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Future-Proofing Digital Strategies: JCPenney’s Race Against Consumer Expectations

August 20, 2020 By: Guest Author

This post was guest authored by Andy Ma. Andy is the Sr. Manager of Analytics and Site Tagging at JCPenney, but has previously worked at Disney, DSW and Intuit. He has decades of experience focusing on user behavior and utilizing this data to build digital journeys that satisfy ever-growing user needs.

Maintaining traditional retail values through digital transformation

JCPenney is a brand that emotes nostalgia. Our stores have been hubs for families to buy back-to-school essentials, new vacation clothes, holiday gifts, homeware and everything else in between, for multiple generations.

However, changes to the way people shop and the overall success of the JCPenney business, recently created an urgent need to focus on our digital channels and even make JCPenney.com our flagship store. We needed to build an online experience that delivers consistent excellence for all customers — without losing any of our traditional values. 

Think what next, not what now

Having spent time on both the technical and business sides of ecommerce over the past decade, I am always aware of the ever escalating consumer expectations we see online and instore.  A digital experience that meets expectations today, will already be out of date tomorrow. 

‘Future proofing’ digital channels comes down to building a scalable tech stack that grows with your customers’ expectations and supports the needs of your digital Customer Success and call center teams. The right tech stack ensures you can listen to and delight customers across all channels.

Multichannel measurement is key to customer success. At JCPenney, we focus on NPS and continuously make changes (online and offline)  that drive ongoing NPS  improvements.  This comes down to putting the experience first.  However, there is an added complexity to consider, in that overall NPS can only rise if you are asking the same questions across all customer facing channels and breaking down data silos.  The better your measurement, feedback, and analytical capabilities are – the quicker and more impactful the changes you can make. And the easier it becomes to prioritize.

By using Adobe to understand what is happening on JCPenney.com, Medallia to discover why it is happening, and Quantum Metric to see where it is happening (and what the size of the overall impact is), we are able to prioritize fixes and new feature releases based on a comprehensive understanding of real customer journeys. This ensures the experience stays ahead of the expectation.

If it’s not personal, you’re doing it wrong

The first JCPenney store opened in 1902, founded on the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. Local store employees get to know their local shoppers and the in-store experience has always been very personal. Recreating this ethos in a digital environment was essential for us, and personalization was imperative. 

While online shoppers don’t have the luxury of a shop assistant asking how they can help, they do share valuable data and information in every interaction, with every click of the mouse. We believe it is our digital responsibility to use all of that data to create the most personal experience possible, every time that customer visits JCPenney.com.

Agility beats legacy 

I was reminded during my recent house move just how far digital experiences have come in the last 10 years. With the moving truck on the way, we realized we were in urgent need of a mattress protector. I didn’t have time to wait for an online delivery, but also didn’t want to visit multiple stores looking for my item. So, I embraced the best of both worlds. A quick look on the JCPenney app allowed me to purchase the mattress protector online and pick it up in-store less than an hour later.

This made me think back to my last move, 10 years ago, when this level of personalized experience wasn’t even in the realms of reality, and I can’t help but wonder just how personalized experiences will be in another 10 years!

The underpinning driver to adapting to customers’ needs, allowing them to shop with convenience, anticipating their expectations, personalizing the experience and improving that all important NPS – comes down to digital agility!

Having technology that allows you to constantly iterate, release with confidence, pivot and adapt as needed is the only way to win. This will look different for every business, so your tech stack should be as personalized as your customer experience. There is no longer such a thing as one size fits all when it comes to digital systems, legacy systems just aren’t fit for purpose, it’s all about best of breed and agility.

Right now, we don’t know what the future holds for JCPenney, but what we do know is that we have created and continue to work on, a digital experience that our team and our customers are proud of, through a network of technology partners that support each other as much as they support us.

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