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John Lewis puts social marketing technology in staff hands

In-store staff at John Lewis are being equipped with an app that allows them to participate in the retailer’s social marketing efforts.

Following a successful pilot in eight stores and head office in 2018, the department store chain is introducing the employee advocacy app, Qubist, across its 51 stores nationwide.

The aim is to allow its staff to share content, and increase brand engagement and awareness – not just rely on the social media and marketing teams to communicate with customers.

Ahead of the launch of John Lewis’s "The Boy and the Piano" Christmas advert, which featured Elton John, the retailer offered its staff – known as partners – the opportunity to use the technology to exclusively launch the campaign across social media.

Two hours before being shared by the retailer itself, the partners were promoting the ad and engaging with customers using the hashtag #WeArePartners. As has been the case in previous years, the ad was trending on Twitter within a short period of it going live.

John Lewis sees the Qubist partnership as a way of empowering its employees and as a method of further merging its digital and physical operations – a key goal for many retailers in this increasingly digitally-influenced environment.

Eva Bojtos, senior manager on the social marketing team at John Lewis, said: “The passion and knowledge of our partners is very powerful and inspiring.

“Giving them a way in which to connect personally with customers online provides a deeper more meaningful relationship.”

She added: “The ‘#WeArePartners programme’ is already delivering some great results.

"We have seen a direct correlation between the activity on the Qubist app and appointments in-store such as with our personal stylists."

The Qubist app allows John Lewis to measure partner advocacy, and it provides staff with content suggestions and prompts about products, services and events, according to the tech company’s CEO Andrew Seel.

There is a gamification feature to the app, too, which helps facilitate internal competition. During the pilot, staff were able to monitor which shop was top of the leaderboard each week, in terms of usage and brand advocacy.

The launch of the app comes at a challenging time for John Lewis and the retail industry in general. Last month, John Lewis announced it will close its Knight & Lee store in Southsea later this year – the first time it has closed a store since 2006.

Based on what has been a tough year of trading, where profit has tumbled, the retailer has also indicated its partner annual bonus – which is set based on the company’s full-year bottom line figure – is under threat in 2019.

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