MOBILE – SCORE 15/25
First Impressions [3/5]
J.Crew , the American fashion house with 333 outlets across the US, annual turnover of $1.7 billion and a customer base including Michelle Obama, has just opened in London.
Describing itself as “Home to our women’s, men’s and kid’s collections, a curated selection of our favourite labels and a team of Very Personal Stylists”, J. Crew launches with 3 stores – in Regent Street, Brompton Cross and “Lamb’s” (Lambs Conduit Street – the mecca for well heeled shoppers and diners in Bloomsbury).
First impressions are positive: this is a confident brand with a genuine point of difference. “If you’re in the neighbourhood, pop in and say hello”, proclaims one of the landing pages. The stores are fascinating, and should need little more than a store finder to attract Americans familiar with the brand.
But for those not familiar with the brand, and not in the neighbourhood, J.Crew has succeeded in building a rich and engaging narrative across its digital platforms. On many levels, J. Crew has done a great job, but there are notable examples where the execution on tablets and smartphones falls short of expectations.
Areas to improve
The site contains great content (see categories & products on offer section below), but the pages would benefit from clearer layout with structure.
Search & Navigation [2/5]
J. Crew gets it right with paid search on PC, tablet and mobile. On my iPad I’m seeing 3 paid search returns above the natural returns –
• www.jcrew.com/UK – Truly Cool Style, from Head to Toe. Ship & Return for free in the UK. 813,793 followers on Google + (indicates a healthy fan base)
• Shop J.Crew now net-a-porter.com – Enjoy express delivery now (indicated hassle free shopping)
• J.Crew Collection – Shop up to 67% off Iconic Brands – The Outnet.com (indicated good value)
On my iPhone, I’m seeing 1 paid search return above the natural search results, and three beneath the natural returns.
I’m more impressed with its natural search results, particularly since this is a start up business in the UK.
Unusually for many competing retail brands, J.Crew serves deeplinks from the product sections in the search return to relevant content on its site, rather than linking all traffic to the home page, and expecting browsers to navigate from there. Or, worse still, linking mobile users to a non-optimised PC site.
Right up there on the first page is Huffington Post. Beneath its headline “10 Awesome Brands That Are Actually Sold At J.Crew” – HuffPost Style admits “we’re obsessed with J.Crew. It constantly turns out affordable fashion we love, it has great sales …” That’s the kind of endorsement that many sceptical shoppers need to get onto retailers’ sites for the first time.
Areas to improve
I was less excited by the navigation and performance of the tablet and mobile versions on the site, which is a great shame, and the content is really very cool. The tablet is just about OK – the nav bar across the top and prominent search box are easy to use, but the extended categories running down the left margin look and feel clumsy.
On a mobile phone, the real problem lies in the vertical list of product categories, and the long, long list of extended sub-categories. These days, the cookie cutter menu template provided by Usablenet in this case really does not cut the mustard. Is it too much to ask for a menu featuring product graphics or icons to make the site look and feel more like a native app, thereby conveying quality? I suppose we should all use the ‘feedback’ box provided to register our views here.
Categories & Products on offer [4/5]
Get past the lacklutre navigation, and you will enjoy some truly inspiring content, and some really exciting products. Every week I’m reading about how cutting edge retailers are personalizing the retail experience and I’m pleased to report that J.Crew is leading the pack. Cue “The Secret Language of Monogramming”, the art of adding your very own message to your apparel – whether initials on the cuffs of your lucky casino shirt to play mind games with your opponents at the black jack table, or a romantic motif on the breast pocket of your denim jacket, your jocks or socks. The story is told by J.Crew’s stylists, customers and commentators in a movie-quality video, which renders quickly on all the devices I used in this review.
HuffPost’s summary of the product range is spot on. If the prices are right, I won’t need to make the pre-Christmas shopping trip to Bicester Village this year. Check out the brands I can buy from J.Crew’s partners: Agent Provocateur , Burberry , Church’s , Diane von Furstenberg , Stella McCartney , UGG Australia to name just a few.
Spoilt for choice? The 101 Gift Ideas should help. American customers missing home can hit the ‘Liquor Store’ for the West Broadway, NYC range. Getting married? Find the perfect frock and jewellery. Throughout the site, the models are as sharp as the clothes, as is the photography.
Areas to improve
I hope that J.Crew will extend the concept of Monogramming (i.e. personalising clothes) to providing a personalised browsing experience (i.e. ensuring Petite, Tall, XXL ranges are served automatically based on shopping history).
Payment Process & Checkout [3/5]
By and large, this area looks good. It’s widely accepted that online shoppers don’t expect or want any hidden extras, so I welcomed the following message “VAT and duties are now included in listed prices. Plus, free shipping and free returns on every order”. I’m not usually a fan of using capital letters in red type, but I think that works here as this is a key message to maximize conversion to sale.
The account set up process is quick and easy. I welcome the chance to “set additional preferences”.
Areas to improve
Whilst payments and check works fine on iPad, I was frustrated by the delay in page load times on mobile. I suspect the mobile site templates are the cause.
A small point, but it would be worth reversing the month and date for UK shoppers to avoid confusion (i.e. “Get there by 12/24 – Orders must be placed by 12/16” should be 24/12 and 16/12 respectively).
Post purchase [3/5]
Too early for me to say – I’ll provide an update in January. Clearly J.Crew has been very active in social media to build fans, brand ambassadors and post purchase loyalty. 1.1 million Facebook likes, 211,000 Twitter followers @jcrew, and a host of hashtags to encourage engagement (eg Attention bridesmaids – show us how you wore your J.Crew dress again #jcrewweddings).
Areas to improve
The automated emails received when I registered for my account and when I signed up for product alerts were not mobile optimised, which should be a straight forward task.
I wonder whether J.Crew will be using my mobile number, supplied in the registration process, for customer service and marketing SMS activity. I’m seeing SMS playing a core role in other retailers’ CRM programmes which makes sense for those of us swamped with email.
J.Crew has a fascinating in-store offer, excellent product range, and an innovative approach to its marketing. Despite the effectiveness of its social and search activity in driving online traffic, the design and navigation of its sites fall short of the brand promise and the in-store experience. This is not major surgery but will become increasingly important as competing retailers up the ante with their mobile and tablet sites in 2014.