether it’s a variety of CTAs, promotional messages, or background images — can take personalization to another level. And the experience can be even more powerful when retailers can do this across channels. A shopper who is in the kitchen section of a department store and receives a push notification on their mobile device for 20 percent off any kitchen supplies will be more emotionally motivated to purchase. Likewise, online retailers can use real-time data to align the content customers see to their personal buying journey. 

Retailers can also use real-time geographic data to present web content that is personalized to the types of activities the user might engage in based on their location. On an outdoor retailer site, if you live near a beach, you might see wetsuits and stand-up paddleboards on the home page. If you live in the mountains, you might be served a lineup of this year’s new models of skis.

Dynamic content creation can also help content be more shoppable. Appropriately tagged data and content behind the scenes allows consumers to view product details and buy buttons on specific products without having to search deep into category and product detail pages to find more information on a featured product. This makes the purchase process easier and more compelling.

For instance, J.Crew’s “shop this look” feature allows shoppers to select an outfit in quick-view and then add pieces of the outfit to their cart directly, without searching for the products in other category pages. Likewise, John Lewis, an upmarket department store in the United Kingdom, offers videos of furnished rooms. While watching, customers can click on sidebar photos of the products they want to purchase that they see in the video. 

Also engaging for customers is content that escapes the restraints of grids and other traditional designs to connect on a more emotional level with customers. For instance, clicking from a beautifully designed email to the rows and grids of a product page that requires the customer to hunt for the right product can be startling to the eye and a disappointing experience overall. 

Now, however, with simple keystrokes and click-and-drag technology, retailers don’t have be so selective about where and when they create more shoppable or visually aesthetic experiences. Thanks to automation, the process is much faster and far less resource intensive. Most importantly, these types of dynamic content experiences — made possible through the dynamic use of data — allow retailers to build emotional connections and reinforce brand perceptions, encouraging customer loyalty and growing revenue.

Shoppable media sets the stage for an easier buying experience.

Shoppable media infographic.

Of companies are under pressure to create assets faster

Shoppable media infographic.

Say personalization is driving this need

Shoppable media infographic.

Of companies are under pressure to create assets faster

Source: Shoppable Media: The Next Frontier. Adobe.

Raise the curtain and deliver exceptional experiences.

While the art of an exceptional experience comes from what happens behind the scenes — through mastery of the data and the tools and technology to automate your processes — remember that the show must go on no matter what. 

As a retailer, determine where you are in your journey toward data maturity and take the next step. Even if it’s a small one. Depending on where you are in your journey, consider the following:

Segmentation image 1.

If you haven’t yet used your data to segment your audiences, try some basic segmentation, such as new versus returning customers.

Segmentation image 2.

If you’re feeling confident with segmentation, think about where you are in terms of being able to collect and utilize real-time data.

Segmentation image 3.

If your data management is already sophisticated, try scaling your campaigns and speeding your content delivery with automation.

Wherever you are in the digital journey — the important thing is to keep moving forward. Great experiences are the result of careful planning, thoughtful strategy, and the right technology. As you bring all this together, you can open the experience curtain to your customers in a way that wows them and builds their loyalty.

“2017 Digital Trends,” Econsultancy with Adobe, 2017.

Deanna Laufer, “How to Build the Right CX Strategy,” Forrester, January 10, 2017. 

“L’Occitane: Beauty in Marketing,” Adobe Customer Story, 2015,

“New Study Reveals That Traditional Retailers Are Failing to Meet Consumer Desires for ‘Amazon-like’ Personalization,” Swirl Consulting, December 10, 2015,

“Nordstrom Is the Nation’s Favorite Fashion Retailer, New Market Force Study Finds,“ Market Force, February 16, 2017,

“Now Where Did I Put that Photo?,” Adobe Experience Cloud, October 15, 2012,

“Proving the Value of Digital Asset Management for Digital Marketers and Creative Teams,” IDC, June 2015.

“Shoppable Media: The Next Frontier,” Adobe, 2016.