Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

US department stores leading UK rivals in the race to omnichannel retailing

Rockpool Digital analysis ranks Sears ranks first in all areas; House of Fraser best overall in the UK.

Department stores in the UK and US have made a good start to providing satisfying shopping experiences across all media channels, according to analysis by Rockpool Digital – but plenty more work needs to be done to keep up with the retail customer’s rapid rate of change.

Digital customer experience agency Rockpool devised a scoring system to analyse the ability of eight leading UK and US department stores to provide personalised and consistent journeys for consumers.

Rockpool rated the stores against four key metrics*: consumer retail experience, strategy and brand positioning, operational and delivery capability, and technology and data.


The analysis led to the Omnichannel IndexTM, a ranking of all eight stores based on a combination of their performance in each key area:





Full analysis and conclusions can be found in Rockpool’s report, “Omnichannel: the future of department store retailing”. Highlights include:

  • US-based Sears came in on top with a near-perfect strategy and brand positioning score, alongside an excellent retail experience, Sears is leading the way and setting the bar high for others to follow
  • US department stores outperform the UK in all four metrics – but the UK is best performing when it comes to operational and delivery capability
  • Pioneering in personalisation – a crucial element, but the majority of the retailers are struggling to meet criteria set by the consumer
  • Early adoption is one of the keys to omnichannel success – two of the top departments stores in this area (Sears and John Lewis) are respectively leading the way
  • Selfridges offers a superb in-store customer experience, active social channels and a website geared to global viewers enhancing their digital offering is the way forward for this retailer
  • Department stores are racing ahead in the area of strong omnichannel leadership – overall most of the retailers have effectively started the move towards a customer-centric, channel-agnostic model
  • Marks & Spencer is one of the most customer-centric stores: great online experience and strong in-store capabilities – personalisation and syncing channels should be the next areas of focus for M&S
  • Operational excellence is the highest-performing metric for all of the stores – click and collect is ubiquitous across all participants, and return anywhere has been well adopted across the department stores
  • Technology utilisation and data integration is the worst-performing metric – although there has been some progress, there is still some way to go for department stores to use that data to create a consolidated view of each customer

Bruce Griffin, CEO, Rockpool, commented: “Fuelled by a technology revolution, retail consumer expectations are shifting drastically. It is no longer acceptable for stores to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Today’s customer expects to be treated as an individual within their channels of choice. If the experience is poor, they will simply shop elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, British Retail Consortium Chief Executive Helen Dickinson OBE, said: “The retail industry is undergoing profound change. The digital era is shifting consumer behaviour at unprecedented speeds. Retailers continue to invest in online and omnichannel strategies to evolve with changing consumer shopping patterns.

“Shoppers are looking to physical retailers to go beyond the transaction and provide richer experiences to the consumer, and to play an even greater role in their lives and the lives of their community. There is a need to think differently about the retail offer, whether digital or in-store, as people crave more theatre and experience.

“Retailers that will survive and thrive will be the ones that adapt successfully to changing consumer demands; however, Government needs to recognise the significance of the ongoing structural change and the outcome it is likely to drive.”

*Research methodology

The Omnichannel Index is a method of measuring the omnichannel capability of brands and ranking them within their sector. As a large-scale multichannel market with a diverse product portfolio, department store retailing is an interesting area of focus. This is because it poses a particular challenge when businesses are aiming to provide consistent, personalised digital experiences across all channels that are needed to excel in omnichannel.

Eight different department store brands have been selected across the UK and US, based on their size, customer volumes and retail store territory coverage: Bloomingdales, Debehnams, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Macy’s, Marks & Spencer, Sears and Selfridges.

Each brand was evaluated using a scorecard assessing four key metrics:

Consumer retail experience: The ability for customers to traverse channels easily, receive a personalised shopping experience, and access consistent pricing, promotions and customer service across channels.

Strategy and brand positioning: The customer experience leadership in place at the brand and the organisational strategy for delivering a customer-centric retail model that incentivises excellence in this area.

Operational and delivery capability: The visibility and cross-use of inventory across different channels in addition to the breadth of delivery and return options.

Technology and data: The ability to create and leverage a unified view of each customer that enables early identification and cross-channel analytics.

Between January and March 2016, Rockpool omnichannel digital experts mystery-shopped and evaluated each brand based on 32 sub-metrics across the four key areas. A verification and calibration exercise ensured retailers had been evaluated fairly and consistently between researchers.

Within each of the four areas, the sub-metrics were scored and weighted based on current consumer expectations and omnichannel best practices to produce an overall index score for each area the scores were used to rank the brands and produce an overall department store ranking table.

About Rockpool

We are a leading digital customer experience partner for brands trying to solve acquisition and retention problems. Our unique proven approach has helped brands such as Sky, Honda and STA Travel to deliver personalised customer experiences. For further information visit: