What do I have to do to make you love me? What do I have to do to be heard? So go the lyrics of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.” And retailer JC Penney seems to be singing that song lately. Last year, JCP bought in great new designers like Lulu Guinness, Jenny Packham and Vivenne Tam. In 2013, they added London sensation, Duro Olow and prom dress collection from Marchessa designer Georgiana Chapmen. But do JCP customers know these brands? Are they enough to bring in revenue. The answer is not yet. At year end 2012, JC Penney lost approximately $4.3 billion in sales, and one third of their customers. So how to stop the bleeding? The brand is turning to social media via Facebook and Twitter to try to bring shoppers back.
JC Penney (JCP) brand St. John’s Bay may not have been sexy, but customers seemed to love it. St. John’s Bay bought in 1 billion in sales to JC Penney every year, but it was cut. That’s a baffling decision for a large retailer. Now JCP is asking their Facebook fans what their favorite brands are at JCP including St. John’s Bay, which is no longer carried by the store. Hey, JCP, it’s a little late to ask the fans if they like it after it’s been pulled from shelves isn’t it? Some Facebook fans have expressed outrage about changes to the Bisou Bisou brand, but that label is still for sale via the JCP website.
Via their JCP Facebook Page, the brand says,” It’s no secret. We’ve made some changes. Some you’ve liked and others you didn’t. We’ve heard you – and we’re listening. Let us know what you think.” In response, customer /Facebook friend M. Rarigh writes, “Just make Penneys the family store it used to be with really good sales and QUALITY merchandise. Not the junk you are carrying now……with very little inventory.” On the flip side, some fans have said they like the changes (“I’m actually a big fan of the changes at JCP. Good stuff at good prices. No complaints here at all.”– J Gasper, via Facebook)
At the same time the Facebook surveys are running, the JCP Twitter ID has launched a social media apology using the hashtag #JPCListens. Some of the Tweets are fascinating. Among the brands customers say they miss are Made for Life, Alfred Dunner and more.
I’ll be curious to see how JC Penney’s use of social media evolves as they try to respond to their customers, many of whom are very, very unhappy. Social media is a great way to communicate directly with customers, but any brand should be weary of asking the questions they aren’t really prepared to make BIG changes. I’ll be following #JCPListens to see how this works out for JC Penney. Read the excellent article on Business Insider for more on JC Penney’s social push.