Nordstrom's Shelves, Now Stocked by Pinterest

The women's department at a Nordstrom store in Christiana, Del. Photograph by William Thomas Cain/Bloomberg

Plenty of companies have turned Pinterest into a de facto catalogue as a way to drive online sales. Nordstrom is going in the other direction: stretching the image-based social network into its brick-and-mortar stores.

In March, the department store chain started marking its “most-pinned” products from Pinterest with little “P” logos at two stores near its Seattle headquarters. Now Nordstrom has expanded the initiative to 13 of its 248 locations in a trial that will end just before the company’s big anniversary sale later this month. The Pinterest push marks the latest play by the 112-year-old brand to leverage tech startups for in-store sales.

In a sense, Nordstrom’s move to bring an aspect of Pinterest into its stores was just a way the company could mesh with an online environment its shoppers had embraced. The department store has 4.5 million followers on the social network, many more than its closest department store rivals combined. “We had such a large and engaged Pinterest community already,” says Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson. Executives had already adopted Pinterest as a tool, he adds, ”to find out what’s exciting for our customers—and what’s inspiring them.”

Nordstrom has a Pinterest page featuring Boo, the world’s cutest dog, perhaps a nod to the Internet’s cute-animal obsession. But the Pinterest campaign goes beyond fluffy puppies and super-saturated shoe photos: Nordstrom uses the items pinned by its followers to help manage inventory. The company developed an app that lets workers on its sales floor access a “dashboard” that cross-references the most-pinned handbags, shoes, and other offerings with the products in stock at that location. “If we’re not deep in stock in something,” Johnson says, bookmarking something on Pinterest is “not going to help the customer.”

A dress marked as “most-pinned” near one Nordstrom might not hold that distinction elsewhere, and the company can shift supplies to match. There are other layers of geography to consider, too. A pair of much-pinned snow boots probably aren’t going to sell well in a Sun Belt store, even if Nordstrom has them in stock. Johnson says the strategy is more about “engagement” than a way to drive revenue. “You get such great instant feedback that it makes a lot of sense that you’d want to capture it,” he says.

Nordstrom certainly seems to have staked out its territory on the social network. Here’s how its 4.5 million Pinterest followers compare to its competition:

• Macy’s: 47,000
• Barneys: 44,000
• Kohl’s: 20,500
• JCPenney: 13,200
• Dillard’s: 4,000

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