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The Customer

The latest IRUK Top500 Performance Dimension Report focuses on customer experience. Emma Herrod shares some of the findings.

The IRUK Top500 The Customer Performance Dimension Report, produced in partnership with RedEye , aims to understand the service that retailers are currently giving their customers and, by doing so, to understand how retailers of all sizes can improve their offering to compete with the leaders in the field.

InternetRetailing’s researchers run the measure over the shopper’s experience of a brand, from the speed at which their desktop or mobile website loads, to the time taken to respond to an email or social media message, to the ease with which they can find products, and find out about products, and with which, if necessary, they can return unwanted orders. Through that research, they aim to understand what puts leading retailers ahead of the wider Top500, and what are the most strategic steps for traders of all sizes to take to improve their performance.

Customer expectations are already well ahead of the service they often receive and pushing retailers of all sizes continuously to improve. The service the retail sector offers has already developed fast over the years but now we see it moving forward very quickly. As well as looking at where the retail industry is now in terms of customer service and experience, this IRUK Top500 Performance Dimension Report also looks ahead to how customer experience may develop in the future.

The report’s authors do that in several ways. First, they set out the context for this report in the Strategic Overview. They then look at new approaches that are coming to the fore in a section on Emerging Practice, which focuses on how retailers are using in-store events, services and experiences to give a new lease of life to the store at a time when more business is moving online.

As Chloe Rigby, writes “as retailers put the customer front and centre of their operations in an increasingly competitive retail environment, new data-powered insights are helping them do it.” Being able to understand what a customer wants to buy, how they want to buy and how they might buy in the future – this is the information that enables traders to give their shoppers an experience that works for them, whether they’re searching for a product, contacting a retailer or returning an item they no longer want. But at the moment, there’s still a gap between the aspiration to use data to improve customer service and the customer experience itself.

Alastair Sterling, Industry Head, Retail at Google UK, showed the scale of the challenge – and the opportunities – when he spoke at InternetRetailing Conference (IRC 2017) this autumn. “Every two days, we produce more data than mankind produced up to 2003,” he said. “For businesses, that’s mind-blowing. On one side of the fence this is scary but on the other, if I can make sense of that data, I’m probably going to be able to engage with my consumers, my audience, better than ever before, and give them new experiences as well.”

Following this, the researchers explain and share the research. In the Analysing the Numbers feature, Martin Shaw, Head of Research at InternetRetailing, explores in detail the metrics that underpin this report, while in the New Research feature, he looks at how successful Top500 websites are in attracting customers from different demographics.

The final step is to provide hands-on, practical examples of how leading retailers are developing their strategies. This is done through an interview with Stuart Ramage, Ecommerce Director at Dixons Carphone , that focuses on how the retailer manages and develops the customer experience at Currys PC World .

Both Currys and PC World rank highly in The Customer Dimension. The brands (rated separately) perform particularly well in response times for dealing with a customer query and how satisfactorily an issue was resolved. The quality of PC World’s customer service when contacted via Facebook was near the top of the ranking, while Currys performed well in the time it took to process refunds.

“We believe our role is to be the customer’s trusted guide and navigator for all of their technology needs and our customers expect their shopping experience with us to be seamless,” says Stuart Ramage, Ecommerce Director at Dixons Carphone. “They also expect nothing less than top-rate customer service whatever their questions or problems. Offering a seamless experience if and when they want to cross our channels is also vital and we have an extensive programme of work in that space.”

A wide range of products, competitively priced, is obviously a base-line expectation for customers but to highlight its strength in this area, the retailer recently introduced a ‘compare prices’ app so that customers can see how prices fare against the competition. Customers are also able to compare collection/delivery options – which include same-day delivery, same-day collection and next-day collection in Currys PC World – against their main competitors. In the UK, the retailer currently makes more than 50,000 deliveries every week.

The retailer goes to great lengths to make sure it is aware of its customers’ priorities, says Ramage. “Our Marketing Insight team conducts extensive customer research to discover what our customers want,” he says. “This, in combination with our web and store surveys helps us stay on top of customer priorities, as well as identifying areas for improvement. We also work on auditing our UX and benchmarking versus market expectations regularly, to keep on top of the market and ensure we’re focusing in the right areas.”

Other retailers included in the case study section include Topps Tiles , Boots , Debenhams and Marks & Spencer . In its 2017 annual report published in June 2017, food-to-clothing retailer Marks & Spencer boldly stated, “Everything we do as a company is filtered through the lens of what we know about our customers and every decision starts with them.”

Debenhams, meanwhile, is trialling a new customer shopping experience through two new stores that are acting as test labs for new ideas. Those ideas include choosing in-store stock in line with online demand in the catchment area. This has worked particularly well, it says, in its womenswear and home departments. New approaches to layout and merchandising are also being tested.


Designing retail services from the customer’s point of view makes it more likely that shoppers will buy once, then return in the future. Chloe Rigby shares some practical approaches from Top500 retailers.

  1. Use new technology to improve the customer experience
  2. Get to know your customers
  3. Join up the data
  4. Show the customer the most relevant items
  5. Enable shoppers to speak their orders
  6. Customer-centric logistics
  7. Encourage loyalty
  8. Offer customers choice over how to get in touch
  9. Bring ideas to life
  10. New ways of searching
  11. Enable the customer to subscribe
  12. Track using KPIs

The Customer Performance Dimension Report flows from IRUK Top500 2017 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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