At a time when internet and mobile operations are taking an increasingly important place in the retail sector, Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) has made two major changes to its digital team.

The company has promoted longtime company executive Geevy Thomas to the newly created position of chief innovation officer (CIO). In that role, he will be charged with leading a team that will help the company "ideate how its full-line stores of the future will better serve customers through further integration of digital and mobile," according to a press release.

Meanwhile, Brian Spaly, CEO of Trunk Club, has decided to leave the company. His job will be taken over by Terry Boyle, president of NordstromRack.com/HauteLook.

"We're moving into an exciting next phase of Trunk Club and we're excited to welcome a seasoned leader like Terry into this leadership role," said Erik Nordstrom, co-president of Nordstrom in a press release. "Terry comes into this role with a tremendous amount of knowledge about Trunk Club, having served on its advisory board since it was acquired by Nordstrom in 2014."

What does this mean?

Spaly will lead the chain's growing pure digital brand while Geevy will have the arguably tougher task of figuring out how to marry physical stores with Nordstrom's digital properties. That's something that has been challenging for nearly every retailer.

"Our new Chief Innovation Officer and his team will lead the most forward-looking customer-centric effort that Nordstrom has taken on to date," said the company's press release. "...The way customers are choosing to shop in a more digitally connected world continues to change, and we know we need to find ways for our stores to evolve with them. This is a challenge, but we also see a tremendous opportunity to leverage our stores in ways that will allow us to serve customers into the future better than anyone else."

This is a big task

Pretty much all brick-and-mortar chains are searching for a way to effectively serve their in-store customers, their digital-only shoppers, and those people who want to do both. For Nordstrom, that means leveraging its physical locations while also being happy if it can sell to an in-store visitor via Trunk Club or another e-commerce option.

This requires a change in mindset that many old-school retailers have struggled with. Nordstrom is smart to dedicate high-level personnel to the task, but whether Geevy succeeds may depend upon how much say his team has when its suggestions conflict with traditional retail voices within the company.

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Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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