I watched a documentary about J.Crew’s CEO Mickey Drexler last night on CNBC and thought it had some great lessons that bloggers can learn from.
Drexler came across as a pretty blunt and honest guy who admits he likes to micro-manage. He knows what he likes, seems to learn from his mistakes and is very driven.
Whilst a lot of these ideas seem to be related to a retail shop environment, if you think about them you’ll begin to see just how important and relevant they can be for your blog.
We don’t have any J.Crew stores here in Australia so I don’t know much about how the business is perceived in the US. This is probably a good thing because I could watch the program without any preconceived ideas about the business.
Here’s some words of wisdom from Drexler (in no particular order).
Have Different Price Points For Products
He was talking about the various types of sweaters they sell and explained how they have some at low price points, some at medium prices, and some at premium prices. So if you’re looking for a sweater, you’ll find something within your price range.
Part of their philosophy is built around the lifetime value of a customer. They’re interested in building customer loyalty that will result in repeat business (and profits).
So, if someone comes into their store and buys a lower price product, that’s ok. Because now they’re sampling the brand and wearing the product. And over time, people who buy lower priced sweaters sometimes buy more expensive ones.
So, if you sell products (online or offline), can you segment your product offerings and offer similar things at different price points?
At one point in the program, he visited one of their New York stores. He mentioned that they’re very aware of the need to maximise the space they use, so they use a lot of mannequins and displays. He pointed to a column and said that column space was worth $10,000 a year in rent so they need to get the maximum return from that bit of the store because they can’t put a clothing rack in front of it (so they had a mannequin there instead).
What ‘space’ do you have on your blog?
Is it being used to it’s maximum potential, or are there the equivalent of $10,000 columns on your website that aren’t helping you to make money?
Sell The Package, Not Just A Shirt
They are big believers in showing people how their products fit together. A shirt complements a pair of pants and they both look good with a certain pair of shoes and a blazer.
You may only come into the store looking for the shirt, but they show you how good the package looks together. This makes you think about buying some extra (perhaps the entire wardrobe on display).
You may also be wondering about how the shirt will look, or what you can wear it with. The display shows you.
This is an excellent way of reducing the risk to a purchasing decision.
So in your blog, are there products you can sell together that work well as a group?
The interesting thing is that J.Crew don’t discount the package. If you buy the shirt, pants, shoes etc you don’t get it any cheaper.
Know Your Margins
They buy cotton material for their shirts from a factory in Italy that is renowned for it’s high quality fabrics.
But this business doesn’t make the shirts. They send the material to China where the shirts are sewn and then sent on to the US.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality is any better or worse with either option.
He knows their margins and is aware of what it costs to get these shirts into one of their stores.
How well do you know the costs of the products you sell?
Listen To What People Are Saying
They seem to be a very customer-focussed organisation and are keen to hear what their customers think.
They are also very attentive to what’s being said about them online. When people leave a complaint on a website about something they bought at J.Crew, they know about it and can act on it. This reinforces what I’ve always said – customer feedback is a good thing, and if there’s a problem with your service or product, how you make things good with the customer can lead to greater customer loyalty in the future.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve got Google alerts set up to notify them of anyone leaving feedback online. They’ll probably come across this post at some point!
There are two implications for bloggers:
- Find out what your customers (readers) want. Read forums. Run surveys. Read other blogs in your niche. Once you know what they want, begin to deliver solutions.
- Keep in touch with what’s being said about you. Set up Google alerts to notify you when people use your name or your blog’s name somewhere online.
Be In Control Of Your Product
Early in his life, Drexler worked at Bloomingales and Macys. He used to get frustrated when competitors who sold the same range of clothing would undercut his prices. He’d have no option but to drop his price if he wanted to remain competitive.
He decided that the best business model was one where he owned the product being sold and the only place you could buy that product was via his store. This is the model he used with The Gap for many year prior to J.Crew.
This makes a lot of sense. I believe the best option for a blogger (or any business owner) is to own your product. This makes it easier to differentiate yourself and stand out from your competitors.
If your business model is built on selling other people’s products, you’re at the mercy of them. If they choose to close their product or lower the price or even stop all affiliate sales, you have no control over the decision. The fate of your business model depends on others who don’t have a vested interest in your business.
Own your product. Control the pricing. Control who sells it. Build your brand.
What Did You Learn?
I hope this article has made you think.
Better still, I hope it’s making you take action!
Think about these lessons, look at your current business model and think about what you need to improve or change.
And leave a comment below to let me know what you think about these ideas, or to give me some other ideas that we can take away from a retail environment and implement in our blogs.
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