Will an Apple Watch app make J.C. Penney hip?

Discussion
May 06, 2015

The question of what J.C. Penney has to do to make itself relevant again has become a perennial question, one that has found the company making numerous moves in recent years to try to court a younger customer base. The chain’s latest attempt involves becoming one of the first retailers to partner with Apple to create an Apple Watch shopping app.

The Washington Post reports that the app is starting out with an intentionally limited list of features (so as to see how customers use the app and adapt it accordingly). The app will give users the in-store location of items they’ve saved to their online baskets. When items are out of stock, users will be shown where they can be found at the four nearest alternate Penney locations. It will also allow customers to check the status of online orders and provide lists of suggested items to buy.

Half of Penney’s 86 million customers are iPhone users, according to the Post. The retailer is banking on many of those buying the Apple Watch.

Penney in deal with Apple for Watch app

Source: Apple iTunes store

Some may find cause for concern with Penney going so far off-brand with this partnership. The retailer’s business is widely perceived as being driven by discounts. Pouring resources into an Apple Watch app is investing in a piece of technology that is anything but discount. Some also question its wisdom given the notoriously poor track record of Penney in forging a new, cooler image.

"I think this is a poor fit, honestly. I can see where they may receive some image benefits. … But as far as it leading to a lot of new sales? I don’t see it happening with the Apple Watch app," Elten Briggs, a marketing professor at UT Arlington, told WFAA.

Mike Rodgers, J.C. Penney’s executive vice president for omnichannel, is aware that being an early Apple Watch adopter is a gamble.

"We have to move fast, and this is a risky proposition. No one’s ever done this before," Mr. Rodgers told the Post.

Does the partnership between Apple and J.C. Penney have the potential to attract a new shopper base and drive incremental sales for the retailer? What are the potential pitfalls of this attempt at brand revitalization?

Braintrust
"Because chasing Apple worked so well before — see Ron Johnson. Know your customers and your employees, treat them well and deliver an exceptional experience. That’s what makes any retailer successful. More PR is never the answer."
"Big yawn. J.C. Penney’s problems go much deeper than anything an Apple Watch could help. Max says it well: "once they try J.C. Penney will they come back?""
"It’s just a single, small component of a larger campaign to make the retailer relevant again. You can’t look at this as any sort of stand-alone, and I won’t throw any stones at them for trying. I mean, why not? Having said that, I will be surprised if J.C. Penney is still with us in 3 years, and very surprised if they last 5 years."

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15 Comments on "Will an Apple Watch app make J.C. Penney hip?"

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Dick Seesel
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

Eventually the Apple Watch will be a broadly accepted item — even if its price point prevents it from having “mass appeal.” So J.C. Penney certainly has nothing to lose by being an early member of the Apple Watch app community. Whether this is a game-changer for J.C. Penney is a different question. There will be plenty of other retailers following suit (Target is already the featured watch app at the Apple site) so the halo effect for J.C. Penney may be short-lived.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

Because chasing Apple worked so well before — see Ron Johnson.

Know your customers and your employees, treat them well and deliver an exceptional experience. That’s what makes any retailer successful. More PR is never the answer.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

What is the alternative? Put their heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist? Embrace the technology and culture, I say!

Max Goldberg
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

This partnership has the potential to attract new customers, but once they try J.C. Penney will they come back? What does the J.C. Penney brand stand for? Does the once-vaulted retailer have a core story that will resonate with consumers? If there is one thing that digital has taught us about Millennials it is that they can turn away from something as quickly as they initially rushed towards it.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

Big yawn. J.C. Penney’s problems go much deeper than anything an Apple Watch could help. Max says it well: “once they try J.C. Penney will they come back?”

At this point there is nothing that can make J.C. Penney relevant. The market does not need it. It will go the way of Sears, and maybe even faster since it doesn’t seem to have a real estate play.

Is there anyone out there that can tell me why J.C. Penney should exist?

Shep Hyken
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

J.C. Penney is doing quite a bit to bolster their image and reestablish themselves in the marketplace. The shopping app will draw attention to a sliver of customers who have the watch and want to be cool using it. I think it will probably create more buzz (as it is doing now) than sales initially. The goal would be to go beyond the buzz and see sales increase. Time will tell.

Jeff Hall
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

While this announcement may garner some short-term publicity for J.C. Penney, I wonder how aligned an Apple Watch consumer is to the core/target J.C. Penney customer. Given the price point of an Apple Watch, and recognizing that Apple customers are often a bit more tech-savvy, early adopters, attracted to more current, trendier brands and skew younger, how well does that mirror the average J.C. Penney customer?

Grace Kim
Guest
Grace Kim
2 years 7 months ago

J.C. Penney is using this partnership with Apple, along with bringing Sephora into the stores, as a way to attract a new, younger generation of shoppers. It will take some time to see if this strategy will pay off, but it’s a gutsy move! And the question is whether J.C. Penney understands this new customer base they are going after and providing a great customer experience on the Apple Watch and in stores to build a new loyal customer segment.

Lee Kent
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

I would venture to say that more than half of most consumers are iPhone users, but does that make this a good fit? I love the app but honestly, is that the J.C. Penney customer?

For my 2 cents? No…sorry J.C. Penney, I’m still rooting for you though.

Carlos Arambula
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

I doubt it will attract a new shopper base or drive incremental sales, and even if it could, it’s a long term strategy. However, at this stage, what does J.C. Penney have to lose?

I assume that this is just a component of another attempt at brand revitalization since it feels disjointed from the brand’s current core customers…both brands’ customers.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

The Apple Watch may bring them in the store. But what is going to bring them back?

Warren Thayer
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

It’s just a single, small component of a larger campaign to make the retailer relevant again. You can’t look at this as any sort of stand-alone, and I won’t throw any stones at them for trying. I mean, why not? Having said that, I will be surprised if J.C. Penney is still with us in 3 years, and very surprised if they last 5 years.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

While I agree this seems to be a “probably won’t help, but can’t hurt” proposition, I’m startled by the negativity (even from JCP itself!). I agree they shouldn’t bet the store on this, either figuratively or (perhaps in this case) literally, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I wish them well.

Karen S. Herman
Guest
2 years 7 months ago
I like J.C. Penney and check out their Facebook page often because it is fun, topical and receives great interaction with their customers and fans. With 4.7 million likes, the company is doing something right here. Also like the statement by Michael Rodgers, J. C. Penney’s executive vice president over omni-channel, that the company is an innovative retailer. As he sees customers engaging more on mobile devices, and they estimate that half of their customers have iPhones, I see the value proposition in launching a shopping app exclusively for the Apple Watch. It should resonate with Millennials and their “always… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

There is definitely the opportunity for JCP to attract (or at least retain) a larger shopping base while increasing gross sales, through their Apple efforts. However, this is a short-term, short-focused strategy that JCP should embrace while clarifying other solutions to grow their shopping base and drive gross revenues.

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Braintrust
"Because chasing Apple worked so well before — see Ron Johnson. Know your customers and your employees, treat them well and deliver an exceptional experience. That’s what makes any retailer successful. More PR is never the answer."
"Big yawn. J.C. Penney’s problems go much deeper than anything an Apple Watch could help. Max says it well: "once they try J.C. Penney will they come back?""
"It’s just a single, small component of a larger campaign to make the retailer relevant again. You can’t look at this as any sort of stand-alone, and I won’t throw any stones at them for trying. I mean, why not? Having said that, I will be surprised if J.C. Penney is still with us in 3 years, and very surprised if they last 5 years."

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