Find in Store — Personalized in-Store Shopping

Inhae Kim
8 min readJul 2, 2020

“When I am shopping for a specific item, I have to walk the entire floor [in Nordstrom]. It took a long time to figure out where the item is.” - Nordy Club member

After the rise of the online shopping, shoppers like to make a connection between online and offline shopping experiences. Find in Store is an offline shopping experience that helps goal-oriented customers to find their items in a short time. To provide the best omnichannel experience in in-store shopping experience, team of four senior undergraduate students in Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) at the University of Washington collaborated with 5 UX Designers and Researchers at Nordstrom UX team at Seattle headquarter for 6 months to research the problem on in-store shopping experience, ideate what can be designed to fill the needs of the customers, evaluate and prototype our design, and implement the design solution to present at HCDE Open House.

Role: Product Designer / PM in Evaluation Milestone

Team: Inhae Kim, Stefanie Choi, Kotoko Yamada, Kaitlyn He

Duration: January — June 2019

Best in Show Award at HCDE 2019 Open House


As online shopping has grew tremendously, 63% of shopping occasions begin at online. However, 62% of shoppers still want to go to the store to see, touch, feel and try out items. For Nordstrom specifically, it was one of the first to integrate harmonious offline and online (also called omnichannel) capabilities. This allowed the company to serve its customers seamlessly both across both channels.

Such omnichannel experiences between online and offline shopping experience help to meet and exceed customer’s expectations around speed, convenience and personalization. My team was motivated by the success of Nordstrom’s omnichannel experiences. It’s important that we tackle the challenge of integrating an omnichannel experience in our project because it is crucial to not only the Nordstrom brand but also other retail stores as a driving factor for future retail experiences. So this project focus on bridging the pros of online and offline shopping experiences to create more engaging and fulfilling shopping experience, especially in item discovery.

01 User Research

We conducted multi-methodology to research the trends of the retail store and the needs of the Nordstrom customers while maintaining Nordstrom goal. We have done 8 competitive analysis, researched current trend on a retail store, discussed the business goal with the Nordstrom team, and conducted 7 shop-along observation studies and 1–to-1 interviews with the Nordstrom shoppers.

Competitive Analysis

We read scholarly papers and news articles to learn the different approaches that other stores took to integrate online and offline engagement.

  1. Well-Rounded: The store should care about not only selling their clothes but also the most comfort of each customer.
  2. Personalized: Experiences of online ultra-personalized shopping and in-store building connections with the sales associates can synergize to bring more personalized shopping experience.
  3. Seamless: The installation of technology at the store can help the connection between online and offline shopping to be seamless.
  4. Allow Confidence: Customers want their confidence in their purchase from both online and offline.

Shop-Along Observation Studies

To gather valuable data from Nordstrom shoppers, we conducted shop-along observation study to observe interactions that occur in the Nordstrom physical store so we can understand their needs at the moment.

Our inclusive criteria for this study was those who are between 25 to 45 years old because our clients from Nordstrom have informed us that the main customers are in between of those ages. So we found seven participants through our screening survey posted in various groups. Due to store policies, we were not allowed to voice or video record our sessions while in the Nordstrom store. So instead, we took notes on our phones and laptops to collect qualitative data.

After conducting a piloting session with UX Researcher at Nordstrom, we had 7 shop-along sessions around 30-minutes each, followed by a 30-min interview to get a feedback from the participants. During the session, we followed our participants to observe their behaviors but maintained a short distance from them so that we do not disturb their experiences. By observing shoppers’ behaviors in a normal shopping environment, we were able to gain more insight into how customers feel about the current item-finding experience at Nordstrom.

In order to have a better understanding of the shopping experience at Nordstrom and to learn about diverse perspectives on item discovery at Nordstrom, we conducted one interview with a salesperson at Nordstrom. This enabled us to learn about the roles of salespeople and to reflect on our findings from our shop-along sessions.

Shop-Along Observation Findings

After conducting the shop-along observation studies and interviews, four of us got together to share and analyze our data through affinity diagramming and identified 3 main pain-points of in-store shoppers.

Scoping the Target User Group

We began with a very general target group: 25 to 45-year-old shoppers. However, designing for all shoppers who fell into this age range was too broad of a focus given the timeframe of this project. So we decided to focus on the latter type of shoppers because there are more issues that arose relating to item discoverability for our driven and time-limited shoppers. The two personas represent the main two groups of customers that we identified through our research findings.

Nordstrom’s Business Goal

  1. Maintaining the Nordstrom brand of engaging with the customer (Does the item that is recommended fit customer’s personal style, lifestyle, and needs?)
  2. Helping the customer leave the store with confidence in whatever they purchase
  3. Customers are able to easily find the items they need while shopping in the store

Design Question

After understanding the busieness goal and pain points of customers, we were able to finalize our design question.


Design Requirements

We created nine design requirements to focus on user needs while considering business priorities. To account for both types of priorities, we split the design requirements into two categories: “Must Meet” and “Want to Meet”.

Must Meet

  1. Allow in-store customers to easily locate the items that they desire.
  2. In the in-store search, accommodate customer’s style, preferences, and the occasion they are shopping for.
  3. Provide customers with information only items that are immediately available to purchase at the current store they are shopping at.
  4. Create an approachable but engaging environment for customers to interact with salespeople.
  5. Allow customers to see if their potential purchases would match the items that they already own while shopping in the stores.
  6. Ensure that the solution is accessible and visible near the store entrances.

Want to Meet

  1. Allow for the Nordstrom to already be informed of the customer’s size for clothing items.
  2. Better inform customers of other services, special events, and sales going on in the store.
  3. Enable customers to walk out of the store confident and satisfied with their purchases.

Design Thinking

For our first stage of ideation, each of us took a weekend to brainstorm and sketch five ideas. Utilizing the existing Nordstrom application seemed more implementable and realistic in a business mind. So I suggested a personal QR code for all Nordy Club members that would be automatically scanned as soon as they enter the store to view the items that are available in the store. My another idea was to show the map of the store that will guide them to find the item inside the store.

In sharing our individual ideas, there were some similarities and overlap between them and we found this immensely useful because it allowed us to group our ideas into categories and think of ways to build off of one another. We also used a 2x2 matrix to help us ensure that we focused on ideas that met with our users’ needs (based on our design requirements) but also the business needs (based on feasibility and ROI).

Initial Design Concept

Based on our original idea, we wanted shoppers to interact with a kiosk to find a general direction where their desired items might be in. They would follow the instructions provided from the kiosk and on their phone to discover the section where they can find their desired items. Throughout the customer navigating process, we had salespeople greet the customer on each floor in the store to further enhance their navigating experience.

Pivoting Design Concept

After feedback from our sponsors, the handoff that will be required from salesperson to salesperson, the new training that it’ll require, and the new internal software that will have to be created, it is a large investment for the company without any real proof of concept. Also, one of the key finding we found through user research was that most of the goal-oriented customers do not prefer to interact with the salesperson but rather find the item by themselves. So we decided to remove all the interaction required by salespeople.

Final Storyboard