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J.Jill is a clothing retailer based in Tilton, New Hampshire, that targets affluent, older women. It’s a market ripe with retail clothing shoppers. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020, J.Jill realized the need for a visual merchandising tool to make a drastic pivot. Its retail stores were collecting dust. If things didn’t change soon, J.Jill would drown in the red.

When J.Jill discovered Smart Merchandiser, it saw how leveraging eCommerce management software could propel its online business into the black.

J.Jill watched its sales grow 23.4% in 2021 and maintained strong projections into 2022. It divested in underperforming retail stores and reinvested in its digital presence (93% online, 7% phone catalogs). Today, J.Jill has transformed into a direct sales business, and it has Smart Merchandiser to thank for its success.

Challenge: Shifting the Business Model

Specialty retail hit a brick wall in 2020. J.Jill and other companies fought relentlessly for their survival. Nobody expected the 62-year-old brand to escape the pandemic. But after some careful debt restructuring, CEO Claire Spofford stepped in.

Spofford recognized the need for a new business model. Before, J.Jill focused primarily on top-line growth, leading to over-inventorying. This overbuying forced the company to spend more on ad campaigns and promotions, leaving little room for profit.

In 2021, Spofford pivoted the company to focus on gross margin and strict inventory management, while tightening business disciplines. She leveraged Smart Merchandiser, an industry-leading visual merchandising tool, to achieve her goals.

Solution: Leveraging Smart Merchandiser‘s Visual Merchandising Tool

J.Jill’s business model was shifting, but Smart Merchandiser’s visual merchandising tool was up for the challenge. Key features like a drag-and-drop interface, color management, and analytics overlay made it the perfect match for helping J.Jill meet its eCommerce goals.

Spofford also leveraged Smart Merchandiser to tighten inventory control. Today, J.Jill can visualize inventory counts for each item by size and color, both critical categories in the apparel industry.

visual merchandising tool for ecommerce

3 Essential Visual Merchandising Tool Features

Smart Merchandiser has myriad functions, but there are three features J.Jill found especially valuable:

  • Color management features let the company organize products more efficiently. With the “Leading Color” tool, companies can feature the same items in unique colors across categories without extensive coding. Drag-and-drop capabilities make it easy to update and rearrange every option.
  • Another important tool is Smart Merchandiser’s analytics overlay function. Hovering over a product thumbnail tells J.Jill everything it needs to know regarding views, conversion and abandonment rates, and other insights.
  • Ratings and reviews are also a vital metric for J.Jill. With Smart Merchandiser, the company can capture reviews in real time and display them on each product thumbnail. It can also keep low ratings from appearing above the fold on a product listing page.

Empowering Merchandisers With a Game-Changing Solution

Success in the eCommerce atmosphere requires well-managed catalogs and tightly controlled stocks. Smart Merchandiser’s visual merchandising tool helps brands display products, optimize sell-thru, drive marketing campaigns, and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs).

What’s more, omnichannel eCommerce plays a significant role as more people shop on their phones than ever. J.Jill’s beautiful layouts and catalogs must translate to mobile, email, and social media marketing. Smart Merchandiser makes that possible.

As supply chain issues continue affecting global trade, stock, and catalog management is especially crucial. J.Jill maintains close relationships with its suppliers to get a real-time sense of product flow and update the online catalog accordingly.

Reaching Full Potential: Measurable Results

Smart Merchandiser isn’t just about making catalogs look good. The software leans heavily on embedded analytics and effective KPIs to tell users everything they need to know about product performance. J.Jill tapped into these capabilities to maintain consistent brand stories and saw gross profits, margins, and growth improvements.

In addition, Smart Merchandiser relies on algorithmic merchandising (AM) tools to keep its partners ahead of the competition. The tool helps brands spearhead their visual merchandising strategies, tighten their inventories, and leverage consumer data. For instance, updating inventory across multiple channels would be a painstaking manual process, but AM does it in seconds.

AM also identifies top-selling items and ensure they’re always featured at the top of catalogs. Finally, AM digs into consumer data to make personalized recommendations based on browsing and shopping habits.

ecommerce team inside office taking data

Result: From Survival to Success

Smart eCommerce strategies, disciplined inventory management, and a shift to focusing on gross margin helped J.Jill take control of its future. The brand was scrambling to avoid bankruptcy at the height of the pandemic. Today, it’s beating expectations and achieving consistent, profitable growth.

J.Jill let leases expire and ended 2022 with fewer retail stores. Instead, it focused on eCommerce while carefully expanding its physical footprint over time.

Like other successful brands, J.Jill knows virtual merchandising is key to future success. For instance, retail clothing consumers often prefer physical stores when making their first purchases because they can try things on before buying. This is tough to capture in the digital space. But Smart Merchandiser helps brands like J.Jill duplicate its in-store experience online.

In the end, shoppers must have an enjoyable customer experience. They’re more likely to make online purchases when they can easily find their desired sizes and colors.

Discover the Power of Smart Merchandiser‘s Visual Merchandising Tool for Your Business

When J.Jill needed an efficient eCommerce solution to manage its $200 million online store, Smart Merchandiser was there to help. By pivoting its business model and tightening its inventories, J.Jill saved itself from pandemic-related setbacks.

Smart Merchandiser’s feature-rich interface and in-depth data analytics can help any brand achieve its full eCommerce potential. Contact Smart Merchandiser today to leverage the only visual eCommerce merchandise management solution available in the marketplace.