Jill's Table is a store which specializes in food and housewares. Its founder and owner is trying to foresee what challenges she might be faced with in the future. She must come up with a solution on the way of positioning her service offerings amidst the intense competition around. Having been awarded as the Retailer of the Year by the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association, Housewares and Gourmet Division, she realized that she must not merely deal with the competition but also focus on improving customer service and associate training as well as develop effective buying and finance strategies.
Kyle Murray; Ken Mark
Harvard Business Review (906A01-PDF-ENG)
February 06, 2006
Case questions answered:
- Jill Wilcox is considering expanding her product offering online to develop more of a true eCommerce capability. In order to develop your recommendation for her business, complete the table below as follows:
List the “Brand Assets” of Jill’s Table under the “Brick” heading.
Under the “Click” heading, identify ways the company could deliver a similar experience via their website/eCommerce offering.
In the 3rd column, list the resources that would be needed to deliver on each “Click” capability.
- Provide your recommendation for Jill Wilcox.
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Jill's Table: Set to Serve Case Answers
STEP 1 – List the “Brand Assets” of Jill’s Table under the “Brick” heading. Under the “Click” heading, identify ways the company could deliver a similar experience via their website/eCommerce offering. In the 3rd column, list the resources that would be needed to deliver on each “Click” capability.
Provide your recommendation for Jill Wilcox and Jill’s Table – the WHAT, WHY, and HOW.
a. WHAT: What is your recommendation for Jill – to deliver a true eCommerce capability or continue with the “Brick Only” business (plus the limited offerings currently on the website)?
b. WHY: Provide the rationale for your recommendation.
c. HOW: If “YES” to eCommerce, how do you recommend Jill proceed (keeping in mind you want to ensure every channel is fully leveraged based on what it can offer as well as customer needs/wants)?
If “NO” to eCommerce, what is your recommendation for Jill’s business going forward, i.e., how do you see her optimizing her business growth through her current channel offerings?
WHAT: As a specialty store, my recommendation for Jill’s Table is to continue with the “Brick Only” business and not start an e-commerce capability.
WHY: Jill’s entire business and brand are built on highly-curated products, phenomenal customer service, and strong word-of-mouth marketing. She is the epitome of a specialty shop, and customers love her for that.
It will take a longer time to establish awareness and trust with customers online and through e-commerce. They highly value coming into the store and getting tailored recommendations they won’t find online or in other big-box stores. Therefore, Jill will lose her personal touch and connection with customers that built the reputation of the store.
Moving to true e-commerce will require a significant monetary and time investment and is clearly outside Jill’s core competency. To stock the inventory online, Jill will have to open a warehouse and hire additional maintenance staff.
To keep up with the high level of customer service, Jill will need to create a robust online service mechanism with additional staff and trained representatives. To match the word-of-mouth marketing, Jill will need to hire a competent web designer and social media strategist to create a strong web and e-commerce presence. All these activities will move her away from her highly successful store and product offering.
Additionally, Jill’s Table will lose the price war to Amazon and Walmart if she moves online (Both competitors have mastered the online market). Her specialized curated products are non-digital and more immune to being copied head-to-head by online retailers (her personalized recommendations are worth a LOT to customers).
The products are considered “high-touch” elements – Where customers need to touch and “feel” products before purchase. Online are tough to replicate this feeling, so offline stores are the way to go.
HOW: Jill can optimize her business growth by successfully opening mini storefronts at key locations in Canada. These highly specialized Jill’s Table stores can be curated especially for the target market.
For example, Jill could open a store in Vancouver that is only 250 square feet and caters to the high population of South Asian immigrants (hard-to-find spices such as Tumeric and Chutneys).
By creating small stores with less inventory, Jill can successfully manage costs while keeping up her high level of service and personalized recommendations. She can avoid competing directly with e-commerce giants Walmart and Amazon and stick close to her core competency of retail shops.
Jill can open more and more of these mini-stores as demand grows while using her highly targeted customer segments as a barometer of what items to stock!