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J. Crew sells out Instagram-exclusive product, showcasing new mobile sales opportunities

J. Crew enabled its Instagram followers to be the first to purchase a new pair of sunglasses available in limited quantity by clicking the link in its bio, resulting in all merchandise being sold out within several hours.

The retailer informed social media users of the promotion by sharing the news via Instagram’s new Stories feature, which lets users post content in real time. Yesterday, J. Crew’s Instagram followers were given the opportunity to be the first to purchase a pair of its pink Jane sunglasses, showcasing how brands can simultaneously reward social engagement and incite sales by leveraging the aspect of exclusivity.

“This is the next extension of customer engagement,” said Robert Cuthbertson, vice president at Boston Retail Partners. “What is usually reserved for members of loyalty programs, J. Crew is expanding to interact with its most loyal customers in a more informal setting.

“By offering these limited and exclusive opportunities to their social media followers, retailers look to build excitement around new products and reward those who are their biggest fans,” he said. “With that said, retailers will need to be careful on how frequently and exclusively they initiate these offers to avoid alienating customers who are unable to participate.”

Pretty in pink
Yesterday, J. Crew alerted its Instagram followers to the limited-time purchase window by uploading a post featuring its pink Jane sunglasses as well as an Instagram Story showcasing several models donning the eyewear.

A similar strategy was also recently used by eyeglasses brand Warby Parker.

Instagram Stories function much like Snapchat’s live Stories, letting users post real-time videos or photos viewable at the top of the app’s feed. Individuals may click on each account’s icon to view the corresponding Instagram Story.

J. Crew’s Instagram Story included snapshots of several female and male models wearing the bright-colored sunglasses, alongside text reading, “Today only! Shop 50 pairs.”

This let viewers know that only a limited quantity of the accessory was available, giving them added incentive to make an immediate purchase.

Meanwhile, J. Crew’s Instagram post informed followers that its newest pair of sunglasses is anything but plain, and advised fans to shop the eyewear first by clicking the link in its bio.

J.Crew, like many other retailers, has a Like2Buy clickable link in its Instagram bio, which allows consumers to view a shoppable feed of its photos, tap on a favorite post and get taken to a mobile site where all featured products can be purchased.

Therefore, users could click on the photo featuring the pink sunglasses and be taken to J. Crew’s mobile site, where they could view product details and price before placing the item in their mobile shopping carts for checkout.

The sunglasses sold out by 3 pm, with J. Crew consoling those who missed out by informing followers that the eyewear will be available in-store next week.

Tapping social exclusivity
J. Crew is one of the latest retailers to employ a sales-driving tactic centered on exclusive perks for social media followers.

Warby Parker recently heightened the Snapchat monetization stakes by rolling out exclusive merchandise for its followers on the photo-sharing app, suggesting that the cachet of products only available via social media could result in more mobile purchases from younger consumers (see story).

Many social media users opt to follow a brand in hopes of receiving sneak peeks at new collections or even special discounts meant to reward their long-term loyalty.

For example, Express rewarded its Snapchat and Instagram fans over the weekend by offering them a 20 percent-off code usable toward their next purchase. These types of posts give individuals more incentive to keep following brands on social media.

Several retailers have also been honing their social strategies by creating separate accounts for different lines, underscoring the need to post content relevant to specific audiences.

Earlier this summer, J. Crew attempted to direct more attention toward its menswear line by introducing the J. Crew Men’s Instagram account, which enables followers to browse new and classic apparel and accessories before clicking a link in the retailer’s bio to purchase must-have items (see story).

If J. Crew and its fellow retailers see success in driving sales of social-only merchandise, other apparel and accessories marketers will likely latch onto this tactic, particularly during the holiday season when many consumers are looking for one-of-a-kind products.

“[This will most definitely happen] as retailers seek to integrate their brand into the lifestyles and habits of customers,” Mr. Cuthbertson said. “This is just another tool to continue to stay in front of the customer despite all of the noise from competitors vying for their attention.”