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CSA Exclusive: Joann exec discusses new store format, omnichannel

Joann is transforming its enterprise customer experience.

Joann is revamping its stores and enhancing its mobile and online customer experience.

Chris DiTullio, chief customer officer senior VP of Joann, recently sat down with Chain Store Age to discuss how the specialty arts and crafts retailer is shifting and evolving its business to be as customer-centric as possible. This includes the development of a next-generation store model, which Joann began piloting at a Columbus, Ohio location in 2018.

“We are using customer insights to guide both our in-store and omnichannel transformation,” said DiTullio. “One big pain point in the store is the ‘customer counter’ – shoppers buying fabric have to wait in line at the fabric counter. In the new store model, they can give their cell number and then keep shopping while they can see their name and place in line on a scoreboard in the store. They get a text to notify them when it’s their turn at the counter. It’s been wildly successful.”The new store format also features a section called Creator Studio, what DiTullio calls a “plug and play” space where customers can rent crafting and sewing machine technology to work and craft with the machines.

“We teach classes in our stores and studios,” explained DiTullio. “Customers can learn how to use new machines and have demos with store associates.”

However, DiTullio said the changes having the biggest impact on Joann’s operations are the new omnichannel services it has been rolling out.

“We have integrated messaging and QR codes into our mobile app, which has 15 million downloads,” said DiTullio. “Customers can extend the aisle with an additional 250,000 SKUs on our site. In the aisle, customers can download the app and order with free shipping.”

DiTullio also touched on Joann’s curbside pickup program, which the retailer introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic when many of its locations were closed to in-store shopping.

[Read more: Joann unwraps streamlined BOPIS, curbside in time for holidays]

“Our world changed,” said DiTullio. “In the parking lot, customers can open geofencing on their mobile device, and an associate will get a ping on their handheld. They don’t need to tell us they’ve arrived. A customer without geofencing can simply click on their notification email, and an associate comes out with their order.

“Post-pandemic, the omnichannel mix has grown a bit,” continued DiTullio. “The customer has learned how to shop on the site and the mobile app. Mobile was growing the past two years, even pre-pandemic. Mobile traffic is significant portion of our overall digital traffic.”

As part of its ongoing omnichannel customer service evolution, DiTullio said Joann continues to find ways to make the shopping experience easier for customers across all channels.

“We’re making it easier to search via search mobile device or app or our website and find what you’re looking for,” he stated. “We’re so SKU-intensive, this is one of our most important things.”

DiTullio is also proud of the fact that despite the fact many Joann stores were either closed or processed curbside orders only during the early stages of the pandemic, the company did not furlough any employees. Instead, Joann focused on making protective gear for healthcare workers.

“We had more cotton and machines than anybody,” said DiTullio. “We made masks from fabric lots, and donated fabric and supplies for mask-making.”

[Read more: Joann Stores launches effort to make items to protect healthcare workers]

“It’s been an incredible year in many ways,” concluded DiTullio. “You learn how agile and resilient you are as a company.”

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