Is J.Crew’s Pinterest Sneak Peak a Sign of the Way Catalogs Will Go?

Aug 28, 2013

On August 20th, J.Crew demonstrated its increasing confidence in the influence of the Pinterest social platform by posting a "Style Guide Sneak Peak" of its September fashions. And with the move, the retailer by all appearances showed considerable savvy in stirring waves across the social media waters.

Since J.Crew’s September apparel didn’t go on sale until the next day, the Pinterest board led with the following message: "Just for our friends on Pinterest, an exclusive first look at our September Style Guide. Love what you see? Our Very Personal Stylist team can help you pre-order the looks before they become available on Wednesday August 21. Call 800 261 7422 or email [email protected]"

Unlike its catalog, the J.Crew Pinterest board features images and brief descriptions only, e.g., "J.Crew Horsing around sweatshirt." The company pinned 55 images in all. The board has been successful, judging by stats displayed on the page — there are over 62,000 Pinterest followers. (By comparison, Gap’s ongoing board has about 43,000 followers; Banana Republic, under 9,000.) Many of the J.Crew fashion images have been "repinned" hundreds of times on followers’ boards. Fashion blogs and e-magazines eagerly picked up on the Sneak Peak. Glitter Guide, for example, devoted a page to it and tied in a promotional drawing for a $200 J.Crew store credit.

According to the style blog, Popsugar, J.Crew’s move is representative of the desire of brands to interact directly with consumers in a more expedient and personal way than can be accomplished through traditional trade and consumer media. Reportedly, Oscar de la Renta revealed its entire Fall 2013 line on Instagram in late July while Juicy Couture made use of a Facebook microsite to leak its fall campaign.

For its part, Pinterest is working to make the platform more responsive to retailers’ needs. This month, according to Internet Retailer, Pinterest announced the availability of price alerts that notify users via email when a retailer drops a price on an item pinned by the shopper.

What advantages do Pinterest and similar social channels offer for retail brands versus traditional marketing media? Of the techniques used by J.Crew in its Style Guide Sneak Peak campaign, which do you find most promising for the future use of social marketing?

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10 Comments on "Is J.Crew’s Pinterest Sneak Peak a Sign of the Way Catalogs Will Go?"

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Steve Montgomery

Social channels offer several advantages, but the biggest one may be that they are used by those interested in receiving the information. Secondly, they allow the receiver to share with friends and family quickly and easily. This is especially important when the target consumer is a Millennials. Innovaro’s Global Lifestyles Summer 2013 report referred to a study that indicated that nearly all Millennials (94%) consult at least one source when making a purchase, most (54%) consult one to three sources.

Finally, speed and customization. Messages can be changed quickly and customized to the receiver. The disadvantage is that the retailer still has to use traditional media for those of us who do not use or rely on social media.

Jason Goldberg
It depends on what J.Crew’s goals are. The sneak peek is a great way to motivate J.Crew shoppers to adopt Pinterest, but if that’s the end of the campaign, and the marketing department is going to call it a win because they gained a bunch of Pinterest followers, then I’d call it foolish. Sending customers off of properties you own (like your catalog or website) to sites you don’t own (like Pinterest) in and of itself is not a good marketing tactic. Brands are nothing more than digital sharecroppers on the social networks, helping to grow audience for social network at the expense of their own brand. But if J.Crew has a series of campaigns planned to drive engagement and eventually revenue from those new Pinterest loyalists they just created, then I think it’s a great first step to a multi-touch campaign. Will J.Crew be rolling out new experiences in their stores, or on their own website which leverages their new Pinterest audience? Pinterest recently did roll out a very brand and e-commerce friendly feature called rich pins.  It links a Pinterest Pin to an actual product on an e-commerce site, rather than to an unstructured picture. This lets Pinterest… Read more »
Zel Bianco

Pinterest and other forms of social media allow companies to interact directly with the user. They know instantly the consumer’s feedback (i.e. likes) and can better gauge how they’re receiving the product. The addition of features like price notifications, will add greatly to Pinterest’s already growing popularity amongst retailers.

Instagram is great, but unless they add more ways to move likes to purchase, they’re going to be left behind in social medial marketing. J.Crew is doing a great job of enticing consumers, but at the same time offering a clear path to purchase that includes visual imagery, a platform users are comfortable with, and a way to contact them directly. The promotion also doesn’t hurt either.

Alexander Rink
4 years 1 month ago

This article has some great stats about what retailers should know about Pinterest, as does this infographic.

What is clear from these stats is that Pinterest users tend to be women, and tend to be women under the age of 50. So will Pinterest replace catalogues? Well, I don’t know about replace entirely, but I would expect it to take a significant portion of the market share for consumers who like to browse visual images of products.

In terms of advantages, I think the advantages are quite numerous, but the biggest two in my opinion include its customizability and “shareability.” In terms of customization, users can, in essence, create a customized catalogue, seeing images from all of the brands they like. In terms of shareability, it is incredibly easy for users to share their favourite products with others (who they may or may not know personally). As the Digiday article mentions, over 80% of the fashion content is driven by the community rather than the brands, which highlights the importance for fashion retailers to get influencers as brand champions, and make sure they are the right ones.

Li McClelland
Li McClelland
4 years 1 month ago

I think that Millennials especially will love this, although many age groups use Pinterest. My concern is how J.Crew or other retailers will handle the inevitable out-of-stocks and limited seasonal offerings once the loved item has been pinned and shared all over the place. It won’t be as simple as just removing the SKU from their own website or store, and disappointments may likely abound and be more pronounced.

Carlos Arambula

The advantage is direct interaction with core consumers and fashionista opinion leaders. I like the approach; it’s very similar to an online community focus group and it can be refined to aid J.Crew in designing the catalogue and more accurate production of their fashion lines. Imagine if J.Crew has the ability to pre-sell their lines before they are actually produced.

Lee Kent

Oh, let’s not talk about the advantages for retail brands. Let’s talk about the advantages for the consumer first. The use of Pinterest and Instagram, for example, allow the consumer to PULL what they want. Then with Pinterest’s new feature, the retailer can then PUSH information back to everyone who has pinned their goods.

The consumer, especially the Millennial, love having this control. They do not like to be marketed to or pushed upon. They are also getting a sneak peak, which to many of them is a perk. A perk, which may lead to loyal customer, doesn’t always have to involve discounts and/or promotions.

Now we can talk about the advantages for the retail brand. They aren’t trolling around the internet looking for people to LIKE them. They simply offer their peeks, look books, whatever and the folks who like their brand take it from there, offering the potential of reaching a much bigger audience.

What some retailers don’t seem to get is that many consumers don’t actually care what brand is offering the good. If they see it and they like it, they just might buy it!

Joan Treistman

For consumers who are Pinterest oriented, retailers have a perfect audience. Catalogs depend on visual engagement and Pinterest is a Mecca for those with a proclivity for visual involvement. Buyers appreciate having the first look at what will be offered as is evident in so many “sneak previews” offered by department stores. This migration seems natural.

Vahe Katros
Pinterest is the electronic version of collecting catalogs, ripping pages, filing in folders, and sharing with friends. J.Crew knows their shoppers and executed perfectly in the Pinterest venue. The whole obviousness of my experience reminded me of the following quote from Alan Cooper, the father of interaction design; has J.Crew invented the wheel? ‘Sometimes being an interaction designer can be so frustrating! If, as a designer, you do something really, fundamentally, blockbuster correct, everybody looks at it and says,’Of course! What other way could there be?’ This is true even if the client has been staring, empty handed and idea-free, at the problem for months or even years without a clue about solving the problem. It’s also true even if our solution generates millions of dollars for the company. Most really breakthrough, conceptual advances are opaque in foresight and transparent in hindsight. It is incredibly hard to see breakthroughs in design. You can be trained and prepared, spend hours studying the problem and still not see the answer. Then someone else comes along and points out a key insight, and the vision clicks into place with the natural obviousness of the wheel. If you shout the solution from the rooftops,… Read more »
Phil Rubin
4 years 1 month ago

The big idea here is that J.Crew is thinking of customers as is their usual MO. Absent a true loyalty program, Pinterest represents a highly engaged and high value customer segment for the brand and by premiering the catalog assortment in this way, it allowed J.Crew to recognize these customers appropriately.

It’s a great example of what social can represent and how a smart merchant can test doing things differently. Perhaps next time, we’ll see if J.Crew tips off other high value customers that the catalog was their for them (e.g., via email or in-store). As great as this is, it’s better with integrated marketing behind it.


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