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IRUK Top 500: The 2019 report

January marks a resetting point in InternetRetailing’s Top500 UK research when the new listing of the Elite, Leading, Top250, Top350 and Top500 retailers are revealed. The research team has been very busy re-examining retailers and brands from across the UK that operate online.

Each one is evaluated by more than simply their level of sales, traffic volumes or store footprint. This gives an initial idea of ‘heft’ and a preliminary rank but this is then modified and weighted through consideration of the six Performance Dimensions. These are Strategy & Innovation, The Customer, Operations & Logistics, Merchandising, Brand Engagement, Mobile & Cross-channel.

While the headings – and subsequent in depth reports into each Performance Dimension – have remained the same since the first IRUK Top500 report was published in 2015, the research methods and metrics have developed steadily. The criteria regarded as cutting edge this year will necessarily differ from those of last year, since many one-time innovations have now moved firmly mainstream.

Strategy & Innovation, for example, covers the extent to which the retailer is adapting for growth, international commerce and customer responsiveness with leaders in this field offering joined-up services, from the start to the end of the shopping journey.

Argos and Tesco both stood out in the 2019 report for comprehensive delivery and collections services. They both offered services that most retailers did not, including same-day delivery and collection, as well as nominated time delivery.

The Customer Performance Dimension measures the experience from the customer’s point of view with leaders ensuring that shoppers enjoy good service and customer experience when they visit.

Sainsbury’s stood out in this dimension for the speed of its response to customer enquiries on Facebook, replying more quickly than 99% of the Top500, and for the choice of communication channels that it offered to customers. It also shared product ratings.

Retailers are also measured by metrics around having joined-up logistics and operations with traders that meet demanding customer expectations standing out in the Operations & Logistics Dimension.

New Look offered nominated day and time delivery, Sunday delivery and also had a store stock checker on its mobile website.’s comprehensive delivery promise included Sunday delivery, next-day collection and returns via pick-up from the house.

The fourth Performance Dimension is Merchandising with leading retailers using effective merchandising techniques to help shoppers find and understand products. Amongst the retailers, seven in 10 (70%) offered dropdown search suggestions on their desktop website while 58% did so on their mobile site, according to the researchers.

Individual retailers performed strongly in the merchandising dimension when they deployed effective but as yet less widely used tools and when they extended functionality across their mobile and desktop websites. Argos stood out for its use of merchandising tools on its mobile website, including a physical store stock checker, written product reviews and rating through a star system. Argos also scored highly for its use of personalisation. Boots stood out for the way it deployed merchandising on mobile, where zoomable images and a store stock checker sat alongside product reviews, star ratings and predictive search, making it easier for customers to find products via a small screen.

How retailers are making their brands familiar to the customer and connecting with them is measured by the Brand Engagement Performance Dimension. The researchers found this year that less than half (46%) of the Top500 required registration before shoppers could make a purchase.

Boots stood out since it enabled shoppers to easily engage with it via its mobile app, where it offered the ability to see, and share, product reviews, ratings and ability to share products on social media. Sainsbury’s appeared to foster good relationships with loyal customers, as measured through its friends count on Twitter and the number of times shoppers visited its website in a year. It also enabled customers to share their opinions, through product ratings and through sharing products with friends.

And finally, Mobile & Cross-channel services are assessed with leading retailers having joined-up channels to help shoppers browse and buy more easily from a range of devices.

Amongst retailers standing out in 2019 are Euro Car Parts which helped buyers to check stock via mobile apps that include an Android app, and then reserve for collection, and collect it same day.

Next gave a choice of collection options, including same-day and next-day, and made that easier by including a store finder in its Android app. John Lewis offered multichannel services that make it easy for shoppers to see, and to check, availability in their local store before ordering for next-day collection. Its sister supermarket Waitrose also stands out for convenient collection, as early as same-day or through reserve and collect, and it enables returns at a third-party location.

Having assessed all of the retailers by the Performance Dimensions, InternetRetailing’s researchers then ranked the UK Top500 in statistically similar groups. Elite retailers have performed at an exceptional level across all Dimensions, statistically separate from the subsequent clusters.

In 2019, they are Amazon, Argos, H&M, John Lewis, New Look and Sainsbury’s. Congratulations, therefore, go to new entrants H&M, New Look and Sainsbury’s, to returning 2017 Elite retailer John Lewis, and to Amazon and Argos on retaining their positions from last year.

Throughout 2019, the team will continue to test and measure the whole group of retailers, with findings contributing to the 2020 rankings. In depth reports on how retailers are leading in each of the Dimensions will be published throughout 2019.

Special thanks goes to the skilled Knowledge Partners that provide valued input into the research team.

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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