Scott Emmons is focused on innovation for the Neiman Marcus Group (NMG), where he is responsible for evaluating, designing, testing, and piloting cutting-edge technologies and applications for luxury retail. Emmons founded and built the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab (iLab) in 2012, which has grown to become the company’s hub for innovation projects and has earned a world-class reputation for retail innovation. Recent innovation projects include Memory Makeover, connected fitting room technology, intelligent mobile phone charging stations, and voice-controlled sales associate communicators.
Emmons recently participated in our “4 Questions for Marketing Innovators” series.
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
I would start by saying I am not a marketer. However, after being given the opportunity to help create the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, it didn’t take long to figure out that marketing was going to be one of the most important partners when it came time to introduce new technology into the retail customer experience. One of the biggest contributions that the Innovation Lab has made is that it has helped open doors between IT, marketing, and other areas of the business. It has also allowed for a much more collaborative relationship to evolve. The most important topic has been solving problems for the customers. It is a topic that is always top-of-mind throughout the retail organization.
2. Why is this so important?
For one thing, it has allowed me to focus on the fact that we are in the luxury retail business. The most important thing everyone does at Neiman Marcus is contribute to our customer’s experience, making sure it is the best one possible. I am a retailer first and a technologist second. In IT, we have to be great at delivering information services to our business partners, but our customer is first and foremost. It is possible to lose track of that in the day-to-day activities of keeping everything humming along.
“Customer first” is not just a checkmark on a review form; it is what has driven the Neiman Marcus brand for 110 years and is what will take us through the next 100 years. I believe the iLab has played a role in helping us maintain that customer focus in this time of constant change. By making experimentation with new customer-facing technology available and applying it in ways that make the customer experience better, I believe our innovation program has helped the IT organization evolve from order takers to business partners that are part of the ideation and innovation process. That, in turns, means we can better position resources to support initiatives and to be able to say yes a lot more often when asked to support new capabilities. The innovation program is allowing Neiman Marcus to be first to leverage the latest and greatest technology and help drive our reputation as an innovative retail technology leader.
3. How will this improve the customer experience?
This translates into a more agile organization that can build and deliver new capabilities for our customers at a much faster pace. Given the ever-increasing speed that change and new technology is being introduced, it is only natural that the business has had to adapt to meet this challenge. Removing the internal silos allows us to be better and faster at delivering a cohesive and compelling experience to our customers. It allows us to bring the right resources to the never-ending circle of evaluating, experimenting, learning, and refining how we deliver value to our customers. The iLab can quickly deliver technology that enables new surprise-and-delight moments to the customer. This same technology has brought new capabilities for collecting data that delivers new insights for the marketing team.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Essentially, I have been talking about blurring the lines between the technology team and marketing, as this translates into combining skill sets. Bringing marketers together with technologists and combining people that know how to communicate and resonate with the customer can effectively identify, integrate, and implement cutting-edge technology to support the efforts. It is a powerful combination.
Bonus question: What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I love to travel abroad with my wife and daughter. It is important to see and experience different cultures and perspectives. This also comes in pretty handy for my innovation work!