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Social media, email and customer service all help retailers to perform strongly in this Dimension

An active and multichannel approach to customer engagement and social media help retailers to stand out in the Brand Engagement Performance Dimension. Those that lead in this Dimension use all the channels at their disposal to start and develop conversations with the shoppers they serve.

Researchers used more than 30 metrics to find out how retail brands communicate with existing and potential customers. They measured how many customer service channels retailers supported, whether they linked to or enabled validation through social media; enabled shoppers to Like or to share an item on Facebook, while counting the number of Facebook Likes, check-ins as well as Twitter engagement and followers.

Star ratings and product reviews in mobile apps were also important. InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner Return Path contributed an analysis of email marketing campaigns that showed whether recipients read or deleted emails sent by leading Top500 retailers.

What the Top500 do

Top500 retailers take an active approach to communicating with their customers. Researchers found they operated between four and five (4.8) channels through which they could talk to shoppers. Customer engagement features on the website included the ability to Like a product on social media, featured by 25% of the 482 retailers for which this metric was relevant. Half deployed product ratings and just over half (53%) product reviews. Some 54% enabled visitors to share products with friends, while 26% enabled social validation. Almost half (44%) of the 204 retailers with an iOS app enabled users to share an item on social media. Just 1% of retailers with apps showed social media Likes on the app, perhaps suggesting little demand for this feature. Some 27% of iOS retail apps showed star ratings for products, while 26% showed written product reviews.

Some 90% of IRUK Top500 retailers maintained a Facebook page. Of those, 55% showed links to other social networks from that page, while 68% featured a Shop Now button on it, taking an active approach to encouraging social media users to buy. Where retailers enabled visitors to the page to ‘check in’, an average of 39,000 had done so. However, the median figure was 1,520, suggesting that retailers that perform strongly in this area tend to have exponentially more check-ins. This was also demonstrated when the number of people talking on Facebook was measured: the average number was 6,000 while the median was 906. When the number of Facebook page Likes was measured, the average was significantly higher, at 1.15m, than the median, at 0.8m.

Fewer IRUK Top500 retailers (80%) had a Twitter feed with a significant-enough presence to be included in our Tweetailer Index. Those that did, had an average following of 132,000 followers during the course of the research. Again, the median following was lower at 19,800, suggesting that while some retailers have large followings, the norm is lower. Through metrics that reflect engagement that goes beyond merely having a Twitter account, researchers found that retailers on Twitter had an average of 2,190 friends – again this is higher than the median of 1110 – and that they had posted an average of 16,800 tweets – or a median of 7,730. Followers favourited an average of 2,200 of their tweets. Here the median was 1,180. On average, 525 followers had added each Top500 retailer to their lists of favourite Twitter accounts – although the median was lower at 161.

A study contributed by InternetRetailing Knowledge Partner Return Path analysed email marketing campaigns run by sub-groups of the Top500. The research focused on the largest IRUK 500 retailers, who sent hundreds of thousands of emails to panellists over the Christmas shopping period included in the study. The study found that, on average, 14.6% of emails were read, 8.6% were deleted without reading, 10% were marked as spam by the mail service provider, 6.2% were marked as not-spam by the recipients and 14.3% were deleted overall. Just 1% of emails were forwarded.

What the leading retailers do

Retailers in this Brand Engagement Performance Dimension stand out with a high degree of customer engagement, especially on metrics where they score well ahead of the average. Among the leaders were Debenhams , Mothercare , Argos , John Lewis and Marks & Spencer .

Debenhams’ emails not only enjoyed a high read rate, but were marked as ‘not spam’ at a higher rate than any other Top25 retailer in this Dimension. It stood out for its integration of social media – with customers finding it easier to share their favourite products with friends. Emails from Mothercare, Argos and M&S enjoyed a high read rate, while they were also among the few retailers that enabled mobile app users to see both written product reviews and star ratings.

John Lewis enabled its app users to see written product reviews. Its emails enjoyed a high read rate, while a high number of users marked its emails as ‘not spam’.

Mothercare was among the retailers that stood out for a performance that punched well above the retailer’s weight, as suggested in the IRUK Top500 Footprint, which ranks retailers by metrics including turnover, revenue from ecommerce and number of physical stores in the UK. Others included Topshop, with emails that enjoyed high read rates, and a high ‘not spam’ rate. The retailer also enabled shoppers to share items on social media.

Victoria’s Secret and Land’s End also integrated well with social media, with Liking and visible validation on the product page. This approach dovetailed with the use of ratings and reviews on their websites and apps.

In this Dimension, Myprotein ranked an impressive 397 places above the place its Top500 Footprint would suggest. The nutrition specialist enabled its visitors to Like products and to validate them on social media.

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