There’s no doubt about it, high streets and department stores across the U.K and the U.S have taken a beating.

Dean McCann
May 13 · 11 min read
www.helphandles.com

Stuck in a deadlock of expensive draconian lease agreements, high taxes, and inconvenient hard to get to locations, retailers are feeling the effects of a generational shift in consumer attitudes and behaviour. Today, a new breed of digital consumer is turning its back on over inflated parking rates, expensive in-store goods and poor customer service for more competitively priced products and services, delivered conveniently via a smart device of choice.

Retail is dominated by online convenience, and those who offer the best customer experiences are winning.

It’s a sobering wake up call amidst a backdrop of uncertainty, with store closures, job cuts, and rescue plans being put into action here in the U.K, and in the U.S, where well known department store chains such as J. C. Penney, Macy’s, Sears, and Kmart have announced thousands of closures, in what the media is calling a retail apocalypse.

Given the massive impact of the Internet on the global retail industry, we decided to take an in-depth look into how the worlds leading retailers performed for digital, social customer service over the week leading up to and over the busy Easter period.

Best & Worst Performers for Customer Service During Easter

The Argos Helpers social media team were the overall standout performers for customer service over the Easter period, while the Nordstrom team were the fastest retailer to respond to customers on social media.

*Accounts are programmatically scored out of 100 on our performance index across four metrics. Inbound mention volumes (25%), Response Rate (25%), Responses under 30 mins (25%) and Sentiment (25%). All metrics are available and updated every hour on HelpHandles.com

HelpHandles™ U.K Retail Performance Index

1. Argos Helpers

A catalogue retailer, born out of the popular Green Shield Stamp reward scheme of the sixties and seventies, Argos has grown into one of the largest high street retailers in the U.K. Totalling 29 million customers, and over a billion visitors to its website every year, Argos.com is the U.K’s 3rd most visited retail website after Amazon and eBay.

Renowned for its unique catalogue and physical shop order system, it’s Argos’ ability to balance the physical with the digital that is most impressive.

Argos was the 1st UK retailer to hit £1 billion in mobile and app sales, however, 80% of orders are still fulfilled through one of its 844 physical stores.

In April 2016, Argos’ parent Home Retail Group agreed to a £1.4 billion takeover by the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s intend to close most if not all separate Argos shops and integrate them into its large Sainsbury’s supermarkets, stating that when they opened up an Argos in supermarkets they see a direct uplift in food sales typically of 1–1.5%.

Receiving the lions share of mentions over Easter, The Argos Helpers social media team put in a solid performance, with customers hitting Twitter to voice their love of this great British retailers customer service.

Nice work Emma Jane!

2. B&Q Help

B&Q plc is a British multinational DIY and home improvement retailing company. The retail chain offers over 40,000 products across three hundred physical shops and online shops.

Since 2015, B&Q has been closing a number of shops as part of a cost saving exercise stating that the business could adequately meet local customer needs, from fewer shops, and that some shops should be smaller.

B&Q were reported to have a customer base of seven million in July 2016, of which it was estimated 75% use the retailer’s website to research their desired products, prior to purchasing in shop.

The B&Q Help team were the fastest social media team to respond to customers over the Easter period notching up a whopping 97% of responses in under 30 mins, with an average response time of just 15 mins.

Fantastic work Matthew!

3. IKEA UK Support

IKEA needs no introduction. This Swedish phenomenon started life out as a simple mail order company which then switched to selling furniture. As of November 2018, there are 424 IKEA stores operating in 52 countries.

Another retailer famous for its catalogue, IKEA prints approximately 175 million copies worldwide annually which are distributed both in stores and by mail.

The IKEA website contains about 12,000 products and is the closest representation of the entire IKEA range. There were over 2.1 billion visitors to IKEA’s websites in the year from September 2015 to August 2016.

If you tweeted IKEA UK Support, you’d have probably received a reply in round about an hour and half.

4. AO.com

Established in 2000 as Appliances Online, and then rebranded, AO.com is probably most recognisable from its green smiley face branding and familiar TV advert featuring the Ramones song “Blitzkrieg Bop” in which the words “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” are reinterpreted as “A.O. Let’s go!”

As well as selling direct to consumers, the company has also sold kitchen appliances on behalf of other retailers such as Next, House of Fraser, and B&Q .

In 2013 the company reached one million likes on Facebook. With over 60k followers on Twitter, the AO.com social media team were the fastest U.K retailer to respond to customers over Easter with an average response of just 15mins.

Customers were really proud of their AO.com purchases over the Easter period :-)

5. JD Customer Services

JD Sports is a sports-fashion retail company with about 500 stores in the UK and a further 1,700 outlets worldwide.

Listed on the London Stock Exchange and a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index, JD Sports is a bit of retail success story, consistently reporting strong results that seemingly buck the retail doom and gloom trend. Executive chairman Peter Cowgill, puts this down to a strong focus on younger consumers, in terms of customer experience and marrying their digital proposition with their physical retail stores…

A big fan of the DM’s, the JD Sports social media team didn't put in a bad shift and were the most responsive to customers over the Easter period with 78% of mentions replied in just over 2 hrs.

Sliding into the DMs with JD Sports like…


HelpHandles™ U.S Retailers Performance Index

1. Nordstrom

As it states on their website, Nordstrom, Inc. is a leading fashion retailer offering compelling clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women and kids. Since 1901, they’ve been committed to providing our customers with the best possible service — and to improving it every day.

Nordstrom has 379 stores operating in 40 US states, Puerto Rico and Canada, a number which includes 119 full-line stores and 249 Nordstrom Rack stores.

Nordstrom also serves customers in 96 countries through nordstrom.com, nordstromrack.com, and its online private sale site.

Achieving a magnificent 100% response rate under 30 mins, the Nordstrom social media team were the fastest retailer for customer service across both the U.S and the U.K, clocking up an lightening fast 2 min average response on Twitter.

Go Nordstrom! :-o)

2. Best Buy Support

Best Buy Co., Inc. is an American multinational consumer electronics retailer, which sells consumer electronics and a variety of related merchandise, including software, video games, music, mobile phones, digital cameras, car stereos and video cameras, in addition to home appliances (washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators).

Operating their own help handle, Best Buy Support, with just shy of 21k followers, the Best Buy social media team were the most responsive U.S retailer over the Easter period, coming in with 47% share of mentions responded to with great detail for customers looking for help.

3. Ask Target

Target Corporation is the eighth-largest retailer in the United States. As of February 2, 2019, Target operates 1,844 stores throughout the United States.

Their retail formats include the discount store Target, the hypermarket SuperTarget, and “flexible format” stores previously named CityTarget and TargetExpress before being consolidated under the Target branding. Target is often recognised for its emphasis on the needs of its younger demographic of shoppers.

The Ask Target social media team were the busiest of all the retailers over the Easter period notching up a total 595 mentions, and pride themselves with some of the most detailed, and personalised replies to customers, with an average response time of just under 2 hrs.

4. Michaels Stores

With $5.3 billion in sales in fiscal 2018, The Michaels Companies, Inc. is the largest arts and crafts specialty retailer in North America (based on store count) providing materials, project ideas and education for creative activities.

The company owns and operates more than 1,250 Michaels stores, in 49 states and Canada. They also serve customers through various digital platforms including Michaels.com, consumercrafts.com and aaronbrothers.com.

The Michaels Stores social media team received the highest positive sentiment score on the HelpHandles Retail Index over the Easter period, responding to customers in just under an hour and half.

5. TJ Maxx

TJ Maxx is an American department store chain, selling at prices generally lower than other major similar stores. It has more than 1,000 stores in the United States, making it one of the largest clothing retailers in the country.

Part of the TJX Group of companies, which operates globally across Europe, Australia, and the North America, with sister brands Marshalls, TKMaxx, HomeSense and TradeSecret.

The TJ Maxx social media team were the least responsive out of the U.S retailers over Easter, responding to just 10% of mentions on Twitter, in just over 2 hours.


Conclusion

U.S retailers were busiest over the Easter period receiving a higher sentiment among customers on social media, than their U.K counterparts. While U.K retailers were less busy over Easter they were faster and more responsive when dealing with customers on social.

The retail landscape is going through the biggest transformation it’s ever seen with store closures both sides of the Atlantic rife, as global retailers look to cut costs, and restructure to adapt and transform into more digital agile businesses.

Some might say it’s too late for those who have ignored the early onset of the Internet, failing to respond to and adapt to the rise in e-commerce, and new online business models, while others, continue to invest in the expansion physical flagship branded mega-stores in major towns and cities.

A new generation of digital consumer

For now, the retailers who are fighting back against the tough retail environment are the ones who remain laser focused on their customers, while cutting back on the fat, and investing in a combination of physical and online experiences for more flexibility and convenience for customers.

However, with e-commerce sales forecast for continued growth, together with the continue rise in consumer owned social media messaging channels, there has never been a better time for retailers to contribute to the conversation and capitalise on new mass consumer market opportunities.

Ecosystem Partnerships

We have started to see the formulation of new ecosystems where traditional retailers are leveraging the speed and agility of existing technology providers such as Ocado and Amazon to launch new go to market online business models faster than they could develop and launch their own services.

By embracing the availability of emerging and transformative technologies in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and data analytics, retailers can create powerful more efficient, personalised and ultimately rewarding experiences for a new generation of digital consumer, whilst also transforming their operations across sales, marketing and customer services.

Reference

HelpHandles™ Insight Series

Social Customer Service Insights from the Team at HelpHandles™

Dean McCann

Written by

Democratizing access to social customer service data and insight. Founder of HelpHandles™ www.helphandles.com

HelpHandles™ Insight Series

Social Customer Service Insights from the Team at HelpHandles™

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