Great ResignationInflationSupply ChainsLeadership

Nordstrom’s latest tool in e-commerce battle? Shopping by text message

May 22, 2015, 2:35 PM UTC
Courtesy of Nordstrom

Beware shopping addicts, Nordstrom (JWN) has launched a new tech tool aimed at enabling your overspending.

The upscale department store earlier this week launched TextStyle, a new text messaging service that allows customers to make purchases via text based on a recommendations sent over the phone by a favorite salesperson or personal shopper.

It is the latest weapon developed by Nordstrom in what is becoming an increasingly heated arms race among luxury retailers looking to dazzle customers with new ways of shopping and one-upping rivals with new technology.

The Seattle-based retailer now gets 21% of its revenue from e-commerce, and has a multi-year plan to spend $1.5 billion to keep pushing its tech firepower forward. But it can’t sit still: rivals from Neiman Marcus to Barneys New York to Net-A-Port to Macy’s (M) are also pouring a fortune into their retail tech.

TextStyle, which was rolled out at Nordstrom’s 116 U.S. department stores (but not at its Rack off-price stores) this week, piggybacks on its proprietary NEXT opt-in, secure one-to-one service that lets Nordstrom customers be in touch with their sales associates via text message if that’s how they prefer to communicate.

When using TextStyle, a shopper, or his or her Nordstrom salesperson, sends a private text message with a description or photo of a product. And if it’s a go, the customer can make the purchase by replying “buy” and entering a unique code, with the transaction being completed using a shopper’s account at

“TextStyle is an important step forward in our efforts to connect with customers on their terms,” Scott Jones, Nordstrom’s VP of Personalization, told Fortune, noting that the tool is a way the retailer is aiming to be “relevant for customers.”

Personalized service is particularly important in the world of luxury, with high-touch service is expected by customers about to doll out hundreds, if not thousands, on a garment.

About four years ago, Neiman Marcus, which rose to prominence a century ago by understanding what an advantage personal service was, gave each of its 5,000 sales people Apple iPhones so they can text customers to let them know that a handbag or pair of shoes by a favorite designer has arrived in store, or just send an e-mail to check in after a purchase to see if the customer still likes what she bought

Nordstrom’s TextStyle, and Neiman’s iPhone-armed sales staff are essentially a 21st-century version of the little black book associates at high-end stores have long kept, with their best customers’ phone numbers and notes about their tastes.