Nadine Neatrour, Selfridges’ Director of Marketing, was interviewed by retail expert Martin Newman at Ecommerce Expo last month and shared her thoughts on, amongst other things, how the direct-to-consumer brand boom has impacted retail.
Neatrour has previously worked in a number of customer-focused roles for brands including By Terry, Ted Baker, and LVMH, and describes a “customer-first vision” as being “as much about an internal organisation as it is about marketing. It is the whole business mix, for me.”
On the rise of the direct-to-consumer model and its potential impact on traditional physical retail channels (particularly department stores), Neatrour is upbeat and sees brand adjacency as a key benefit of retail.
“I think there is a place for brands in both places,” she says. “This is about customer experience and customer choice… as a brand, you do want to be seen in an establishment like Selfridges. The [value of] brand adjacency is to be seen next to other brands. We are still a trend leader – customers will still come to us for curation, editorial, and for experience. So it’s still really important for brands to be within those doors where they have access to those customers.”
DTC is an opportunity for Selfridges to ‘up its game’
The increase in brands going direct-to-consumer is also an opportunity for Selfridges to ‘up its game’, says Neatrour. “We’ve got to be, again, very very connected to our own customer… a brand like Selfridges wants to go on a journey with a consumer. I know it sounds cheesy, but genuinely, we’re not just there to take the sale. We’re more interested in that long-term relationship, and we absolutely want to be a showcase for new brands and trends across all categories that we represent in the market.”
Of course, another aim for Selfridges is to differentiate itself from both other physical department stores as much as online retail brands, which Neatrour says is able to happen due to, internally, “the time and space and investment that’s given to creativity of the brand itself, which helps to create that emotional connection and delivers that experience that you see changing [by season] as you go through the doors.”
What does a great online experience look like?
Neatrour emphasises how important the store environment is in keeping customers coming back, saying, “Our customers are exceptionally loyal to that experience that they have come to expect within our store. We are absolutely the masters of experiential retail, and so I think that is a core driver of the loyalty within our customer-base.”
That expertise in experiential retail raises an interesting question, how does online shopping deliver the same wow factor? With the seismic shift to ecommerce now impossible to ignore – the burning question is whether it is possible to recreate the in-store Selfridges experience online. Neatrour says that, over time, it will more likely be the case that the transition between online and offline will further blur.
“Some people refer to the ‘metaverse’, so you wouldn’t necessary know if you’re online or in store,” she says. “I think there are a lot of tools available today to help bridge that gap, so live-streaming is a great example, where you can have an in-store experience through a digital platform. I think social commerce is a new kind of key storefront for online that’s coming into the mix… but of course, it is never going to be quite the same as physically being in an establishment [like Selfridges].”