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

Chris CrumBusiness

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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.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.