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IRUK: Brand Engagement

The latest IRUK Top500 Performance Dimension Report focuses on the areas of brand engagement. Emma Herrod shares some of the findings.

The way that retailers communicate with existing and potential customers has changed enormously in recent years. Now that, as InternetRetailing’s research shows, 98% of Top500 retailers have not only Facebook but also Twitter accounts, it’s surely a basic requirement to enable customers to get in touch via social media. Retailers at the cutting edge are those enabling shoppers to use live chat from their mobile phone app, a convenience unthought of just a few years ago.

Meanwhile, InternetRetailing’s research finds, most retailers now enable customers to say exactly what they think of a product that they bought via ratings and reviews. This adds up to a brave new world of transparency: browsers can see both sides of two-way conversations when they’re deciding which items to buy, and which retailer or brand to buy from. Running the type of operations that can easily open themselves up to that level of daily scrutiny is a challenge for retailers – but it’s also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to communicate values, beliefs and approaches with an audience that is increasingly receptive and wants to hear from those that it spends with.

In this IRUK Top500 Brand Engagement Performance Dimension Report, as sponsored by Pure360, the InternetRetailing research team looks at what leading UK retailers are doing to give their customers the level of communication that they want. They analysed what the Top500 are doing as a group to find out how standard practice is evolving in the UK market, while also focusing in on top retailers to understand what makes the difference for those at the cutting edge.

These are some of the topics highlighted in the InternetRetailing UK Brand Engagement Dimension Report – a copy of which will have arrived with this copy of InternetRetailing magazine (it can also be viewed online at if you’re reading someone else’s copy).

The research team’s aim is that retailers of all sizes can use the report both to benchmark their own approaches and to understand what tools are proving the most effective for businesses across the industry.

In the report, InternetRetailing’s research team interviews retailers including Pets at Home and Wickes. Loyalty is a key strategy for Pets at Home. The retailer has a steadily expanding VIP club that accounts for a growing proportion of revenue from the site. By January 2018, the club had 3.8m active members – up from 3.7m a year earlier. VIP club members enjoy a 10% discount in store, and can also help to support animals in need when they use their card in a transaction. The VIP Club features prominently on the Pets at Home app; the retailer is among the small minority of Top500 retailers that enable shoppers to log in or sign up to the club via the app, and to keep the VIP club card on their phone. Existing members can scan their membership card from the app in order to add in their details.

Members of the VIP club used their card in transactions that accounted for 68% of revenue in the 12 weeks to January 2018 (up from 66% in January 2017). This high level of participation enables the retailer to maintain a single view of how most of its customers spend with it, both online and in stores. That in turn should enable consistent service and relevant offers for customers.

As Chief Executive Ian Kellett said during the company’s recent financial reporting: “We again saw the benefits of our omnichannel capabilities, providing customers with innovative and convenient ways to shop, particularly through order in-store and subscription services. This unique combination of capabilities is brought to life by our store colleagues, who provide the friendly expertise, advice and service that our customers really value.”

Wickes stand out in the Brand Engagement Dimension for the way it puts information – everything from advice to inspiration – firmly into the customer’s hands. Its website houses ideas to inspire customers about what they could do, alongside videos that show them how to do it. These are also shared and extended via social media platforms, putting the resources where existing and potential customers are browsing. Its Pinterest page, for example, features inspirational images of projects that range from building and maintaining a tree house to equipping and decorating a home office.

This mirrors the platform’s role as a search and discovery platform. Meanwhile Wickes’ YouTube content features more practical approaches to tasks such as fitting a kitchen sink, wallpapering around sockets and removing and replacing a dishwasher. A range of real-life stories show how customers have embarked on projects from brewing their own beer to designing a games room.

On its Facebook page and Twitter feed, the retailer offers advice through #Wickesipedia alongside seasonal discounts and free design consultations. It’s via these pages too that it shares company news and charity fundraising results. Wickes also makes it easy for users to share its products further afield, whether that’s product information with friends via social media, or their opinions with the wider public through product reviews. It even gives advice on how to write a review, noting that comments are moderated and that content related to delivery and packaging, for example, won’t be shared.
The Brand Engagement Dimension Report flows from IRUK Top500 research, in which InternetRetailing benefitted from the valued input of its skilled Knowledge Partners.

As always, InternetRetailing would like to hear what readers think, whether you have views on the metrics we’ve used, and how they could be improved, or on an innovative approach that’s working for you as a retailer – please do share your thoughts via

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