Neiman Marcus transforms the customer experience with AWS
Neiman Marcus works alongside AWS to accelerate retail innovation.
The next time you’re looking to splurge on a designer handbag or high-end luxury clothing fashions, Neiman Marcus is a great place to start your shopping journey. The Dallas-based retailer, with 37 stores and more than 10,000 associates, is a pacesetter in the luxury-brand market. In 1984 Neiman Marcus was the first luxury retailer to introduce a loyalty program, InCircle, for its customers, and in 1991 it was the first luxury retailer to establish an ecommerce website.
To keep up the pace, the company has turned to next-generation ecommerce and cloud capabilities provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). At this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) 2023 flagship Big Show event in New York City, leading retailers, like Neiman Marcus, were joined by the world’s top technology and solution providers, including AWS. At the NRF event, the iconic luxury retailer talked about its 5-year journey to the cloud and how it has implemented a cloud-first strategy with Justin Honaman, head of Worldwide Retail and Consumer Goods Go To Market (GTM), from AWS. AWS is facilitating and powering the integrated luxury retail experience across the Neiman Marcus Group’s lines of business, including ecommerce, mobile, stores, supply chain, marketing, and more.
Neiman Marcus tapped Vijay Karthik, the company’s chief technology officer and senior vice president, to guide the company into the cloud era and move from an earlier cloud-agnostic model to an AWS cloud-native one that could drive a broader-based digital transformation. It’s been a multiyear journey that has required a coordinated effort from its engineers, ecommerce managers, store operators, and Neiman Marcus’s digital and customer strategy team—all aligned with senior company leadership strategy. Strong backing from executives at the top made a huge difference, starting with the CEO, who encouraged engineering teams to experiment, test and learn, and lean into new ways of thinking, thus facilitating a better shopper and guest experience.
As part of its cloud strategy, the Neiman Marcus team had to rethink how it structured its development organization and challenged the legacy mindset around solution development. Specifically, programmers needed to adopt a cloud-first mindset and learn a more agile way of working. According to Sriram Vaidyanathan, vice president of omnichannel development and engineering at Neiman Marcus, being agile is essential if you’re going to support a rapid pace of innovation.
AWS has been part of the Neiman Marcus cloud journey since 2016 so that the company can evolve and iterate in the cloud to improve the customer experience. “You need to have the right foundation to be custodians of the cloud,” Vaidyanathan says in an interview with TechRepublic. Neiman Marcus created a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE) to help share best practices with developers. Teams started small and then quickly scaled, adding automation and new pipelines to easily serve multiple regions and improve service availability.
Executives shared that being able to off-load patching chores to AWS helped the CCOE team focus on business-centric priorities. Automation capabilities on AWS made the process more efficient with hands-free coding and automated quality checks. The team also stripped away barriers by giving more autonomy to engineers to do what’s needed on their own. Leaders learned not to micromanage teams and focus instead on giving them the ability to achieve higher levels of performance.
“Proven DevOps methods, such as keeping working teams small (think of Jeff Bezos’s two-pizza rule), are contributing to better agility and productivity,” Neiman Marcus executives noted. “Sticking to simple and manageable architectures also helps,” Karthik told TechRepublic. This helps engineers and stakeholders not to become overwhelmed by the process and allows teams to build repeatable practices.
Other development techniques, like failing fast, have helped Neiman Marcus quickly move beyond early experiments and show meaningful value to the entire company faster. The company has also developed strategic relationships with AWS Partners to help with content delivery networking in its ecommerce business.
As the panel closed out the session, Karthik and Vaidyanathan shared several key lessons learned along the journey. These included future-proofing your organization by using the right tool for the right job; rightsizing your cloud infrastructure with cloud-native versus agnostic strategies; taking advantage of microservices, including microliths and versioning; valuing availability over consistency; emphasizing security and governance; and tagging (cloud infrastructure and cleanup often) and using knowledge from the experts whenever possible.
Thanks to TechRepublic for its excellent coverage of the NRF event and specifically the Neiman Marcus case study. Learn more about how AWS retail cloud solutions empower you to create exceptional experiences built for the future of retail.