J.Crew — responding to years of declining retail sales and closing stores — is leaning heavily on online shopping channels as it attempts to reestablish itself with its customer base. The move comes as the retailer is closing even more physical locations than was previously been predicted.
“We’re customer-first more than anything, and laying into the digital space more heavily where we know the customer to be,” said Vanessa Holden, who joined J.Crew as its chief marketing officer in July.
Holden, like J.Crew’s new CEO Jim Brett, is a transplant from West Elm.
“We’ve been working aggressively to improve the mobile user experience,” Holden added.
The new core values the New York-based chain is targeting are speed and a lack of friction for customers no matter what channel on which they are shopping.
In real world terms, that translates into faster mobile load times for J.Crew’s online store and greater integration for accelerated mobile pages.
The firm has also sought to make it easier for consumers to convert at checkout with the “Payment Request API” from Google, which lets Chrome users auto-populate shipping fields when checking out online. Wait times for checkout on J.Crew’s online store have decreased 75 percent from more than two minutes four months ago, according to a J.Crew spokeswoman.
The brand needs the online shopping interest, as it has few physical locations from which to sell its wares. Store closures will be on the order of 50 locations, or about 6 percent of its total. That is a sharp increase over the previously announced 20. In-store sales also continue to struggle — down 12 percent year over year during Q3 — while revenue for the same quarter was down 5 percent.
J.Crew has been regularly advertising deep discounts of 40 and even 50 percent off across its merchandise, but unlike its competitor at the Gap, the retailer has had a hard time drawing back users. (Though, notably, the Gap’s more similarly price-pointed Banana Republic has also had a hard time attracting foot traffic.)
But J.Crew is not going down without a fight and is working with a new holiday shopping initiative called #CastMeJCrew. The campaign allows customers to post photos of themselves sporting the brand. The retailer plans to offer at least one of them the chance to be cast in a future photo shoot.
J.Crew is also running a social campaign this year called “Holidays By You. Gifts By J.Crew.”
“It goes to opening the brand and the digital experience into a more participatory conversation,” said Holden.