The ABCs of Digital Transformation for Retailers like J. Crew

Whether it’s halting all operations like Toys R Us or perpetually closing stores like Sears, many retailers are scrambling, more often than not, to pay back millions of dollars in debt and strategize to see another day. What is required, believe it or not, is a plan that prioritizes customer experience over conversions. When retailers focus more on who a person is, how they want to interact and what they are trying to achieve (at any given time and on any given touchpoint), sales will follow in this experience-driven world.

With debt of its own and declining sales, J. Crew is making bold moves to transform its company into a truly experience-driven retailer, which is pivotal to showing up and succeeding in 2020 and beyond. J. Crew is on the right track in multiple ways, such as hiring a chief experience officer, in former Starbucks executive Adam Brotman, which is one of many signals the company is dedicated to customer experience (CX). Another clue J. Crew is prioritizing CX is the opening up of its Amazon storefront to be where consumers are, starting a brand for younger women and a new line of revenue and offering a lower-price line to attract more price conscious consumers. While only accounting for 2% of J. Crew’s total business, the success of the retailer’s Amazon strategy will come down to how it can convert exposure on Amazon to brand affinity with J. Crew directly. Is it enough?

To get its new strategy right, J. Crew and other retailers will need to focus on the ABC’s of digital transformation to transform, transact and treat people as individuals.


Data stored within a retailer’s ecommerce platform, customer relationship management (CRM) solution, and email marketing solutions can be used to improve all aspects of the customer journey. However, most retailers have poor or incomplete data because customer interactions are siloed within a dozen different technologies. Retailers must implement a customer data platform (CDP) that centralizes and stores customer data from multiple customer-facing and back-office systems. This will enable retailers to have a single-view of their customer’s journeys between devices, channels and experience.


What some retailers are missing from the Amazon equation is how detrimental it can be to build their entire business on a third party. When they do, merchants are at the mercy of that platform. Access to customer data, for example, is limited based on what the third party wishes to divulge. Which in Amazon’s case is nothing. Retailers that consolidate their ecommerce platform, CRM, CMS, analytics and marketing automation tools can begin to get a holistic view of customer behavior to win on-site sales and extract off-site data to provide a standout experience to customers throughout their buying journey.


This customer behavioral data also becomes a gold mine for personalizing customer experiences. By improving the customer’s experience, organizations can see better business outcomes from personalizing website content, promotions and product suggestions to site visitors. With this information in hand, the next step is to use this rich data to personalize everyone’s experience with the retailer.

Delivering contextually relevant content and products to each person on a site – and personalized marketing via email and ads when they leave – creates a resource burden on marketers and merchandisers without the help of artificial intelligence-fueled digital experience platforms that marry all those previously mentioned systems and information. That said, the future of retailers like J. Crew is dependent on providing website visitors with an experience that indicates: we know who you are (new/returning visitor), what you are looking for (based on what you’ve looked at before), where you are coming from (referral source), how you are accessing the site (device type) and, most importantly, when you return, we’ll save your information to provide a contextually relevant experience that Amazon can’t. For example, J. Crew can use Amazon as a source of new customers and offer contextual elements:

  • Free shipping to anyone arriving from Amazon’s website, as these consumers will expect it
  • Shop the Look features or personalized fitting technologies, to improve the experience
  • Content, such as gift giving guides or seasonal looks, to provide an editorial-like experience

To push this strategy further, J. Crew needs to use its storefronts to its advantage by offering click and collect and access to in-store inventory as well as technologies that enhance the brick-and-mortar experience such as smart changing room mirrors or self-serve kiosks.

Do You Know Your ABC’s?

While digital transformation has a cost, ROI often far exceeds it. According to Forrester, multichannel customers of UK fashion retailer Superdry not only spend 2.6 times more than customers who just use a single channel but also have a retention index that is about 80 percent higher. While it’s critical to have a multichannel presence, it is more critical to personalize the experience to consumers as they visit each channel.

Ed Kennedy is Senior Director of Commerce for Episerver

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