33: Dan Nordstrom: A 25-year Ecomm Veteran on What’s Working Today for Multichannel Businesses

“When I think of the tactics, I don’t think of the actual channel marketing tactics. I think of more the product itself and the presentation of the product because that’s where it really happens.”

– Dan Nordstrom


Okay, listeners. Get ready to hit “repeat” on your phone, computer, or whatever device you’re listening to this episode on. Dan Nordstrom is about to break down the macro and the micro of the retail environment through the lens of passion brands. It’s so full with insight and forecasts you’re going to want to listen…twice. I mean, seriously! Just take a look at the “topics covered” blurb. And know this, we always have a time-stamped transcript – see below.

He’s speaking from the perspective of a brand marketer, a consumer, a CEO, a competitor, and an investor. What’s remarkable is that he does so seamlessly! As difficult as it may be to embody all those roles at once, I think the key takeaway is that this is precisely what we MUST to do to succeed. Buckle up, friends.


dan nordstrom

Dan Nordstrom is a co-founder of Roundhouse Collective Investment, which invests in early-stage consumer product companies and emerging brands. Many of our listeners also know Dan as the owner and CEO Emeritus of Outdoor Research. Earlier in his career, he spent 17 years at the family business, Nordstrom, Inc., working his way from the stockroom to store manager to co-president. In 1993, he led the launch of what would become Nordstrom.com.

He currently serves as a board member for Truewerk, evo.com, Nuun Hydration, Forterra, and the American Mountain Guides Association. When he’s not working, he’s out in the mountains – climbing and skiing.


modernizing your approach, consumer-centric marketing strategies, digitally native millennial brands (DNMB), one markup vs. two markup structure, 3PL (third party logistics), line segmentation, brand marketing vs. product marketing in e-commerce, short-term financial leads vs. long-term brand vision, building an emotional connection online, marketplace pricing control and line segmentation, capital efficiency for DNMBs, brick and mortar as marketing experience, retail rationalization, customer lifetime value


[some quotes lightly edited for length and context]

“It’s funny when you look at things in hindsight and it potentially all makes sense. But when you go to the actual moment you were there, it was total confusion.”

“If you think of a brand that’s trying to do e-commerce, you’ve got this tension between brand marketing and product marketing. …Those are two very different challenges. And a lot of times product sales to maximize those might undermine the brand a little bit. And so brands need to be careful and balance the degree to which they push on moving products out the door versus building up the brand.”

“I think what you’ve got to do is think hard about your offering in the first place because the lifetime value is ultimately driven by the value proposition of the product.”

“The way [Hackberry] presents their product is verging on retail genius to me. They really romance it. And as you do that, what you see is consumers are responding to both the product itself, and then the quality of the presentation because it’s exciting and it generates a positive emotional connection.”

“When I think of the tactics, I don’t think of the actual channel marketing tactics. I think of more the product itself and the presentation of the product because that’s where it really happens.”

“In order to be explicit about what it is you’re for, you have to be explicit about what you’re against. And you can’t be afraid of that.”

“You have to be very realistic about if you’re going to grow a company to a meaningful size, you’re going to have to have an Amazon strategy.”

“It’s not just all online. Everyone will have a certain amount of physical brick and mortar retail, because that really is the ultimate experience. What you’re going to see is a blended approach.”

“The future, I think, is you’re going to see brands where they’ve got probably 75-80% of their own direct goal margin. And then 25-30% of selected, what I call “strategic brick and mortar,” where they’re able to put their product in those brick and mortar channels, and be willing to accept a lower markup, because…having your product in a great brick and mortar specialty store is a fundamental marketing experience now.”


Outdoor Research: https://www.outdoorresearch.com/us/en/country

Truewerk: https://truewerktools.com/

evo.com: https://www.evo.com/

Nuun Hydration: https://nuunlife.com/

Forterra: https://forterra.org/

American Mountain Guides Association: https://amga.com/

Connect with Dan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dan-nordstrom-530992138/



Full disclosure: this reference was not from my interview with Dan. But I was walking my dog, Coco, yesterday and listening to James Wedmore’s podcast – Mind Your Business. He tells a story that is a spot-on example of how critical brick and mortar stores still are because there’s peace of mind the consumer receives from having an expert tell us exactly what we need. In a world full of options, they verify and validate our decisions. And depressingly, how retailers (online or offline) can totally blow the opportunity if they don’t rise to the occasion and provide the experience and support their customers are seeking.

The anecdote starts around 7:02: http://www.mindyourbusinesspodcast.com/podcast/142

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