Bloomingdale’s has a long, proud history in retail. The store began in the nineteenth century, opening its doors in the same year that Yellowstone Park was established, the Metropolitan Museum of Art launched, and the readers the world over were captivated by Phileas Fogg’s journey around the world in 80 days. They’ve been a stalwart presence through tumultuous times – both World Wars, the summer of love, and recessions large and small. But today, like many retailers, they’re really struggling. As their core customer base gets older, they shop less and less, and younger shoppers are not appearing to take their place.
Understanding the Challenge of Customer Acquisition
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Every retailer faces the same challenge: how are you going to attract new customers? The need is especially pressing for online retailers, because loyalty in the world of ecommerce is practically non-existent: 2/3rds of shoppers who make a purchase at an online store won’t return again to make subsequent purchases. Only 16% of online shoppers ever make a third purchase from an online store.
Brands are exploring many avenues to introduce new people to their store. Bloomingdale’s, which has long catered to a very upscale and fairly conservative crowd, made headlines by hosting an event featuring emerging rap stars Migos. The band is launching a streetwear brand to coordinate with the debut of their new album, Culture II. GQ described the event thus:
The crowd absorbs new members until it pushes out all the way to the escalators where security guards are trying to keep a pathway clear for the confused old women who just want to dine at Bloomingdale’s David Burke cafe. None of these kids, it goes without saying, are Bloomingdale’s typical shopper.
It’s not unusual for Bloomingdale’s to feature exclusive collections. They’ve had this type of event many times before. But the choice of brand, and the audience that would eagerly respond to it, raises a few eyebrows – including those of Migos fans, who freely admitted that they didn’t shop at Bloomingdales, and given the prices, didn’t see themselves shopping there in the future.
Migos fans tend to be on the young side, and with age comes more disposable income. Bloomingdale’s strategy appears to hinge on the idea that providing memorable experiences now will result in return visits later. It may very well work – a business doesn’t stay open for 150+ years without learning a trick or two along the way. But we have to wonder if Bloomingdale’s is making a blunder by focusing a customer acquisition campaign on a population so markedly divergent from their existing customer base. The surest route to growth involves targeting audiences who have several points of similarity with those people who already appreciate what you do. Given the current tumultuous retail atmosphere, a more conservative strategy may have been a smarter move. We’d love to hear your thoughts. If you were running Bloomingdale’s, what would you do to attract new customers?