Neiman Marcus Increases New Application Speed to Market by 50% on AWS, Improves Digital Selling for Associates
A luxury household name, Neiman Marcus has a reputation for delivering a first-class, personalized customer service experience. To modernize and enhance that experience, the company wanted to develop Connect, an omnichannel digital selling application that would empower associates to view rich, personalized customer information with the goal of making each customer interaction unforgettable. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many retail stores to close, the company’s sales moved exclusively online. To continue providing the hallmark experience that had always attracted customers, Neiman Marcus needed to launch Connect quickly to enable associates to perform digital selling.
Choosing a serverless architecture with mobile development solutions on Amazon Web Services (AWS) enabled the development team to launch the app much faster than in the 4 months it had originally planned. “Using AWS cloud-native and serverless technologies, we increased our speed to market by at least 50 percent and were able to accelerate the launch of Connect,” says Sriram Vaidyanathan, senior director of omni engineering at Neiman Marcus. This approach also greatly reduced app-building costs and provided developers with more agility for the development and rapid deployment of updates. The app elastically scales to support traffic at any volume for greater cost efficiency, and it has increased
Using AWS Amplify on a serverless architecture cost us 90 percent less than if we had built the app using a more traditional method. This is a huge win for us.”
Senior Director of Cloud Engineering, Neiman Marcus
Empowering Associates to Elevate the Customer Experience
Neiman Marcus is the flagship brand of the Neiman Marcus Group, a luxury retail organization founded in 1907 and generating $2.6 billion in annual revenue from its subsidiaries. Before Neiman Marcus developed Connect, associates were using an assortment of tools and technologies to provide customer service. Each solution provided a
different piece of information an associate needed to generate a sale. Some of these solutions were outdated, and all of them were creating friction. As a result, they were increasing sell times and decreasing associate productivity.
The development team set out to create an app that would aggregate a comprehensive range of customer data and present it in one place. The team had three goals in mind: to increase productivity, support omnichannel selling, and empower associates to deepen customer relationships. Neiman Marcus was eager to resolve the challenges that associates were facing and to deliver on its white-glove customer experience. When stores closed, the company’s preexisting plans for launching and implementing the app were significantly accelerated. “Additional pressure mounted on our team to roll out the new application. We had to go to market double quick—and we were able to do it with the technical foundation we had in place and with the right set of tools and tech,” says Vaidyanathan.
Building Serverless Apps with Speed
To speed up its app development time, the Neiman Marcus team chose to build on a serverless architecture using AWS Amplify, a set of tools and services that front-end web and mobile developers can use to build scalable full-stack applications powered by AWS. The team quickly configured the app using AWS Amplify workflows, then connected the app to the backend by using open-source client libraries. It used AWS Amplify to set up secure authentication and authorization flows for sign-up, sign-in, and access controls, with a fully managed user directory powered by Amazon Cognito, a user directory service that handles registration, authentication, and account recovery.
A key functional component in the design of the serverless architecture was AWS AppSync, a fully managed service that simplifies the development of GraphQL APIs. GraphQL enables client apps to efficiently fetch, change, and subscribe to data from servers, and AWS AppSync helps Neiman Marcus specify which portions of its data should be available by using GraphQL subscriptions, simple statements in the application code that tell the service which data to update in real time. GraphQL subscriptions support a key application use case: they enable customers and associates to subscribe to various notifications, such as notifications that let them know when a desired product becomes available for sale.
The closure of retail locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a true test of the development team’s agility in responding to urgent new challenges. “As a development team for a recognizable brand name, it’s essential that we set ourselves up to swiftly support the business when its needs change,” says Vaidyanathan. “By building Connect using AWS Amplify and AWS AppSync as quickly as we did, we were able to prove that we are in a position to do just that.” In addition to moving quickly, Neiman Marcus also saves money on AWS because it only pays for the resources it uses. “Using AWS Amplify on a serverless architecture cost us 90 percent less than if we had built the app using a more traditional method. This is a huge win for us,” says Hemanth Jayaraman, senior director of cloud engineering at Neiman Marcus.
Serverless architecture also enables Neiman Marcus to elastically scale the app to quickly meet demand. Elasticity is crucial to retail companies, which regularly experience bursts of traffic during promotions, popular shopping hours, weekends, and holiday seasons. The engineering team uses AWS Lambda—a serverless compute service that automatically runs code without requiring developers to provision or manage infrastructure—for compute power and automatic scaling. Once the development team writes and uploads code, AWS Lambda automatically and precisely allocates compute execution power and runs the code based on incoming requests or events for any scale of traffic.
Driving Success on the Sales Floor
Neiman Marcus is seeing improvements in associate productivity since rolling out Connect. Associates can now engage with customers and assist them from anywhere—a high-touch selling approach that was not available before. “We wanted Connect to be the ultimate tool in an associate’s arsenal that enabled them to manage their client relationships efficiently while increasing their own productivity,” says Vaidyanathan. “Our associates now have everything they need in one place to provide excellent customer service.” The app also tracks associate key performance indicators. As a result, Connect is incentivizing associates because they can view their sales performance in real time.
The development team is also exploring new capabilities for Connect, such as solutions that will enable associates and supervisors to track targets. With access to information based on data and intelligence, associates can manage their client relationships more effectively using Connect.
Overall, associates have taken very well to Connect. “Engagement has been strong, especially when we shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Connect was one of the few avenues associates could use to continue serving customers,” Vaidyanathan says. “The app has evolved the way our associates engage with customers, and our relationships with customers have grown much deeper as a result. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome from building this solution on AWS.”
About Neiman Marcus
A well-known name in luxury retail, Neiman Marcus operates 38 US department stores and a premier digital service for customers around the world. It is the flagship brand of the Neiman Marcus Group, founded in 1907.
Benefits of AWS
- Reduced development costs by 90%
- Increased speed to market by 50%
- Increased developer velocity
- Improved elasticity
- Improved agility
AWS Services Used
AWS Amplify is a set of tools and services that can be used together or on their own, to help front-end web and mobile developers build scalable full stack applications, powered by AWS.
Organizations choose to build APIs with GraphQL because it helps them develop applications faster, by giving front-end developers the ability to query multiple databases, microservices, and APIs with a single GraphQL endpoint.
Amazon Cognito lets you add user sign-up, sign-in, and access control to your web and mobile apps quickly and easily. Amazon Cognito scales to millions of users and supports sign-in with social identity providers, such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and enterprise identity providers via SAML 2.0 and OpenID Connect.
AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing runtimes.
Companies of all sizes across all industries are transforming their businesses every day using AWS. Contact our experts and start your own AWS Cloud journey today.