IT SEEMS APPROPRIATE that our first IRUK 500, 2015 Performance Dimension Report, on the theme of Brand and Engagement, should hit the presses in the New Year. These are the days when retail sector looks back at what it got right and what it got wrong over the crucial Christmas sales period.
At the end of 2014, looking beyond the headline-generating story of Black Friday establishing itself as a key date in the UK retail calendar, there was also another less dramatic, but no less important story to tell. It’s that of the way shoppers around the country increasingly conduct gift research online and then share this information via social networks, a digital extension of the kind of conversations that have traditionally taken place on then high street. “Is this what you meant?” “Do you think George would like this?” “Oh, I’d like this myself…” This online conversation isn’t going to go away, it’s going to become more integral to shopping in the 21st century.
Look past the more fanciful claims for the power of so-called social commerce and something profound is happening. Over the following pages, we trace these changes, looking at the way the best retailers reach out to customers, set up dialogues and listen to what customers tell them. We also look at the way retailers, rather than merely selling brands, have to think about brandbuilding, becoming the retailers shoppers trust. Underpinning these themes is the quantitative and qualitative research conducted for the InternetRetailing UK Top500.
As this is the first of our Performance Dimension Reports, it’s worth outlining how the overall report works editorially. First up, we offer a strategic overview, while in the next section we look at the important numbers generated by our research. Taken together, these two features set out our stall, offer context. Next, we speak with David Walmsley, director of M&S.com, who offers insights into how the company built its new website around its customers.
We also offer case studies of retailers that scored highly in the Brand and Engagement Dimension (John Lewis, Game, Mothercare and House of Fraser); and look at 12 proven approaches to developing customer relationships. Taken together, these are features that are all about practical retail craft. Finally, we look at what retailers can learn from brands that sell direct to consumers and offer a glimpse of our very latest research. The overall idea here is to offer a glimpse at what’s ahead, at innovative new approaches.
We’d like to thank all our Knowledge Partners, especially Lithium , for their expert assistance. In the months ahead, we’ll be looking in detail at the five other Performance Dimensions explored in IRUK 500, 2015. We welcome your thoughts on new areas of research as we’re adding to our primary data and analysis all the time.
Jonathan Wright and Chloe Rigby