Thursday, August 15, 2019

A game plan for JCPenney

Retail is no longer just about products. It's also about the customer experience.

The customer experience means more than good customer service. It's about the relationship the customer has with the store's people, and the relationship the store has with the community.

Retailers primarily want two things:
• people coming in the door
• a chance to talk with them

People seeking a third place want two things:
• WiFi
• a place to sit down

The biggest stores that are thriving today are those the offer more to do at their location than buy things. There's a reason grocers and discounters have added coffee shops and restaurants to their facilities. They are meeting the desires of people today.

For department stores located in a mall, some might ask, Would providing a third place for people work, or wouldn't it be redundant with what a mall itself already offers? Not really.

First, malls can be loud, especially in the food court, and the food court is generally the only place at a mall outside a store where one can find a table.

Second, some big mall retailers already have space they could repurpose. I once walked into Sears at my hometown mall and was shocked to see a huge part of their retail footprint empty and dark. The store was a shadow of what it once meant to walk in and be a Sears Best Customer.

Third, other retailers like the Microsoft Store have dedicated space in their floor plan to community areas that can be used to host classes. Some are about technology, and others are less directly related such as for job hunting.

JCPenney has several things going for it that could facilitate them putting this idea to use.

1. They already have the space. Pick a section on a floor, and make it into a community area (preferably near a restroom).

2. They already have the furniture. Designate some of that, not just for viewing but for actual use in the store. Add some WiFi, and advertise in the store that the space is available for use. Why have someone sell the furniture when you can have the furniture sell itself?

3. They already have people in the community, so build some relationships and let them know of this new resource available.

Focusing on new product lines can have a mixed record of success. With space, furniture, and a willingness to try something new JCPenney could join the ranks of successfully rebuilt retailers.

Another thing JCPenney could do to boost their presence in people's minds is trucking. Work out a deal with Saia to have JCPenney branding on their trucks and trailers. Seeing the infrastructure at the store and on the highway would keep them in people's minds.

Also, stop charging people to have stock delivered to the store when their size is not available.

Retail still works in airports, and there are ways to remake and repurpose the mall experience. Not all of us are Prime customers, and we all need places to meet up with other people. Why not have us come through your doors to do that?

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