JC Penny and the disaster of over-thinking

Pitney Bowes has been remarkable at pivoting and not only joining the digital revolution, but implemented a digital transformation strategy. In 2018, they saw a second consecutive year of revenue growth, marking its best revenue growth in a decade.

Meanwhile, JC Penney losses double as digital transformation remains at the “thoughtful” stage after nearly 5 years.

Why?

JC Penney CEO Jill Soltau recently said that transformation would “take time”.

Again, why?

The journey began in 2015 under former CEO Marvin Ellison, and when Soltou took over, it is likely the transformation was already in decline. The retailer had already posted a doubling the $78 million loss recorded for the period last year. Sales had already falled 5.6% to $2.44 billion from $2.58 billion a year ago.

If JC Penny are indeed seeking customer-centricity, these aspirations must be more than heresy and become actual achievements. “Remaining thoughtful and strategic in our approach” doesn’t cut it when talking about what customers want and need.

Having a “leading omni-channel shopping experience.. will require us to work on redefining our brand identity and promise, evolving it for today’s digital age and enhancing the design of our online platform and physical stores accordingly,” says Soltou.

JC Penny are redesigning and improving core store processes with a new checkout process to streamline tasks and enhance the customer experience. Ideally this would translate into a shorter wait time at checkout. But JC Penney is taking their time: “Our strategy long-term will be a great balance between the fundamentals of retail and providing that strong foundation as well as transformational and/or innovative choices that we’ll make to differentiate and re-establish JC Penney for the future.”

This would be ok if it doesn’t establish the sentiment that digital transformation takes a long time to realise the benefits. It doesn’t. Just take a look at Pitney Bowes.

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