Following its 2020 bankruptcy reorganization, retailer JCPenney restructured their brand strategy and offerings to fit the evolving retail business model better and improve both in-person and digital shopping experience for its customers in 2023.
These efforts have included expanding into the virtual cosmetics space through their partnership with Revive to develop AI skin care and AR makeup try-on technology, as reported by CosmeticsDesign in September of last year. In addition to an investment in digital technology, JCPenney also considered its online and in-store retail experiences and has expanded its offerings through the JCPenney Beauty initiative.
To better understand the impact of JCPenney Beauty, CosmeticsDesign spoke with Jo Osborne, Senior Executive GMM Beauty at JCPenney for some insight into the current rollout and how the retailer is working to improve customer experiences.
Intersection of online and in-store retail shopping
E-commerce drove retail sales through the pandemic, but certain drawbacks to online shopping have proved challenging to the cosmetics and personal beauty care industries. For example, the inability of consumers to interact directly with products can ultimately dissuade purchase conversions or potentially result in an unsatisfactory customer experience.
To address issues like these, JCPenney Beauty is a two-fold approach that leverages “both streams of online and brick-and-mortar shopping” to help consumers bridge the gap between the two. Trends show consumers are “seeking the brick-and-mortar experience and craving an opportunity to discover new brands and products,” said Osbourne, “while having the opportunity to explore hands-on.”
The momentum behind online shopping has remained steady, and the “traction we’ve seen for JCPenney Beauty online is what inspired us to do a full beauty takeover of the JCP.com homepage,” said Osborne, but there are also “lots of customers coming into our stores, asking for product that they have discovered online, or through our social channels,” highlighting the importance of comprehensive customer experience offerings.
What’s in store for in-store?
Currently halfway through introducing 610 in-store locations throughout the U.S., JCPenney Beauty has so far been positively received, said Osborne. “Each time we introduce a new location, it’s so exciting to see the enthusiasm of our customers, eager to experience the product offering – to touch and feel the new products that they were only able to purchase through our website.”
Offered as a complement to the InStyle salons, JCPenney Beauty provides consumers with a comprehensive personal beauty care experience that allows customers to form relationships with the retailer and its representatives. Locations offer over 170 “incredible brands such as thirteen lune, Landing International, and Shades by Shan,” Osbourne said, and are staffed by Beauty Associates who are “are incredible and obsessed with the brands we carry, so they really enjoying speaking to our customers and educating them on the hottest products and making personalized recommendations.”
It’s the people that make the difference, she elaborated. “When a customer visits in store, we focus on the experiential moment: the swatch of the product, the pigmentation, or the scent you have smelled for the first time, and where that transports you,” which is something that retailers cannot replicate in an online shopping experience.
JCPenney Beauty reinforces the experiences shared by loyal customers and InStyle salon users that have historically supported a “high return rate to our salon business.” By “utilizing our amazing stylists to educate the customers on what they can find in Store,” said Osbourne, “we can zero in on what our customers want and what they didn’t even realize they needed.”
The added value to the customer’s experience has been so fruitful, she concludes, “we are also continuing to evolve our salons.” Most recently, JCPenney has expanded its salon treatment options to include Murad services at 150 locations by the end of 2023 as further reinvestment in comprehensive in-store personal beauty care offerings.
Continued expansion in the new year
The vision for JCPenney Beauty initiative considers the consumer perspective when offering options that cover “mass, masstige and prestige beauty product,” said Osbourne, and success requires both “the engagement of the customer, and the playfulness in our attitude of a department store to do things differently.”
Since 2020, JCPenney has continued to invest in a consumer-first mentality shift that generates positive customer feedback and results. The success of this strategy continues to hinge on the retailer keeping a close pulse on consumer trends in 2023 and beyond.