As less forward-thinking retailers have gone under in the past couple of weeks, John Lewis has been a high street success story, thanks in no small part to its multichannel approach.

The retaier achieved a 44% increase in online sales over Christmas, so what lessons are there for other retailers? 

I've been asking John Lewis' Head of Online Delivery and Customer Experience Sean O'Connor abut the secrets behind its success... 

How important was the TV campaign in driving online sales in the run up to Christmas? Can you track/attribute this, and if so, how? 

Our 2012 Christmas TV advert was more multichannel than ever before. Although the advert being on TV was the driving force for the ad reaching our customers, activity on social media platforms was essential in creating a buzz around the launch date.

The advert launched on YouTube (which so far has had over 3m hits) on 9th November 2012 and we announced this to our 35,000 followers on Twitter at 9am.

We had 486 retweets of our proactive tweet announcing the launch and ‘John Lewis’ was trending in the UK. Statistics from YouGov also revealed that we had reached “26% of the UK Twittersphere with our Christmas advert”.

The volume of positive feedback we received via social media showed that customer appetite to shop with us at Christmas was there, reflected in a spike in traffic to after the ad launched on social media. 

For the online clearance sale that commenced on Christmas Eve, what tactic surprised you most with its effectiveness in driving your busiest ever day of online sales?  

We’ve been launching Clearance online twice a year for over a decade, so have had lots of experience in terms of what works well in order to ensure a successful sales period. In particular, our emails to customers play an important role and played an increased part in our marketing strategy over this period.

How big a factor was mobile in driving sales in 2012?   

Mobile and tablet shopping continues to exhibit triple digit growth, both in terms of traffic and revenue.

It is difficult to track the influence that mobile has over offline sales, but I believe this is playing both a broad and significant role in how customers are choosing to shop.

In a recent article looking at the factors behind John Lewis' excellent online performance, we focused on factors such as effective PPC and a great web user experience. How important are these within the mix?   

Providing a great web customer experience is a fundamental component of our overall strategy to provide a great omnichannel customer experience.

We try and put our customers into the heart of whatever we develop online, not just through website design and usability, but also in shaping our assortment strategy, our fulfilment proposition and more.

How do you combat the threat of 'showrooming' in your stores? Do you see this as a challenge or an opportunity? 

Showrooming is an opportunity. We encourage customers to test our price commitment and adding wi-fi to our shops makes it easy for them to do so.

When we supplement that commitment with good advice, service, trustworthiness and the instant gratification of making a purchase there and then, we believe we have a winning recipe. 

From our own research and research carried out by independent organisations we know that customers will use both and our shops to both browse and buy.

They will browse online and buy in a shop and vice versa. In some cases they will be in a shop and buy online via their mobile phone. Customers are no longer concerned about the channel they use they want to shop at John Lewis when and how they choose.

Our role is to ensure we are set up to meet that demand and that's why we have set ourselves out as an omnichannel business

You have introduced wi-fi in stores for customers. How has this worked out?  

It has proved very popular with our customers. We have seen really good usage and from the feedback we have received it is helping the customer journey as they access our mobile site.

The dwell time for customers has increased within our catering facilities whilst customers use our free wi-fi.

We have also instigated a trial in our Exeter branch where we have a number of iPads accessible to customers who can browse the internet free of charge.

Thanks to collect in store services and next day delivery options, are you finding that customers were making purchases closer to Christmas Day than in previous years?  

Click and collect played an even stronger role in 2012 than in 2011, and this Christmas we were able to extend offering the service into our shops up to December 23 at 7pm, with delivery into the shops on Christmas Eve.

We saw a 70% increase on last year for this late service. 

How do you attribute online sales driven by stores? 

Shops are not credited with online sales, however shops and online sales are all part of our total catchment sales. This enables the shop team to see how they in their shops contribute to the overall catchment result.

It has helped us break down any barriers for Partners. For us it is not whether a customer shops online or within a shop, it is all about customers shopping with John Lewis.

Graham Charlton

Published 21 January, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (3)


Philip Oakley

Like the way you have a catchment area. Consumers shop across channels, the ability to collect in store will influence a sale so it's right there's some sort of record of how they influence sales.

Be interested in the percentage of repeat purchases in each catchment's the service provided when they collect and does it impact on future purchase?

Maybe a mute point as I can't think of ever having a bad experience in a John Lewis store!

over 5 years ago


Sandra Pickering, Founding Partner at opento

It's an excellent strategy for sales.
However, JLP after-sales service has deterioorated imho.
Here's what happens when the tyres hit the road:
Yesterday I reported a fault with my <1 year old dishwasher.
No call back yesterday.
Had to chase twice today.
45 minutes on the phone whilst various people told me the earliest I could expect an engineer's visit is next Tuesday - 8 days after the fault was reported.
Menwhile, the local JLP store could deliver me a new one in 3 days.
Sales vs customer satisfaction?

over 5 years ago


Simon Norris, CEO - Nomensa

In my view, John Lewis’ success is because they really appreciate the value of delivering a high quality omnichannel experience. John Lewis is a forward thinking retailer which provides excellent cross-channel interaction and understands the value of offering a good online user experience. John Lewis has always had a strong focus on the individual customer, which is reflected in the way the company thinks about its overall online and in store approach.

The article mentions showrooming and although this practice is very common amongst consumers today, John Lewis does not see it as a threat, but as an opportunity. The retailer has confidence in the way its customers respond to the site. John Lewis is certainly not afraid to embrace new ideas and try new approaches in order to continue to improve its already successful multichannel retail strategy.

A significant number of websites still think improving online sales is all about mobilising content. However, due to its convenient and trusted online presence, John Lewis is ahead of the curb and realises that a consumer’s online experience on a smartphone for example, has to be as good and certainly not worse than that of a tablet or a desktop computer.

The multi-million pound retailer is able to see the value of offering a good online user experience and views it in a holistic way. Savvy omnichannel retailers understand that thinking about the customer experience they deliver as part of an ecology is a sure way to drive engagement and revenues.

John Lewis remains true to its well-known and respected brand, thanks to its cross-channel experience from store to site being of high quality, regardless of the device it is being accessed from. John Lewis understands its brand and continues to ensure that its online site and store is a ‘partnership cooperative’.

over 5 years ago

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