How to Use Email to Engage Customers: The Case of Nordstrom

| August 13, 2012 | 1 Reply

Email has become a powerful and must-have tool for marketers and business owners.

You can use email to generate sales, build awareness, keep customers coming back to your site, engage and strengthen your relationship with your customers. It is an effective tool for generating immediate action, whether you want sales, registrations, downloads, inquiries, and others. It allows targeting and segmentation of your customer list, and it offers you loads of data that you can use to increase your sales.

Best of all, email works! A study from the <a href=””>Direct Marketing Association</a> puts email marketing’s ROI for 2011 at $40.56 for every $1 invested.

But when and how should you use email marketing?

We looked at how the high-end retailer Nordstrom uses email to engage their customers and sell more of their products, and what types of emails they send to their customers. The upscale department store uses email to inform customers of the latest trends and styles, announce upcoming sales, showcase new products and highlight brands. They use it to communicate to their loyalty members, even announce outages.

Here are ways that Nordstrom uses email marketing to keep their customers engaged with their brand – and buy more.

1. Features existing brands

Nordstrom uses email to spotlight one of the many brands the store carries. In this email, the featured brand is Tory Burch, and the mailing showcases their summer footwear. It also featured a product from Tory Burch’s handbag line, as well as Tory Burch apparel.

nordstrom tory burch

2. Highlights a Trend

Nordstrom uses email to announce to their customers the season’s essential looks. One of the summer’s trends is bold colors and Nordstrom’s email announces the trend by featuring a cocktail dress in “supercharged colors and patterns.”

nordstrom dresses

3. Announces a time-sensitive special deal.

Nordstrom also uses email to announce to their customer any special sales they have for their select product categories.

In this email, Nordstrom offers their email subscribers a buy 2-get free special for their mascara products.

nordstrom mascara sale

4. Drum up interests in their sale events.

Nordstrom runs a half-yearly sale for women and children, and a few weeks later, men’s fashion. The retailer also runs a huge Anniversary Sale. Nordstrom uses email to inform their customers and loyalty card members of the upcoming sale, with several emails before and during the sale featuring some of the items, brands and product categories that are on sale.

For the Anniversary Sale starting July 20 – August 5, Nordstrom sent about 18-20 emails. About 9 of those emails were sent to loyal customers and Fashion Rewards Members giving a sneak peak of the sale, or what Nordstrom calls “Early Access to the Anniversary Sale.” During the sale, the emails from the retailer focused on highlighting select items and product categories on sale, including Western-inspired boots from Via Spiga to leather jackets.

5. Feature a product category

Nordstrom also sends emails highlighting a specific product line that they carry. Some of the recent emails they sent included: top accessories from various brands such as Badgley Mischka, flats, denims and summer tops, most-wanted sandals, among others. In the example below, the email featured cocktail dresses for under $200.

nordstrom cocktail dresses

6. Loyalty Program notifications

Nordstrom runs a loyalty program called Fashion Rewards for holders of Nordstrom credit or debit cards. Card members received 2 points for every net dollar spent online or in-store using their card. When the member reaches 2,000 points, a $20 Nordstrom Note is given to the customer. Depending on their level (based on amounts they spend), members are also given early Anniversary Sale access, private shopping parties, complimentary alterations, free shipping, among others.

In the email below, Nordstrom communicates to their Fashion Reward members opportunities to earn double rewards.

7. Announces upcoming and new brands.

Nordstrom continues to add brands to their roster of well-known and high-end brands. They use email to let customers know of the new brands that they carry.

In this email, Nordstrom announces that they will now carry the high-end French label Lanvin. The email features four pieces from the Lanvin fall 2012 collection, with links to the Lanvin products in Nordstrom and invitation to pre-order the pieces.

8. Alert about outages.

Even big companies such as Nordstrom sometimes experience website downtimes. When Nordstrom’s site went down, they used email to apologize to customers about the downtime and notify them that they are now back online.

Notice, though, how Nordstrom turns a negative into a positive:

Anniversary Sale may be a crowd pleaser, but wow, we were shocked with just how popular Early Access shopping would be. As a result, we’ve had some technical issues.

It’s us, not you. But the good news is, we’re back online now.


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Category: Email Marketing, Retailing

About the Author ()

Isabel Isidro is a small business owner who writes about her experiences in starting and running a business. She is the co-founder of and also runs

Comments (1)

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  1. MicroSourcing says:

    Nordstrom utilizes email marketing in a simple but effective manner. Featuring sales is a good tactic because most buyers prefer to buy marked-down items.

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