Nordstrom Merges Online And In-Store Inventory

Written by Frank Hayes
August 24th, 2010

Nordstrom might be the last retailer you’d expect to worry about slugging it out with competitors online for customer service. The tony $8.6 billion chain also doesn’t have a reputation for tech wizardry. But when Nordstrom unveiled its redesigned Web site last Saturday (Aug. 21), it also spotlighted a feature that the retailer quietly began offering in September 2009: merged online and in-store inventory systems. As a result, a customer buying through any Nordstrom channel has access to products that happen to be in any store or online warehouse.

That fully merged-channel inventory system took four years of work to become a reality, according to Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson. The process started with breaking down organizational silos and laying the foundation, then moved to creating a single view of inventory and finally layered the brick-and-mortar store inventory view on top of the online inventory system. That explains why multichannel commerce seems like such a slow slog for most retailers today: It really does take years. Considering that Nordstrom’s in-store approach of pampering customers can’t be replicated online, the retailer was wise to start the march early–and arrive first.


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