UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Retail marketing in the digital age


UNC Kenan-FlaglerHelping Nordstrom find a story in the data it collects from digital shoppers is the job of Lynda Firey-Oldroyd.

Like many retailers, Nordstrom is constantly adapting to digital trends, which give retailers both new ways to connect with customers and more challenges in reaching them.

“Digital is critical to our business. It’s hard to even separate online and brick-and-mortar,” she said. “It’s critical to how we operate day in and day out.”

Firey-Oldroyd spoke on a panel about retail marketing in the digital age at the third annual UNC Retail Conference Feb. 28.

Panelists were:

  • Firey-Oldroyd, vice president of consumer insights at Nordstrom
  • Jim Davidson, manager of marketing research at Bronto Software
  • Sarah Goldwasser (MBA ‘11), manager at Deloitte Consulting
  • Parker Wilson (MBA ‘11), assistant manager at Lululemon Athletica

Organized by the UNC Kenan-Flagler Retail Club, the annual conference brought together students and professionals to discuss changes and challenges in retail.

  • Determining what kind of service customers expect online – from free shipping to live customer service – is one of those challenges, said Firey-Oldroyd. “That’s been a really big cultural thing we’ve had to deal with,” she said. “Every day, we figure out how we see digital and our story working together.”
  • Retailers are struggling to develop a single strategy that will work across multiple digital platforms and various markets, including internationally, said Goldwasser. “You need to have a consolidated way of looking at your customers,” she said. “You need to more specifically target customers in a targeted way.”
  • Lululemon still sees digital primarily as a way to drive business to its stores, said Wilson. “We never set out to have a digital experience, but it’s been a big focus this year.” She said Lululemon uses social media to build a human connection with customers.
  • The growth of digital platforms represents an opportunity for retailers, Davidson said. Services like email lists, online help chat, product reviews and information can draw in customers — both online and in-store. “People are using more devices to shop and engage with the brand,” he said. “I see a lot of retailers doing some really dynamic things in store locations.”

Conference sponsors were Tanger Outlets, Members Only, the Global Business Center at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Bronto, Burt’s Bees, Deloitte, Lowe’s, Merch Success, Nordstrom, Rivercrest Realty Investors, Southern Season, VF Corporation and Vietri.