Customers' Service: The Fan Blogs Behind the Companies
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because while some bloggers like to discuss tech or politics, others obsess over bell peppers and yoga pants. Lucky for the rest of us Lululemon-clad TJ’s shoppers.
By Leanne Shimabukuro
There are people who like to shop at Trader Joe’s, and there are people who love to shop at Trader Joe’s … and then there are people who are totally and completely obsessed with Trader Joe’s.
And, lucky for us regular shoppers, those who are obsessed — blog. About, say, their favorite $5 bottle of Syrah or latest quinoa concoction made entirely from TJ’s ingredients or strong opinions about soy chorizo. Insightful, honest stuff you won’t find on any official company website.
Independent, unaffiliated customer fan blogs — whether for J.Crew, Lululemon, Trader Joe’s, IKEA, Starbucks, even adult fans of Legos — resonate with legions of fellow fans as a safe, like-minded place to swap war stories, secret tips, product praise and, of course, plenty of complaints. Racking up millions of page views — and, for better or worse, occasionally flexing a little collective muscle over their beloved companies.
Little did you realize there’s a lot you can learn from these brand fanatics.
Three Customer Fan Blogs You Might Want to Follow…
The Blog: jcrewaficionada.blogspot.com
The Blogger: Lovingly referred to as “the mothership” by users, Jcrewaficionada was the first in a now-crowded field of J.Crew-related blogs. Since its launch in 2008 by Connecticut-based, 30-something Alexis (who keeps her last name confidential), the blog reports 20 million total page views, averaging 400,000 a month.
Target Readers: Women who’ve drunk the “crewlade”— and favor strictly tailored herringbone blazers, chunky neon necklaces and sorbet-colored flats — and are often found pondering, WWJD? (What Would Jenna Do?) That would be Jenna Lyons, the stylish creative director of J.Crew, who is likely one of the 20 million views.
What You’ll Get: Unfiltered opinions, reviews and occasional rants by Alexis and scores of other Jcrewaficionadas, aka “JCAs,” on everything from customer service to real-time sales; coupon info; and postings on the newest styles to drop — within hours of hitting the racks. The popular “Great (Weekly) Exchange” allows users to swap, sell or share their unused or retired merch with other die-hard fans. Looking for those gilded brocade pants in aqua, or trying to sell that Bella blazer in coral without an eBay fee? Log on.
Does It Influence the Brand? “J.Crew totally reads my blog,” Alexis says, noting that someone with a company IP address visits her blog multiple times a day. She’s seen occasional impact, like speedy changes to the clunky online sale format, following multiple JCA complaints. But pleas for the return of beloved products like the wildly popular CeCe ballet flat have fallen on corporate deaf ears.
The Blog: whatsgoodattraderjoes.com
The Blogger: Started by Nathan Rodgers and his wife, Sonia, and later joined by friends Russ and Sandy Shelly, this Trader Joe’s-focused blog has had more than 8.9 million page views since its launch in 2010. Its goal is simple: Systematically review every single item carried at the 400-plus chain grocery store. Current count: 650 products — and climbing.
Target Readers: Grocery shoppers who secretly want one of the staff’s signature Hawaiian shirts; don’t mind being forced to buy four plastic-wrapped bell peppers when they only want one; and consider TJ’s the best pantry for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and want to know the best vegan apps or whether the Speculoos Cookie Butter is truly worth hoarding.
What You’ll Get: Honest, in-depth, lighthearted product reviews (even YouTube videos of, say, TJ’s Turkey-less Stuffed Roast with Gravy). Plus ranked lists of the best products that range from “pantheon level” to “blahhh.” Reviewed products are grouped into useful categories, like ”gluten-free,” ”microwaveable” and the oh-so appetizing ”fake meat.”
Does It Influence the Brand? “Honestly, no,” says Rodgers, who says that after posting sparkling reviews and near-unanimous agreement on TJ’s original Soy Chorizo and TJ’s Lemon Triple Ginger Snap Ice Cream, both products were discontinued months later.
The Blog: luluaddict.blogspot.com
The Blogger: Carolyn Beauchesne, a former electrical engineer from Orange County, Calif., has reportedly spent more than $15,000 on Lululemon products, which she tracks on a spreadsheet. Her 6-year-old blog racks up more than a million monthly page views.
Target Readers: Yoga lovers and fitness (or just fitness wear) addicts who linger at their local store, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, on the lookout for the week’s latest Lulu products before they sell out — and work words like Luon, Luxtreme and Swiftly (high-performance Lulu fabrics) into their daily vocabulary.
What You’ll Get: Loads of real women modeling the latest Lulu activewear in tree pose or mid-jog. The blog’s ”Lulu Newbie” tab helpfully spells out the site’s various acronyms and plucks out the “essential” wardrobe items from Lululemon’s vast line. Plus important, painstakingly detailed product information — like how the original Still Pant measures up to the Still Pant II.
Does It Influence the Brand? You bet. Beauchesne was among those publicly leading the charge for former Lululemon CEO Christine Day’s ouster in 2013, a response to the scandal surrounding its infamous see-through yoga pants. Day announced her resignation shortly thereafter. Which serves as a good reminder to companies: Keep your customers close but your fans even closer.
- Leanne Shimabukuro, OZY AuthorContact Leanne Shimabukuro