How JCPenney May Blow a Golden Facebook Opportunity
This week, JCPenney (JCP) became the first major retail chain to launch a fully-integrated store on Facebook. Huzzah to JCP's management for having the gumption to blaze the trail to e-and-m-commerce. But the retailer's leap is looking less like a brave bound and more like a cartoon character's run off a cliff, legs pumping furiously in the air before falling into the abyss.
Why? Because JCP doesn't appear to have put a whole lot of thought or planning into its Facebook shop.
My BNET colleague Chris Dannen reported on what a stripped-down JCP store operating under Facebook's banner would mean for the future of branding and mobile commerce. It's true, even the best Facebook fan pages for retailers sacrifice some of their more recognizable branding elements under the blue and white navigation bar.
But that would be OK if (and that is a big IF) once a user clicks through the front page of the shop, the merchandise is both compelling and well-presented. One look at the JCP Facebook shop and it's hard not to fall asleep.
The front door looked interesting enough so I clicked through to women's tops. That's where I discovered an array of six items including a long sleeve T, turtleneck, button up and camisole, in a variety of jewel tones.
Dannen reported that Nick Bomersbach, JCPenny's vice president overseeing customer experience for digital marketing told him, "We're not doing the callouts, the promotions, the trends -- that stuff doesn't get pushed through [from the main site]."
It's one thing not to push promotions, it's quite another to show merchandise that people actually want to buy. A basic long sleeve T can be had anywhere (even at $5.99 as advertised on JCP). And though there are 91 items listed under tops, I'd be hard pressed to keep paging through looking for something interesting after this introduction to blandness. Even with the convenience of having the checkout right there.
In their effort to "simplify" the shopping experience, JCPenney went too far. The irony is that earlier this year, JCP was launching all manner of initiatives to boost their style quotient (along with their bottom line. From a $1.4 million spend on Oscar night commercials to collaborations with celebrity designers and People StyleWatch, the retailer was investing heavily in a makeover to draw shoppers online and in stores.
Even though this social networking step is forward-thinking, JCP's unimaginative presentation (not to mention tired apparel) sets the retailer back about 20 years. Can you tell the difference in the sweaters from the 1980 catalog and the 2010 Facebook shop pictured right?
So why eschew trends? JCPenney could have used the Facebook store as an opportunity to trot out some of their more fashion-forward items such as apparel from the Mango or Olsenboye collections.
Bomersbach noted that JCP had "no clear goals" or intentions for the brand or the potential FB sales. With only a 1.3 percent sales increase YTD over 2009 --and competition sure to jump on the Facebook bandwagon shortly -- JCPenney's management can't afford not to have a plan.
Images via JCP
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