Ruth Leach, PR manager of social media, Debenhams
At Debenhams, we’ve brought our social media practice in-house to increase the engagement we have with our customers and bring the Debenhams personality to life. The correct tone is difficult to achieve if it’s one stage removed from the brand: the voice needs to come from within. Social media allows us to create engaging and lively conversations with our customers and demonstrate our transparency, and lets them connect with us as a brand.
We’ve integrated social media into a number of activities. We’re using YouTube, fashion community site Polyvore and our own blogs to share the latest trends and provide advice. We ask our online customers to provide product reviews on any purchases, to help others make an informed decision, from which we’ve seen an improvement in our online conversion rate.
A Facebook Like button on debenhams.com allows customers to share and recommend their favourite products with friends. We were also one of the first UK retailers to use location-based offers on Foursquare and Facebook Deals. Facebook and Twitter are seen as a great way to build a community and directly respond to queries quickly and efficiently. We also have an online community, the Debenhams Design Team, which provides ongoing insight into what our customers want to improve our ranges and stores accordingly.
Customers are becoming more savvy about the benefits of engaging with a brand and sharing their experience with their friends, whether this is by checking in at a store to receive a discount or recommending based on their first-hand experience. Location services allow brands to know more about their customers’ daily habits and we’ll be able to target them far more effectively in the future.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the popularity of both of our mobile apps, with sales of over £1m made in the first four month. We’ve seen a clear correlation between people using the apps not only when they’re shopping in-store, to get more detail on products, but also for purchasing on the go. In the next few years, as customers get more comfortable with the prospect of shopping via their mobiles or through Facebook, social commerce will explode. We’re constantly looking ahead, thinking about how we can bring the in-store experience to life wherever our customers are. For a while, augmented reality has been cited as the next big thing, but as the technology and skills improve, this is definitely emerging as an exciting development for retailers.