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For Neiman Marcus, IT and innovation are inseparable

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At more than a century old, Neiman Marcus has a remarkable legacy in fashion retail. But President and CEO Karen Katz and Senior Vice President and CIO Michael Kingston stressed this: innovating is just as important as the heritage that drives the brand.

Karen Katz (left), President and CEO, and Michael Kingston, SVP and CIO, Neiman Marcus

This opening keynote with NRF Senior Vice President and Executive Director Vicki Cantrell was candid. It began with a glimpse inside conversations held by Neiman Marcus executives about the role of IT in the enterprise. “We believe it is IT’s role to be enablers of the business’ growth and strategy, and we are focused on execution,” Kingston said. “But IT must also bring innovation to the business.” It’s been a focused, collaborative effort by the Executive team to bring those innovations to reality, Kingston added. But innovation doesn’t come without risks. At Neiman Marcus, risk-tolerance isn’t used as an inhibitor to innovation. It’s a driver for the organization to be cutting-edge. “Innovation is about bringing risk-tolerance back to the organization. Sometimes those failures are more powerful than the big wins you have,” Katz said. The panel discussed how mobile point-of-sale technology and other modernizations are important to keeping the brand relevant in the eyes of the customer. Both are integral to the O-to-O, or offline-to-online omnichannel model. Empowering associates with mobile POS serves customers better. Creating a personalized experience across all touch points is important to the digital piece. Customers are comfortable shopping on multiple devices and being able to speak with them across all touch points is very challenging from a technology standpoint, Kingston added. It’s the new reality in retail. And Neiman Marcus is embracing the innovations – and inherent risks – that will help keep the 106 year-old brand young.