Exclusive Q&A: At J.Jill, #Customerobsessed is Much More Than a Hashtag

J.Jill has achieved levels of customer loyalty that other retailers can only aspire to. The women’s apparel and accessories retailer, which generates nearly $600 million in annual sales via ecommerce and a footprint of 247 stores, boasts an average customer lifecycle spanning 10 years.

A major reason for these high levels of engagement: J.Jill obsessively focuses on making sure its customers, women 45 and older, “feel valued, heard and seen,” according to VP of Stores and Operations James Ramirez, who discussed the retailer’s commitment to building — and maintaining — strong mutual relationships with its shoppers.

Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What made you realize that J.Jill’s relationships with its customers were stronger than those of other retailers?

James Ramirez: Our customers really want that sense of community, and this was particularly evident during COVID and the period emerging from lockdowns. Customers told us they missed “their” store — they’re very territorial about the team they shop with and the store. They said they missed engaging with friends and other members of the J.Jill community. In fact, many of J.Jill’s store associates (approximately 30%) began as customers themselves. Almost all the associates I meet were initially customers that were “recruited” off the floor. They appreciate the environment and the community of women.


RTP: What are some of the ways J.Jill maintains these close relationships?

Ramirez: During COVID lockdowns, we were routinely checking in on our customers as part of people’s work cadence, and we worked on very creative ways to connect with her. In Southern California, where the weather is good, we set up pop-up tents in parking lots to provide a way for customers to engage and look at new collections. We also set up virtual shopping appointments and facilitated customers’ ability to invite their friends and family to shop along with them. Additionally, we talk to our customers often, via phone, email and text, encouraging them to come and visit our stores.

In addition to cultivating a really strong community and building relationships, we want to ensure that our customers feel valued, heard and seen. The hashtag #customerobsessed serves as a simple reminder for us to stay relevant to her.

RTP: What are the key characteristics of a J.Jill customer?

Ramirez: One of the reasons we focus on our customers being seen, valued and celebrated is that she’s often the rock of her family, taking care of elderly parents, children and grandchildren. She has a very busy life, she’s an active member of her community and is involved in a lot of organizations. We often partner with her for things like fundraising and donations as well as for local events, including in-store events like fashion shows and visits by authors. It all connects back to things that are important in her life.

RTP: How do you translate these insights into tactical store-level decisions?

Ramirez: In terms of the stores themselves, we have a lot of varied designs, in part because one of our core tenets is that we allow for strong storytelling. We do want to ensure that we don’t have cluttered stores and that we have footprints that are easy to navigate.

When it comes to products, she values quality and really knows what she wants, and she appreciates — and expects — a lot of style advice in the store. She loves the quality of our products, the ease, versatility and design of the fabrics. We focus on staying on top of what she wants as a way to stay connected to her.

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