Neiman Marcus has fresh designs on smarter interactions with customers – and among employees

For Sarah Miller, the job of reading patterns in retail data has long felt like a perfect fit.

She built her early IT career by pulling insights from grocery aisles, restaurant rushes, and the nuts and bolts of home improvement. Then, in 2013, she added a new look to her resume – the business of fashion. The tech exec arrived at Neiman Marcus Group as “a big customer” of the iconic brand.

“Once I got to know people within the organization, I recognized how passionate other associates were about the company,” says Miller, senior vice president and chief information officer. “It’s a special place.  And every day, it continues to be inspiring.”

Now Miller is leading a growth and transformation strategy specifically focused on technology across Neiman Marcus Group and aimed at “capturing the hearts and minds of our customers,” she says.

By adopting an array of technologies, including the communication and collaboration tools within Microsoft Office 365, Miller seeks to build on the intimate relationship Neiman Marcus Group has with its customers, expanding that fan base by fueling deeper ties both digitally and in the stores.

Transform recently caught up with Miller to hear more about her plans to get to know those customers even better.

TRANSFORM: How does collecting and analyzing consumer data drive this new initiative?

SARAH MILLER: We’ll be using data in a lot of new platforms to have a deeper understanding of the customer and to be able to predict (purchases) and create communications with those customers, then feed that to our sales associates and stylists to grow that relationship.

And this is not from a transactional level. A lot of retailers and e-commerce businesses are using technology just to focus on the transaction. This is more around knowing our customers and creating a unique and memorable experience for each one of them.

TRANSFORM: Are you also using these technologies to improve the employee experience?

MILLER: We believe we have a very good culture today at Neiman Marcus Group. That has traditionally been an innovative culture. We were the first luxury retailer to have a loyalty program and an e-commerce site.

Going forward, we are investing in collaboration and communication tools to continue to expand that innovative culture so that we can connect more among ourselves – whether it’s sales associates connecting with corporate teams or the sales associates connecting between stores, sharing information and receiving feedback.

We can drive more of a performance culture within the organization. We see the Office 365 products being able to provide that for us today.

TRANSFORM: What can employees achieve that they couldn’t achieve previously?

MILLER: Today, we don’t have an efficient way to share information within the organization – no Teams site, no common place to share documentation and information or to get feedback from the organization on what we’re doing.

As we roll out Office 365, we’ll be able to more easily stream video and communications to the organization and also receive real-time feedback.

Our executive team and our CEO are interested in understanding how the organization is receiving information on the ideas they have to contribute to our growth strategy – and to help them create the customer experience that we are trying to achieve.

TRANSFORM: How do you see these tools improving work culture?

MILLER: We all use technology to communicate, to get our news, to share information and to socialize. So consumers have high expectations of technology. They understand what good technology is, what it’s built like and how it helps them in their daily lives. It’s important to also have that (same expectation) in the workplace.

But when it comes to the workplace, a lot of companies are behind. We think creating that same (tech-friendly) experience within the workplace will help enhance the culture we want to foster at Neiman Marcus Group. And as we all know, a rich culture, helps attract the very best talent to an organization.

TRANSFORM: What’s your vision for how Office 365 will change how people do their jobs?

MILLER: Quite frankly, it’s going to be beyond probably what I imagine today.

We have product teams that build the technology for our customer experience. Those product teams will be able now to use these technologies to communicate, collaborate and share the designs and information that they need in order to build those products.

Our marketing organization will be able to collaborate in real time with our merchandising organization on how we are planning communications to our customers or working with our brand partners. Our merchandising organization will be able to access real-time data through mobile devices so when they are in market and working with our brand partners, they have all the data they need.

I think the organization is then going to create use cases that we haven’t even thought of yet. That’s what excites me.

TRANSFORM: You’re also incorporating real-time data and predictive AI into your customer relationships. How do you see those technologies influencing what Neiman Marcus Group offers?

MILLER: We already know our customers very well, so we have a lot of information and data (from their purchases) that will help enhance their experience. We can use that customer data to make product recommendations or styling recommendations for them.

Going forward, we will use machine learning and predictive analysis to tap all of the fashion and style experience that Neiman Marcus Group has. Our technology will learn that information from both our internal associates as well as from fashion trends out there to create the look and the experience that our customers will love.

Top image: Sarah Miller, courtesy of Neiman Marcus.

Read Sarah Miller’s guest post on the Microsoft 365 blog.