Will JC Penney’s Social Media Strategy Help It Win Back Customers?

    May 5, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Update: Interestingly JC Penney has now set the video to private.

JC Penney has put out a video apologizing for alienating loyal customers, and essentially begging them to come back.

Will it work? Let us know what you think in the comments.

The basic gist goes like this: We did some stuff that upset you, and we’re acknowledging that we screwed up (without saying specifically what we screwed up exactly). But you have to admit, you liked some of the stuff we did. Right? Anyway, please, please, please come back and shop with us again.

The actual wording goes: “It’s no secret, recently JCPenney changed. Some changes you liked and some you didn’t, but what matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you. To hear what you need, to make your life more beautiful. Come back to JCPenney, we heard you. Now, we’d love to see you.”

As you’re probably aware, JC Penney brought in CEO Ron Johnson a couple years ago, who decided to push for a wealthier customer base, and got rid of the store’s sales (which obviously didn’t sit well with the regulars). Recently, Johnson stepped down, and the company brought back the guy they had before him (Mike Ullman).

So, they’re sorry.

Last year, the company reportedly lost about a third of their customers because of the whole thing. A third. On top of that, holiday sales dropped 32%. No wonder they’re apologizing.

When Ullman’s appointment as CEO was announced last month, the company described him as a “highly accomplished retail industry executive.”

“We are fortunate to have someone with Mike’s proven experience and leadership abilities to take the reins at the Company at this important time,” said Thomas Engibous, Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors. “He is well-positioned to quickly analyze the situation jcpenney faces and take steps to improve the Company’s performance.”

“While jcpenney has faced a difficult period, its legacy as a leader in American retailing is an asset that can be built upon and leveraged,” Ullman said at the time. “To that end, my plan is to immediately engage with the Company’s customers, team members, vendors and shareholders, to understand their needs, views and insights. With that knowledge, I will work with the leadership team and the Board to develop and clearly articulate a game plan to establish a foundation for future success.”

The new ad is certainly a good first step towards the engagement he speaks of. People are indeed engaging. The company has been promoting the ad and the mantra “#jcpListens” all over social media, and has been rigorously responding to customers. Here’s a snapshot of just the last hour on Twitter alone:

JC Penney on Twitter

They’ve also been running polls on Facebook (hat tip: Business Insider), and further engaging with customers. Earlier this week, for example, they asked fans what their favorite JC Penney brand is:

St. John's Bay Poll

With St. John’s Bay clearly leading the charge, they also announced that the brand (cut under Johnson) will be returning:

Of course it’s going to take a little more than social media to truly turn things around for the company. Luckily, they recently got a five-year $1.75 billion loan from Goldman Sachs. The company said the money will be used to fund “ongoing working capital requirements,” “general corproate purposes,” and part of its debt.

“This loan facility is an important component of our strategic plan to strengthen the Company’s financial position,” said CFO Ken Hannah. Together with our revolving credit facility, this will give us the financial strength we need to meet our current funding requirements and build toward a successful future.”

Will JC Penney win back customers with its new efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments.

  • http://Yahoo Buzz Arnold

    J.C. Pennys was unfortunate enough th hire a CEO from the computer business. He knew nothing about clothing companies. They’re a good American company that employs lots of people. They will eventually get their customers back as they sell good quality merchandise at competitive prices. I personally have been shopping at Pennys for years and will continue to do so. The “sales” will be a plus !!

  • gb

    I stopped going to penneys about a year ago. I went looking for snaekers for my grandson. The”shoe” dept. said sneakers are downstairs. anm associate sent up back upstairs. They sent us down again! finally found them tucked away, no one to help, no one to measure his feet. just a bunch of shelves and you go thru them all looking for a pair.
    SEARS has a shoe dept. and someone to help.

    I went inline to penneys and looked at a couple of dresses and of course they had none in stock. I am DONE with JC Penneys.

    we live in upstate NY. I don’t know if the rest of their stores are this bad.

  • K Kulp

    I love Pennys and don’t understand what they did wrong. Their stores in North Metro Atlanta are beautiful, the products and prices are great, and the sales staff is always helpful. They put Macy’s to shame.

    • Dee

      I agree

  • Dots

    Hope JCP come back as it was before the change. Too little choices and too many of the same items in different sizes. What happen to the children department and special occasion department? The ads mailed out are cheap and cheez looking. The clothes looked all wrinkle. I dont even want to go in the store anymore except for the shoes. Don’t try to save money getting merchandise in bulk from other countries because we in America are spoiled by what we want and what we like and will pay for it. Please change soon. The store was always crowded here as well as other cities. Tks.

  • ggalloway

    I paid out my account because J C Pennys cloths look terrible. I have shopped there for tens years until recently. A have bought beautiful dresses for my mother in the past.(no more). All elderly donot wear pants, some wear dresses, with jackets. three-quater sleeves and at decent lenght. The dresses they have now look like croker sacks.(no shape what so ever), and every body don”t wear skinny jeans or skinny trousers. Get some boot leg jeans and decent dress pants for females. Please bring the old J C Penny”s cloths back.

  • dianna spurlock

    i use to love j.c.penny little girl,s clothes line they were what a parent wanted for their little girls to wear proudly. the teen department clothes for teen are for street woman who are outthere to make a living for cash. Check out the wooden soldiers catalog and bring back some of theirs style of clothes for little girls and make our teenagers and granddaughter look like teens you are proud to be seen with. Imiss what the old style bought to the family of loving parents for their baby, little girls,teens and us as olders people in the way of style sometime old is better than the tale out look. thank you and please take this note seriously. We love j.c.penny and hate to lose theirs store.

  • missing you

    I miss the sales at JC Penny. We miss the back to school sales and the Christmas sales. We may never see JC Penny the way it use to be but, it could come back almost like it. Haven’t purchased a thing from there since it changed. I’ve looked at items and the prices are high. I will come back if it changes back.

  • http://yahoo.com Debbie

    I know that many people where unhappy with all the changes but, now lets see what is the plan to welcome back the loyal customers that shopped for many years and hopefully customer service will improve also again. Good to see JCPenney return and Best wishes for the return of a wonderful company.

  • Dee

    We LOVE THE CHANGES. !!!! You didn’t have to dig!

    We don’t want any moe changes!

    Thank you

  • Valentines

    I like that they brought back sales…but hate the new hand held devices that the staff are using. they take longer to work, and if you want a reciept you have to either have it emailed or if you want a paper one, you have to walk to the check out anyways. Plus, to sign with your finger is difficult, no room for your name and it does not look anything like your signature. Get rid of them, they are horrible!

  • http://www.quantisoft.com Howard Deutsch

    Yes, social media can help JC Penney to bring back some lost customers and attract new customers. Social media will not solve some basic problems confronting JC Penney. They have a mixture of converted and non-converted stores. Should they convert the rest of their stores to the store within the store concept, or should they go back to their previous store model at the already converted stores? Eaither approach is costly and risky. The change was made by Ron Johnson beacuse JC Penney was in a long-term slow death spiral. Too much competition (from big box stores, department stores and discount retailers).

    The question is, can JC Penney come up with a strategy, consistent approach across all stores, a brand and pricing that will enable them to turn the ship around before the cash runs out?

  • Jim Edwards

    You totally missed the mark on everything………….your customers left (including me) when you decided to hire a lesbian to represent you……only a small percentage of people are ready to accept a sick, filthy perversion as “normal”…….those are now your only customers……..think about it !

    • Jessica

      EW, you apparently are the sick, filthy perversion with a comment like that. I’m not a lesbian, nor do I give two shits about who their upper management is – just someone who believes in tolerance, equality – and a happy JCP customer. I would go as far as saying I am not part of a small percentage who thinks you are a bigot.

  • http://www.mylocalmag.co.uk Michael Wigley

    Have been a customer for some 30 years. The new management has got it wrong. They are choosing the wrong customer base. On my visit to several of their store last month, J C Penny was always known for good quality clothing etc, but this rear the market was aimed at young people which was not their market. The store were building sites and I found of all things myself shopping at Walmarts. Social Marketing is again for perhaps future customers. Management has destroyed a good company which millions came to.

  • Sheila Thedford

    Until JC Penney recognizes the fact that they have alienated Christians with their “we love the whole gay thing”, an immoral way of life, and change their stance, they will continue to suffer.

  • Pizzaman7

    they can start by dropping the homosexual ads. The last thing I want as a parent is to bring my child to a store and have to explain their ridiculous ads.

    Tolerance of unnatural behavior is one thing but to force us to accept it as “normal” or the “new normal” is another. The vast majority of Americans believe in traditional marriage. We have to quit trying to make a small percentage of people happy while alienating everyone else.

    If they want customers to come back they need to stop promoting gays.

  • David

    J C Penney lost me when they started catering to the homosexual crowd. That was a GREAT BIG STUPID MISTAKE for a Family store!!!!!!!!

    It will take a LONG time before I ever consider going back…….

    I also have stopped doing business with Homo Depot, Pepsi, and several other companies who did the same thing. Actions have consequences……..

  • Fred

    I would like to say thank you to the last three posters, who showed their true colors. You claim to be Christians yet Christ was the one who told you to love all men. You’re hypocrites and a disgrace to your religion.

    That said, you three are absolutely right: the vast majority of JCPenney’s customers are the above demographic. Once they embraced Ellen and equality they shot themselves in the foot.

    Adopt an anti-gay stance and you’ll be back on too, JCPENNY! Go America!

    • Pati Smith

      Fred, its not that Christians hate gay people, even tho that’s the usual accusation. God’s Word says homosexuality is wrong, so we cannot change that, no matter how it inconveniences people. If someone wants to go against God’s direct order, that’s up to them; it’s their business, and I’ll pray for them. On the contrary,it is the homosexual lobby that is hateful. Now that gay marriage is being legalized, churches are being targeted with lawsuits because pastors won’t compromise their beliefs and perform the ceremonies. Christian-owned bakeries, caterers, florists, etc. are purposely being targeted and put out of business. So, who’s the hater? Jesus said, “Love your enemies; pray for them that hate you.” But that does not mean disobey God to please them.

      • Fred

        Pati the bible is FULL of rules that people break every day. Not sure why this is the one people seem to hang on to?

      • Fred

        Also, Pati, please cite some examples of Christian florists, bakeries, etc that are being put out of business by the 10% of their customers who are gay?! That’s ridiculous.

        • Pati Smith

          Yes, we do break God’s commandments, but unlike most sin, we aren’t being prodded to accept them as being all right. These (now political) groups are demanding that people abandon their personal beliefs and principles, or else. As for the Christian businesses, there is a florist right here in Seattle that is being sued by a gay couple; they had been customers and well-acquainted with the owner for over a decade, but when they asked the owner to do their wedding, the florist wrote them a letter and declined, stating his objection to the ceremony. So now they are suing him for alot of money…I forget how much. Another, a bakery, was asked by a gay couple to make their wedding cake. Again, the owner declined, saying he doesn’t want to be part of this, and his shop is being sued for discrimination. I don’t recall the exact names of these establishments, but its been reported recently; I’m sure you could look it up, there are an increasing number of these cases. A woman who is one of the LGBT leaders said this week that her efforts to force gay marriage is a lie; she said the true purpose is to put an end to marriage of any kind, and this is just a means to this end. I didn’t really know what to think about that.

          • Pati Smith

            Actually, I just thought of more: How about the commandment “Thou shalt not covet”. If people did not covet, there would not be Communism or Socialism, both of which are spawned by people’s jealousy over money, etc. Another is abortion: we are not only being prodded to say its all right, but forced to pay for it. I consider it murder of the innocent. 41% of pregnancies in New York City are being “terminated.” That’s a lot of children. Abortion would not be an issue if people obeyed God’s commandment of not having sex out of marriage. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, like incest and rape.) Sin has consequences. God didn’t make these laws to punish us; He made them to prevent such problems.

  • Walt

    I think JC Pennys will never rebound. It’s almost as if they have done everything that their loyal customers don’t like.

    They would have to take a huge lost and then even after the lost the loyal customer probably would never come back.

    Personally I would never go back to JC Penny’s, because they have crossed the line and there’s some thing’s you just don’t do to people and they have done it all.

  • A Smith

    When are you going to bring back the St. John Bay boot cut misses pant?

    Also, at the same time you quit carrying men’s Arizona carpenter jeans. When are you bringing these jeans back? This is when I quit spending money at JC Penney, because you quit carrying what I bought. Do you realize you corner the market with your Arizon men’s carpenter jeans? They are the only brand of carpenter jeans that make the front pockets big enough for a grown man to reach in and out of the pocket without his hand getting stuck in the front pocket having to tug it out of the pocket.

  • Ken in Fla

    I quit going to Penneys right after the “big change” occured. I felt like I was no longer able to find the merchandise I was looking for at the right price. The sales & special pricing were gone along with the special mailers which added more of a discount when used. There were less store employees available to help since they went from the individual department checkout registers to only 2 or three main ones in the store. I am sorry but the consumers that faithfully shopped there have now moved on to other stores they fell comfortable with and it will take a lot more than words to bring us back. Suggestion: return to how it was and you will succeed in getting the typical shopper back that is struggling in the current economy.

  • bill bixby

    Get rid of this bixiou jewelry. It is fashion Jewry at best. Not fine jewelry. Start selling quality jewelry like you used to. This stuff is cheap not chic. Looks like Claire’s merchandise.

  • Daisy

    JCPenney was my favourite store for 27 or so years. Most of those years were after I moved from the US, but catalogue shopping and regular trips sufficed. Price and quality were tops. While I occasionally still buy stuff from them, it’s not the same. Worthington (clothes and shoes) continues to be my favourite brand. That said, I an’t find nice leather shoes anymore. Of course, I detest their current logo.

    JCP was also my choice for children’s clothes. I remembered they would have replica dresses for Moms & daughters and when my daughter was 3, I ordered a Mom & Daughter dress set. It wouldn’t be fashionable these days but at the time my daughter didn’t mind.

    I hope there will be a turnaround and people will return in full force.

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Gracious Store

    I’m not sure JCpenney’s apology to his alienated customers is the solution to his problem. He has to do a thorough homework to find out the reason why he had a 32% drop in sales in the first instance before he changed the CEO and then another change.

    I think the first thing is to try and fix the problem why he had the initial drop in sales, and then be patient and see how far that solution will go before make further changes.

    Too many changes will complicate issues for JCpenney, take one step at a time and allow some time to elapse before another change. Be sure you are addressing the real problem when you effect a change

  • http://www.linkagoal.com david young

    i stopped going to penny’s after the big change… these people owe an apology to their faithful customers and really… online marketing is not enough to get all the customers back they need to try harder

  • Narda E Reyes

    I am a loyal JCP shopper, but to tell you the truth I did not notice any change for the bad, all for the good (they improved their store appearance)and their sales are fantastic…I still think they have the best prices online and in store and diversity, cheap and expensive brands, your choice. I beleive the store I go probably did not suffer any decrease in sales, but that is probably because of the location, across from the mexico border from where mosto of the customers come.