Thursday, July 24, 2014

J.Crew's Media Approach {thoughts?}

"Thanks!" to GigisGoneShopping who shared a post over at Track Maven (click here to read in its entirety). It chronicles J.Crew's use of social media.
J.Crew’s Data-Driven Approach To Fashion (And Marketing)

...Every trend and every seasonal success can be tracked, measured, and even proactively predicted by those who treat every customer interaction as part of a larger data opportunity. ...

As of late, J.Crew has served as a standout example at the intersection of being fashion forward as well as analytically proactive. J.Crew’s CEO, Millard “Mickey” Drexler, has been at the forefront of this transition. As chronicled in The Business of Fashion, Drexler’s data-driven approach to fashion borders on infamous.

This data-driven approach to fashion has remained a mainstay of Drexler’s approach, a point the At Work With Mickey Drexler authors describe beautifully:

“A big part of what makes J.Crew the most compelling American retail — and dare we say it,  fashion — success story of the past 10 years is Drexler’s uncanny ability to pick up on market trends and patterns incredibly quickly, consult data to back up his observations, then bring those trends to the masses. It’s perhaps the core reason he was able to transform a once-promising, long-struggling catalogue business into a powerful arbiter of taste.”

Under the stewardship of Mickey Drexler, digital marketing has grown to become an integral part of J.Crew’s overall strategy. According to J. Crew’s annual S.E.C. filing, which was made available online earlier this year, J.Crew’s marketing and advertising strategy is summarized as follows:

“We communicate our brand message to customers through all channels, including our websites, our catalogs, email marketing, online advertising, and our social media presence. Our core marketing objectives are structured to drive awareness and differentiation of our brands, increase new customer acquisition, maintain and build customer retention and loyalty, and build brand awareness internationally."

Digital marketing and social media have played an important part of our strategy in our recent history and are among our most effective marketing tools. We have found that J.Crew customers who engage with us via our social media outlets (facebook, twitter, Pinterest or Instagram) generally spend approximately 2x more than the average J.Crew customer. Facebook is the current leading player in terms of size and time spent on site, but there are significant growth opportunities in our new visual platforms, such as Pinterest and Instagram.”

Yes, you read that right: “J.Crew customers who engage with us via our social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram) generally spend approximately 2x more than the average J.Crew customer” (emphasis added). By driving meaningful engagement across a variety of social media channels, J.Crew’s data-driven marketing has succeeded in cultivating an online audience that spends twice as much as the average customer.

What’s more impressive about this statistic is that it stands in stark comparison to the description of J.Crew’s marketing and advertising efforts in their 2013 filling, which focused largely on their print catalog, with barely a whisper of digital marketing:

The J.Crew catalog is the primary branding and advertising vehicle for the J.Crew brand. We believe our catalog reinforces the J.Crew mission and brand image, while driving sales in all of our channels. We believe we have distinguished ourselves from other catalog retailers by utilizing high quality photography and art direction. We have also expanded our marketing strategy to include online, print and outdoor advertising.”

So how does J.Crew plan to continue to develop and leverage this connection between digital marketing and customer spend? In their report, J.Crew explained its strategy for competitive positioning as follows:

We believe our success depends in substantial part on our ability to originate and define product and fashion trends as well as to timely anticipate, gauge and react to changing consumer demands. Some of our competitors are larger and may have greater financial, marketing, and other resources than us. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that we will be able to compete successfully with them in the future.”

When it comes to competitive positioning, J.Crew is right to identify Pinterest and Instagram as “significant growth opportunities.” According to a study from Vision Critical featured in the Harvard Business Review, 21% of the Pinterest users reported buying an item in-store after “pinning, repinning, or liking it.” The percentage was even higher among Pinterest users under the age of 35, with 36% reporting doing so.

But as J.Crew noted in their filing, Pinterest is just one of many social channels they are employing to build an engaged fan based. To take a look at the content strategies driving J.Crew’s newfound success on social media, we analyzed J.Crew using our marketing analytics platform.

...Facebook is by far the most dominant social channel for J.Crew. With 1.2 million Facebook fans and counting, J.Crew has found success on the network with content that serves as a digital counterpart to their print catalog (which is referred to not as catalog, but as a style guide). Over the past year, the vast majority of J.Crew’s Facebook posts with the most social interactions featured a styled photo with short, relatable copy, and most importantly, a link to where you can buy the featured items on their website.

...With 480,000 followers and counting, J.Crew’s Instagram account is their second most popular social channel. Unlike the catalog-esque content on Facebook, J.Crew approaches content creation on this more image-focused network as an opportunity to cultivate a J.Crew culture. Notice that among their most engaging posts from the past year, few are peppered with links to the online store. Rather, the images are supported with branded hashtags — and a few links to the J.Crew blog.

...J.Crew has amassed nearly 143,000 Pinterest followers to date. Comparable to their strategy on Instagram, J.Crew’s most popular Pinterest pins speak to a larger J.Crew-related lifestyle. Five of the top ten most re-pinned, liked, and commented on pins featured travel images from exotic locales. ...
I thought this was a really interesting article about how J.Crew utilizes social media. Although the article fails to mention that J.Crew was late to board the social media bus. Remember when J.Crew's Twitter account was silent for the longest time? Remember how long it took for them to get a blog?

I also want to comment on the following quote:
"J.Crew customers who engage with us via our social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram) generally spend approximately 2x more than the average J.Crew customer”. Is this based on J.Crew's social media expertise -or- the more likely scenario that customers who engage in their social media outlets are the biggest fans of J.Crew? (I love J.Crew so I seek them out, but I don't do that with other brands that I just "like". Even if they have a great social media presence.)

Lastly, I hope J.Crew does not give up on its catalogs. I remember getting all excited about the catalogs (especially destination ones!) and tagging each page. I don't do that much now. J.Crew needs to make those catalogs feel special again. (I still get excited when I get the Pottery Barn catalog. The formula is pretty much the same and it works on me!)

What are your thoughts on this article? Do you feel like J.Crew has harnessed the power of social media? Do you think there are areas it does really well or really poorly with?


  1. I think you nailed it on the head Alexis-- I don't spend more at J Crew because I am influenced by their social media, I seek out their social media *because* I'm already such a huge fan of J Crew (and already spending ungodly amounts). I seek out their social media accounts to find "insider sales" and the like, but I've never really seen a post made by J Crew that has driven me to buy instantly. More like..."oh, I like that. I'll just file it away and wait to play the sale game later."

  2. For me it goes both ways. I have been a regular wearer of J Crew since college in the 1990's, but Blog posts, Pinterest and Tumblr have been known to inspire me to pick up an item I might have disregarded otherwise in the catalog. I think having been an early customer, when you only had the catalog and no e-commerce, I look forward to them very much and would be sad if they went away in spite of the fact I find IRL photos helpful. I don't think one medium can replace the other entirely, especially when you have such a diverse customer base.

  3. Off topic - went to Copley (Boston) today and as usual the sale section was packed but impeccably organized. Everything is 50% off and the prices seem comparable to the website (shoes are cheaper in-store). Very few shoes but lots of everything else, especially collection items from past seasons. Lots of pants in 00-2. Very few shoppers.

    Offerings from the new rollout were neatly displayed - it is a very, very casual assortment. Wish I'd had time to try on the Harpers. FP jewelry is 25% off.

  4. I don't follow any of J. Crew's social media. I only like the style guides. And JCA!

  5. I get most of my J Crew info from here, but then again I don't use Facebook or Pinterest. This blog affects my J Crew shopping more than anything!

    1. Yep, all my JC info comes from JCA! I don't follow them on pinterest or twitter and I don't use FB.

  6. I always have the feeling that J.Crew's own public relations people write these "puff pieces" and place them with lazy journalists who don't even fact-check. Just MHO.

    1. ^ This.

      How about using some of this data-driven decision "genius" to improve the offerings at JC? I'm sure there are tons of data on what sells out at FP, what is most frequently returned, defective items, length of time in first markdown/second markdown status, etc. Their design choices tend to overstay their welcome. Frankly, I don't think they use any of this information for quality improvement. Hey JC, if you need a data analyst, give me a call.

  7. I completely agree with with BigShopper, this blog has driven more of my shopping than Facebook. Having said that seeing J.Crew items (or ones from other companies I favour; looking at you Gant and Club Monaco) in features in magazines like definitely drives up my spending.

    I do follow 'crew on FB and Twitter, and like things they show, but rarely enough to hit the spend key. I prefer companies that get featured in photo shoots and especially when someone I like wears it, 'side glance at Pitt and Bradley Cooper'.

    Twice in the past few months I 'had' to have something simply because GQ (my bible of style) recommended it. That for me is the real influencer.

  8. Agree with what Alexis said about that catalogs... I miss them and used to get SO excited when a new one came... would flip thru it endlessly and mark pages. For some reason seeing things on an actual printed page is more compelling than seeing it on the JC site. The catalogs stopped feeling special a couple of years ago.

  9. I follow J.Crew on Twitter/Pinterest/FB and find their tumblr posts interesting, but JCA is my main source for all things related to the Crew. Much more influenced by Alexis and the peeps here than anything else. When the catalogues are good I am also swayed by the styling but that hasn't been the case lately.

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