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J. Crew – Web Effectiveness

J. Crew - Retail Strategy

J. Crew - Retail Strategy


J. Crew is a well-known American retailer operating across multiple channels. With hundreds of stores in the US, notable presences in Japan, Canada and now a flagship store on Regent Street, it is a significant player in clothing retail. Famed for its regular J. Crew Magazine circulating in the tens of millions, their successful digital marketing approach and effective Pinterest presence, we decided to take a closer look at the experience offered by the website.

Our review focused on the typical customer journey of browsing and purchase, in this case a men’s jumper, and looked at key aspects such as navigation, persuasion and trust, product page, checkout and accessibility.

Navigation and IA

J.Crew homepage showing the monochrome navigation and clear IA

J. Crew’s home page is simple and bold with the monochrome navigation pushing the eye-catching clothes model to the fore.

The IA itself is very clear with the main sections for the different customer types before additional sections for specific items such as shoes and jewellery, and the commonly seen sections for Wedding, Sale and Gifts. This is a slightly overlapping mix, but providing more than one route to the same content (e.g. shoes are also in the customer sections) creates an effective IA strategy that helps to ensure users are likely to reach their desired endpoint from different goals.

In the left hand side, seasonal gift orientated sections are present. Hovering the mouse over the main sections such as ‘Gifts for Her’ shows a new model appropriate for the section resplendent in J. Crew clothes.

Completing the navigation options are the wish list and shopping bag. With no sign of quirky brand-led labelling it’s clear the site is getting straight to the point and presenting the navigation options as simply as possible.

The men’s sweaters page with a highlight around the navigation section

Moving on to the men’s landing page, it has a similar feel to the homepage. The main content uses bold imagery to illustrate the various pieces of clothing, supported by the monochrome navigation, which maintains the strong brand feel. The clearly differentiated sections in the left hand navigation are effective and support the customer in making quick choices, an essential in the online experience.

However, the ‘see more colours’, whilst being informative to the user could have been used to great effect showing the user the colours on offer. On other retailer sites, this is a nice addition and works well. In addition to that the ‘quick shop’ link created some confusion as it opens an overlay box of the product page, also reached by clicking on the image. Whilst likely intended to facilitate the “grab-and-go” shopping experience, it required the same number of clicks to add an item to the basket via either route, with only a very small amount of time saved on page load. With no clear advantage this feature felt slightly unnecessary.

Persuasion and Trust

The site illustrates a number of persuasive features. As soon as landing on the site, it picks up my location and defaults to the UK settings for pricing and shipping which is a nice touch.

Image of the social media proofing and call to action

The clear benefits to registrations starts the persuasion ball rolling, with the reward the capture of valuable customer details. The clear messaging around VAT, delivery and returns all being included in the price establishes commitment and helps to build trust.

Although there are some elements of social proof, e.g. customers can see a list of what “other customers love”, it is unclear how this list is derived, which raises the question of it being truly customer generated, or simply a cross-selling mechanism. There is wish-list functionality, which helps to generate commitment-to-buy but there is no review functionality and, although the site includes the ability share through multiple channels including Facebook and Pinterest, there is no inbound use of social media to build social proof. The site also makes no use of other persuasion strategies, such as scarcity.

Product Page & Merchandising

Image of the cashmere sweater product page Image of the “quick shop” overlay showing that the item has been added to the shopping bag

The product page is clearly laid out with the calls to action (i.e. “colours available”, “sizing” and “add to bag” links) being prominently placed.

When adding an item to the shopping bag, the shopping bag temporarily expands to show the item being added. This confirmation works well for the main product page as the shopping bag is visible, however for the “quick-shop” overlay version, once the confirmation disappears, there is no call to action for the customer to move forward, leaving the customer wondering what to do next.


Image of the final review page highlighting what is being purchased along with the amount, the card to be charged and billing and shipping address

Moving from selection to purchase, the site allows customers to make a purchase as a “guest” rather than forcing them to sign up. This is a useful way to avoid interrupting the checkout process and can also be an effective way to persuade customers to sign-up post-purchase. After that, the site asks for all the usual payment details and the addition of paying via PayPal is a useful addition in easing the payment process. Although not the most visually exciting, the clear progress bar provides the customer with a feeling of control. Knowing that they will get a final review before confirming the purchase builds trust and reassurance in the process. Throughout the checkout process, the clean look makes it easy to understand what to do next and what they are buying. This is especially welcomed on the review screen as it clearly lays out the billing and delivery address, the cost and item(s) being purchased.


Turning to accessibility, a quick check reveals some flags which indicate some potential issues. There are some nice additions such as a visual focus on screen when tabbing between content and the “skip to content” link but there are also some links that may not make sense out of context and images missing alt text which will be problematic for screenreader users.


In summary, this site has a nice feel and the design stands out as one that has been carefully considered to help enhance the customer experience. The navigation and product selection is visually appealing and effective in execution. However, the ‘quick-shop’ feature seems less-useful and creates some issues in both the customer journey and confirmation of selecting items. There is a degree of interaction with social media, but the site does not seem to have fully embraced the benefits of using social proof throughout the site. Checkout is clean and the inclusion of guest checkout and paying with PayPal make this smooth and painless. And finally, some minor accessibility issues may mean that the experience is less effective for those customers relying on screenreader technology to help them use the site.


Navigation and IA – 4/5

Persuasion and Trust – 3/5

Product Page & Merchandising – 4/5

Checkout / Bookings – 4/5

Accessibility – 2/5

Overall – 17/25

Biography: Edward Chandler, User Experience Consultant, User Vision

Coming from a background in innovation and accessibility, Ed has over 10 years’ experience applying user centred design to improve products, services and systems across the financial sector, mobile, consumer electronics and travel sector. His passion is to work with clients to identify, solve problems and deliver exemplary systems. Ed has a Masters in Human Factors from the University of Nottingham and is a Registered Member of the Institute of the Ergonomics and Human Factors. He is also a member of several British and International standards groups including The Consumer and Public Interest Network and Applied Ergonomics.

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