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How Debenhams increases conversion with online reviews

After an initial struggle convincing Debenhams to get on board with ratings and reviews, the retailers’ UX design manager, Ben Mclellan, described how implementing customer feedback has increased conversion and sales online.

Speaking at the Bazaarvoice customer event in London this week, Mclellan explained that when he joined Debenhams 18 months ago, the retailer was asking customers for feedback from online sales, but this approach had stagnated.

“The first barrier was getting the business on board and understanding we could do way more,” he said.

Mclellan firstly started by syndicating existing reviews of Debenhams brands from its new Bazaarvoice platform. Launching in April 2016, Debenhams had 390 brand matches on the platform and by sharing these reviews online it increased its content volume by 31%, leading to an uplift in sales on both brand and Debenhams-branded products.

“We used this data to be reactive and improve them if there were negative reviews around quality, and to be proactive and inform product strategies,” he said, describing how after this first positive step, the retailer went on to train 60 team members to use the Bazaarvoice management platform with those people using the information on a weekly basis.

Using reviews to launch a new product

Mclellan also used ratings and reviews to launch a new makeup brand last year. The Kat Von D brand was not very well known in the UK and as part of its marketing campaign prior to launch, it sent four samples out to reviewers asking for online feedback.

From the 300 products it sent out, 90% were reviewed online with an average rating of 4.7, which were already waiting on the product page on the day of launch. Mclellan described how those four products with reviews then had an 18% higher conversion rate, which led Debenhams to replicate this campaign with seven other beauty brands receiving similar results.

The Kat Von D launch also encouraged consumers to post Instagram pictures of themselves wearing the products which were embedded onto product pages.

“Our beauty product pages can only really show a product description and a product picture – it doesn’t bring it to life,” said Mclellan. “This was about how to apply and use the product and it related a lot more to that audience than a shot of the product on a white background.”

He added: “Customers wanted more fun ways to engage with us – shopping is a hobby for them and that was the type of content they were seeking from us as a brand.”

To date, Debenhams has 1,000 Kat Von D Instagram images online and within two weeks of launch it reported 25,000 interactions and the average order value of those products increased by £2.32, with a projected uplift of £29,000.

But none of this could have happened without the support of senior management within Debenhams.

“My main lesson is growth will be stunted unless you can get advocates in the business at the right level,” said Mclellan.