Debenhams: 'we're not an emotional brand, so we don't track it on social media'

One of the UK's largest retailers, Debenhams, is still not convinced by the benefits of social media tracking and is not currently planning to use it as a tool to gain customer insight.

This is according to one of the company's customer strategy and insight analysts, Caroline Pollard, who was speaking at a British Retail Consortium event this week in London.

Despite social media having boomed in recent years and customers increasingly using it as a tool to engage with brands, Pollard said that the feedback from the data is hard to quantify and make useful for the business.

“The other thing that that is absolutely not part of our team at the moment is social media tracking. I know quite a lot of people do that and get quite a lot out of it, but at the moment we haven't looked into it and we are not sure what you get out of it,” said Pollard.

“Especially with [Debenhams], they tend to like data, they like numbers. Getting the right qualitative information – so what customers feel about your company – it's not so strong in the we would have to make sure there's quite a lot behind that.”

Christmas blues

Debenhams had a rocky Christmas period and recently issued a warning that profits would be lower than expected, which led to its head of finance stepping down from the company. In a statement at the time it also said that its “online delivery income was lower than expected”.

In comparison, John Lewis saw its online sales account for 31.8 percent of total business over Christmas and its total sales were up 7.2 percent.

Pollard said that although she is interested in how social could be used to gain customer insight and drive revenues, she is wary of how it is used by customers as a tool to give feedback.

“I think neuroscience is quite interesting, I think it is just how it would work in the business and how people would take it a bit further,” she said.

“Compared to other sort of brands we are probably not the most sort of emotional brand – with social media it's just trying to understand what sort of information you can get from it. Also with social a lot of it is quite negative comments, so you want to make sure you get the positive in there as well.”

In contrast to Debenhams, some companies are investing heavily in social and are using it to drive purchases within their customer base. For example, KLM recently said that it is not only using social medias a one-stop shop for servicing customer complaints, but the airline is also boosting sales by 700 percent during online campaigns.


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