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Consumer Insights
February 21, 2017

Nordstrom vs. Macy’s – Department Store Showdown

The retail industry is a billion-dollar business in the United States. Competition for consumer dollars is fierce, particularly when it comes to department stores—many of whom are struggling.

Nordstrom and Macy’s are two of the most ubiquitous department stores in the country, and while there are similarities in their audiences, Hitwise decided to dig into their audience data to pinpoint the unique differences in their visitors and customers. These findings reveal powerful ways that each brand could gain an edge in a competitive retail marketplace.

Macy’s Customers Less Traditionally Domestic

Using the Hitwise platform, we created two separate segments of department store’s loyal customers. (Nordstrom (Not Macy’s) segment and Macy’s (not Nordstrom) segment were built in Hitwise’s AudienceView Platform. Demographic and attitudinal data was pulled using a Profile Snapshot Report measured four weeks ending January 14, 2017.) One group visited Macy’s online or in-store over the past 3 months but had NOT visited Nordstrom, and another group visited Nordstrom online or in-store over the past 3 months but had NOT visited Macy’s.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the exclusively Nordstrom audience skews wealthier—they are 95% more likely than the average person to have a household income of $100,000 or more. Meanwhile, Macy’s segment is 31% more likely to earn between $75,000-$99,000.

In terms of home life, Nordstrom loyalists exhibit a higher propensity towards traditional families. They are 21% more likely to be married and own homes—meanwhile Macy’s shoppers are only 10% more likely to be married, and are about average when it comes to home ownership. The biggest disparity is reflected in children. Nordstrom’s loyal customers are 17% more likely to have children at home, while Macy’s loyal shoppers are actually 10% less likely than the average American to have kids.

Nordstrom Macys Image 1

Nordstrom Shoppers Have Stronger Apparel Opinions

It comes as no surprise that both audiences are interested in fashion—but their attitudes towards apparel and clothing are markedly different.

Nordstrom customer attitudes reflect a penchant for designer labels, fashion magazines and organic products. Their most over-indexed attitudes reflect higher numbers, and very strong opinions:

“Fashion Magazines Help Me Determine What Clothes to Buy” – 208% more likely to agree

“A Designer Label Improves a Person’s Image” – 183% more likely to agree

“When I Shop for Health and Beauty Products, I Look for Organic/Natural Items” – 156% more likely to agree

Meanwhile, Macy’s customers also show an interest in the latest fashion trends, and even suggest they are willing to spend more than they can really afford on nice apparel. However, their top three strongest apparel attitudes don’t index as highly as Nordstrom customers do.

“I Am Usually the First Among My Friends to Try New Clothing Styles” – 50% more likely to agree

“I Am Willing to Spend More Than I Can Afford, to Get the Clothes That I Want” – 50% more likely to agree

“I Try to Keep Abreast of Changes in Styles & Fashions” – 37% more likely to agree

In terms of the largest percentage (rather than highest likelihood), each audience displays very different dominant attitudes.

Nordstrom Macys Image 2

Macy’s Dominates Digital Market Share Online

On the digital side, Macys pulls over double the market share of Nordstrom. Of all visits to retail websites measured over 4 weeks, Nordstrom.com received .24% of visits while Macys.com received .57%. (Nordstrom (Not Macy’s) segment and Macy’s (not Nordstrom) visit share and activity stream data were pulled using a Digital Behavior Report measured 4 weeks ending January 21, 2017.) Not only does Macys.com get a larger share of traffic overall, its mobile ratio is higher; 58% of its traffic is on mobile devices, while only 44% of traffic to Nordstrom.com is mobile.

Perhaps even more insightful from a competitive standpoint is analyzing the journey that online shoppers take before and after hitting Macys.com and Norstrom.com. Deconstructing the flow of visitor activity reveals whether one retailer is losing customers to another, and where there are opportunities to conquest shoppers earlier on.

Macys.com visitors tend to visit search engines, email and Amazon (as is the case with most retailers) before and after hitting Macys.com. Nordstrom sits lower on the ranking—underneath JC Penney as the 15th most common website hit before Macys.com, and 16th most common after.

Nordstrom Macys Image 3

Conversely, Macy’s represents a more menacing competitive figure for Nordstrom. Macys.com is the 6th most visited website before Nordstroms.com and the 7th most visited after, second only to Amazon in terms of retail competition. Not only is Macy’s ranked high in Nordstrom’s activity stream, Macys.com traffic increases from 804,989 visitors before Nordstrom.com to 829,109 afterwards, suggesting that more comparison shoppers may ultimately end up at Macy’s. The data suggests Nordstrom may be losing customers to Macy’s online.

Nordstrom Macys Image 4

Ultimately, there are lessons to be learned for both Macy’s and Nordstrom. Understanding your own best customers—and what sets them apart—can help brands double down on their most loyal audience. In the same token, as e-commerce overtakes the retail industry, it’s crucial that brands understand areas where they are excelling and falling behind major competitors online. Most importantly, retail brands must identify opportunities to capture greater market share, whether it’s by providing a mobile experience, targeting only luxury shoppers, or competing on price.

Connexity is a digital consumer insights and activation platform designed to help marketers find, get and keep customers.