Nordstrom family scion keeps up with Amazon online

Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:37pm EST
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By Alistair Barr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The future of retail came to Jamie Nordstrom not in a dream, but though his email inbox from Inc, the online retailer that Nordstrom now targets as his biggest rival.

The 40 year-old, great-grandson of Nordstrom Inc founder John W. Nordstrom and president of Nordstrom Direct ordered a fishing tackle box from Amazon last year. And then he received emails from Amazon about other tackle boxes for five straight days.

On the sixth day, Amazon sent an email to buy an additive that is often used to preserve gasoline in boats stored over the winter -- an example of Amazon's strength crunching customer data to provide more relevant recommendations.

"I was like, 'Crap, I need some of that.' They got me and all I had to do was literally hit a button. That's incredibly valuable," Nordstrom said during an appearance at the Milken Institute Global Conference earlier this year.

Nordstrom, who already has his company's online business growing at a greater pace than its rivals, sees this "personalization" as the new front in the retail wars, delivering the high levels of customer service that the department store is already known for.

That's why Nordstrom is going on the offensive against Amazon, spending heavily on technology and luring talent from Amazon and Microsoft Corp. to super-charge his family department store chain's growth.

At a time when others are still playing defense or trying to match Amazon, Jamie Nordstrom is seen as a leader in the retail industry's attempts to grow online.

"I really respect a lot of what's going on at Nordstrom online and Jamie Nordstrom runs that," said Scot Wingo, chief executive of e-commerce firm ChannelAdvisor. "He's focused on putting customers first and that's led him into these new areas."   Continued...

The Nordstrom store is seen at a mall in a Denver suburb May 16, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking