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R.B. Harrison NRFtech15

Three ways Macy’s has reduced friction for customers

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From eGifting to zTailor, Macy’s is always on the lookout for ways to improve the customer experience.

“Any company that’s been around for 160 years has had to innovate.”

That was the key message from Macy’s Chief Omnichannel Officer R.B. Harrison, who spoke at the NRFtech conference in California this week.

As Harrison told attendees, Macy’s was the first American retail store with modern-day escalators. The first to post prices in plain sight. And in 1872, they were offering free, same-day home delivery – via horse and wagon.

At the center of the company’s innovation is the customer. Harrison says his team tackles “points of friction” that get in the way of a satisfying shopping experience, betting big on data and technology to improve engagement, loyalty, fulfillment and other retail challenges. Everyone is welcome to solicit ideas — from employees to Silicon Valley venture capitalists. The team puts ideas through a Shark Tank-style vetting process, then prototypes and executes in a very short timeframe. The rapid launch and continuous iteration is what makes the lab effective. Here are three examples of friction, fixed:


Macy’s recognized that there are frustrations inherent in gift giving, where customers can be deterred by questions such as size or preferred color. eGifting solves those problems by allowing customers to place an order, but putting the final decision in the hand of the recipient. The buyer places an order, then the recipient gets an email alert and can change the color, size and shipping method. They can even exchange the product for something completely different. eGifting went into production only 75 days after concept, half the time it used to take to launch similar initiatives.


Going to a tailor takes time, and the need to have clothing altered often deterred purchases. Macy’s solved that problem earlier this year by forming a partnership with zTailo. Customers can now book a tailor online when making a purchase at the same price as an in-store tailor. The tailor comes to the customer’s home or office for the fitting, and within a week the item is delivered. Concept to production only took five months.


Macy’s saw an opportunity to increase customer engagement, retention and loyalty with game theory. The Macy's Idea Lab team tried a completion bar on the profile page where the company wanted more customer information and a countdown timer where they needed fast decisions on whether the customer would “covert” from browsing to actually buying. Their willingness to conduct small experiments with website elements helps them understand their customers, and continue to develop ideas that serve them better.

Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren puts customers at the center of all the brand’s decisions, and that includes investing in a team that can turn around fast innovations. When announcing new initiatives including same-day shipping and Apple Pay, Lundgren said “We will continue to test, to learn and to proceed aggressively with the new ideas that excite our customers and that make shopping more convenient and fun.”



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