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IRUK Top500 Merchandising INTERVIEW Shop Direct on data and the customer experience

Shop Direct brings retail and IT teams together to focus on personalised customer experience

The 2016 IRUK Top500 Merchandising Performance Dimension Report looks at the merchandising strategies that best practice retailers are putting to work. Here, Chloe Rigby hears from Jonathan Wall and Sam Perkins on how merchandising strategies guide Shop Direct websites from Very to

Shop Direct has invested heavily in data science as it works to understand how – and what – customers of brands including Very and Littlewoods , both Top100 retailers in IRUK Top500 research, want to buy. It’s putting mobile and personalisation to work to deliver on its findings.

“Our user experience research overwhelmingly shows us that our customer wants a tailored online shopping experience,” says Jonathan Wall, group ecommerce director at Shop Direct . “That’s why we’re passionate about personalisation – it’s one of our core focuses.

“Our customers want the products and messages that aren’t relevant for them to be removed, and those that are right for them to be placed front and centre. We want to tailor everything – from the shop they visit to how we engage with them before, during and after they’ve shopped.”

As well as relying on information about the customer and the way that they behave, Shop Direct also feeds in external factors, such as the weather and current events.

“We’ve invested significantly to combine big data with cutting edge technology,” says Wall. “Continuous experimentation using this data helps us to improve our customer’s journey. Our approach is evidence-led. It takes qualitative and quantitative data and uses it to help us better understand our customer.”

Test, test, test

Shop Direct deploys a testing regime to understand how shoppers move around the website and how products can best be displayed. The retail group prioritises high-quality imagery, straightforward descriptions and an easy-to-navigate site. It tests product page elements through up to 100 AB tests a month: if these don’t meet customer needs, they go. A fast failure approach that also encompasses personalisation elements is, says Wall, “helping to make our user journey simpler”. Personalisation is now being brought to bear in the way shoppers see product gallery pages, product recommendations and homepage content.

“It all helps our customer land on the products she’s looking for, improving her experience and helping us to increase conversion,” says Wall. Technology from Tangiblee is used to help customers understand how products from bags to purses will measure up in real life.

Click here to see the full interview with Jonathan Wall and Sam Perkins of Shop Direct

Click here to read the whole of the IRUK Top500 Merchandising report

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