Bergdorf Goodman wants to be “channel-less” and has revamped its web site, striving to capture additional digital shoppers and e-commerce and project stronger alignment to the 57th Street flagship and the BG brand image.
“We’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time unifying a vision of the brand. That means taking the best of our heritage — the inspiration, the storytelling, the escapism and engaging customers — and thinking about that in a much more channel-less way,” said Darcy Penick, president of Bergdorf Goodman, a division of the Neiman Marcus Group.
In an exclusive interview with WWD, Penick said bg.com, after about eight months in redevelopment, has been “streamlined” with “unique, modern imagery” and an aesthetic that’s “still very much luxury.”
“Regardless of where you are browsing or shopping, our point of view is singing through the experience.”
The revamped web site displays much that’s different from the past with greater content and editorialized storytelling, fashion arrivals and lifestyle shops for those seeking style inspiration as well as easy navigation for customers ready to quickly home in on a specific item.
There’s a carousel that gives a BG guide on trends or categories, like BG’s 10 favorite bags of the season, or “a master class for effortless layering.”
The typography is cleaner; product detail pages have larger scale images enhancing closeups of fabrics and details, and fashions can be viewed back and front and from different angles.
The site appears less cluttered — three fashion images across is the primary browse — but BG continues to crop out the heads of models. The retailer believes the technique puts the focus on the products and helps shoppers envision themselves wearing the fashion.
Navigating through the new bg.com, it appears less transactional and more “experiential.” Yet it’s certainly intended to rev up e-comm sales. More than one-third of NMG’s total revenues are generated digitally. But Bergdorf’s web site, as a percentage of its overall business, lags. “We have opportunity to grow the penetration of dot-com, and to better align with the group,” Penick said. “It’s below the average for the group.”
Between BG’s different shopping channels, “There should be tremendous parity but that doesn’t mean all things should be exactly the same,” Penick said. “More so, there should be synergy in how we express our brand in each of our native environments.”
Bg.com officially relaunched Thursday, and to mark the milestone, the store has created a “digital moment” in its Fifth Avenue windows with an interactive interplay with passersby celebrating getting the online experience “to closely parallel what we do in store,” Penick said. The images in the windows change with the flow of pedestrian traffic.
Fenty, Rihanna’s brand created with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is showcased in the Fifth Avenue and 58th Street windows. Last Monday, the pop star opened a Fenty pop-up on the third floor, which will be up for three months, and for a week, the pop star is guest editing bg.com.
The windows also serve as a nod to New York Fashion Week. In the days ahead, Thom Browne, Saint Laurent, Rick Owens, Marc Jacobs and the BG Radar in-store format for emerging designers will be digitally featured in the windows. Amiri will take over the Goodman men’s store windows on Feb. 10.
“You feel like the content is moving with you as go from window to window,” Penick said. “There’s an illusion of change. It’s very different from treating the windows as a single moment in time. The concept is sort of end-to-end.”
Changes to bg.com have arrived in phases since November, with the first “getting into a lot of the foundational aspects of the experience, like making sure there was really a clear BG voice in the core aspects of the experience — the typography, the homepage, the browser and product detail page experiences,” Penick said. “The second phase got into more of the content aspect of the experience.”
The old bg.com appeared copy heavy, weighted with “lay down” studio images and white space and seemed linear. “[Now] we are making sure we are infusing enough of our storytelling and point of view into the experience…and being able to really help customers know what they need in their closet and guide that experience from an inspiration point of view,” Penick said. “The old experience was more standardized and grid-ed. Top navigation was pretty crowded and there was a lot going on between imagery and long lists of information. Customers want that ability to narrow quickly to what they are looking for.”
In shopping the store, “There are days where you go in with a purpose, maybe to shop for an occasion like a wedding, or for the hottest bag of the season. On other days you might want to be inspired to update your wardrobe and have a browsing experience.” With bg.com, “We translate a digitally native version of that for the customer that wants to be inspired and have this moment of discovery and there is an equally strong path for the customer coming in with a more specific purpose.”
Bg.com is designed to make it easy to shop outfits pictured, enabling customers to scroll down to see separate images of each item, with closeups and details. “We make it easy for you to click into that next item and be able to actually emulate the style,” Penick said, emphasizing this online experience parallels a sales associate helping a customer in the store by recommending product to complete an outfit.
The web site’s lifestyle shops are “customized experiences telling stories…with these we make comparisons to our windows,” Penick said. “The lifestyle shops can be trend or aesthetic-based,” she said, singling out the “Beautility” shop currently online. “As you scroll down the page you see a natural lifestyle story, desert-inspired with cactus in the background, natural elements of jewelry and accessories, earthy colors, soft leathers, heavy linens, utility details and graceful components. It feels very transportive.” The story inspires “a much deeper offering” enabling shoppers to wardrobe in a certain fashion sensibility.
Bg.com is a work in progress. Soon store associates will be able to help customers via Bergdorf’s app, which debuted last November. For example, if a shopper needs clothes for a wedding, a store associate could help build outfits listing items for the occasion. The service mirrors an in-store appointment with a sales associate, Penick suggested. “The intent is to extend relationships between store associates and customers into the digital environment.”
Also, a personalization component online is “not far out,” Penick added. “We will continue to invest in customization and individual aspects.”
Penick became president of Bergdorf’s in September 2018 after serving as chief executive officer of Shopbop, the online retailer owned by Amazon. Her expertise in dot-com operations coincided with NMG’s need to pump up e-commerce. Penick doesn’t give the impression that the web site revamp came at the expense of neglecting the physical store. “There are lots of projects in flight,” she said. Like the web site, “I think of the store as a living breathing organism where we are constantly making changes, evolving the experience, activating events and doing special things from a visual or new product perspective.”
She cited last week’s bar opening in the Goodman men’s store. “It was a very BG moment. We coupled with a Michelin star chef and a master sommelier created a wine menu, and there’s an environment that feels very BG — intimate and luxurious.”
Last spring, a designer “off-duty” series started for “VICs,” those very important clients, Penick said, to meet designers in a different context. Among the designers participating was Jason Wu, who taught a sketching class, and Phillip Lim, who taught a cooking class, helping to promote his cookbook. Lim served his mother’s ginger chicken at a dinner. The store also stages a breakfast speaker series with lifestyle and luxury topics.
Floors eight and nine at the women’s store, which once housed BG offices and still has a salon, could be converted to selling space. Additional footwear space is one possibility. “We don’t have anything to share with you today,” Penick said when queried about what will become of the floors.
Asked if the web redesign encourages increased dwell time online, Penick replied, “We want to service our customers the way they want to shop. In some cases, that’s a slow and meandering browsing experience. We want to provide a great path of discovery online just as we would want in the store. Simultaneously, for the customer looking to find what they need, looking for efficiency as the driver, we have navigation choices for end-use shopping making that easy.” Online, there are “parallel paths just like we provide in-store.”
She wouldn’t discuss how much NMG has spent recasting bg.com, other than saying, “we are investing in this. We believe it’s the right investment to continue serving the customer and growing the business. This is an important strategy for the organization for sure. We will continue to invest here.”
Regarding any merchandise changes online, “we will continue to extend the assortment. From a category perspective, it’s consistent,” Penick said.
Is the web revamp meant to lure younger customers? “The primary focus is pyschographic. It’s not a demographic play for me,” Penick said. “It’s actually a play for customers who love a super luxury-edited assortment, who love our take on fashion. This isn’t about age. This is about lifestyle.”