November 15, 2007, 12:00 AM

J. Crew uses the web to prime the multi-channel sales pump

In a new multi-channel strategy, J.Crew.com now features a customer service program that visitors can use to schedule an appointment with a personal shopper to locate the right merchandise online, at a convenient store online or in the catalog.

J. Crew Group Inc. has grown accustomed to success on the Internet. The web is its fastest growing channel and grew by 37% to $218.6 million in 2006. The web is also by far J. Crew’s biggest direct channel-e-commerce now accounts for 71% of all web and catalog sales vs. 61% just two years ago.

But for J. Crew, No.63 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, a big part of the company’s Internet strategy is using the web to build up more multi-channel loyalty among its core users: affluent, college-educated, professional and fashion-conscious women and men. “We listen to our customers and what they want and then try and find ways to use the web to create a better shopping experience across all channels,” says J.Crew senior vice president of merchandising, direct, Trish Donnelly.

To expedite more multi-channel sales J.Crew.com recently launched a personal shopper program that visitors can use to schedule an appointment with a personal shopper at a convenient store or work with the personal shopper to locate the right merchandise online or in the catalog. The retailer is also using more videos on J.Crew.com that show behind the scenes footage of upcoming TV and print ads. “You can touch and feel the merchandise in the store and we are finding ways to replicate that experience as much as we can on the web,” says Donnelly.

J. Crew is a big user of database marketing to drive multi-channel sales-the retailer maintains a database of almost 23 million customer names that receive catalogs and opt-in e-mail on upcoming promotions. In the past year those names have been a significant source of more multi-channel sales. About 11%, or 2.5 million households, have made a purchase online, by catalog or in one of the retailer’s 189 stores. “The web and our e-commerce channel are very important assets in figuring out who our multi-channel shoppers are and how they shop our brand,” says Donnelly.

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