Customer Experience Counts: Top 5 UK Department Stores

Shopping can be fun or mundane, impulsive or pre-planned. But the fact remains: retail therapy is a real thing. In fact, shopping has been scientifically proven to increase dopamine levels in humans, lifting people’s mood. Whether it’s through practical purchases or spendy splurges, UK department stores generate tens of billions in revenue each year.

To stand out against the competition and maintain market share, the UK’s leading department stores must learn how to optimise their customers’ online experience. In an increasingly crowded market, UK department stores are under extreme pressure to continually delight their customers. But which stores are doing this best?

Using our emotion analysis software Emotics, we analysed over 2,000 mentions of the UK’s leading department stores on Twitter. The Emotics software allows us to discover which high street department stores are providing the best and worst customer experience. Our product scores data across 8 emotion indexes, to reveal both how customers feel towards brands and what key themes are driving these emotional responses.

The results of our analysis show that Harrods came out on top and was received more favourably than the other UK department stores. Harvey Nichols took a respectable second place, with House of Fraser not far behind, in third place. Both Debenhams and John Lewis came joint last in our analysis, in spite of respectable scores. These results might be surprising for some, so let’s jump into the analysis to better understand the findings.

Harrods came out top in our analysis with an Adorescore of 57. The Adorescore is a high-level performance indicator of emotion in content, measured on a scale of -100 to 100. The higher the score, the more positive the content. Harrod’s high score is driven by high levels of customer joy, due to mentions of ‘superb customer service’ and early hype around the store’s much-loved ‘Christmas section’.

We know that Christmas may seem a little far off, but offering exceptional customer service is a sure-fire way to increase positive customer-brand interactions online and to optimise public brand perception.

Harvey Nichols was ranked second in our analysis, with an overall Adorescore of 55. High levels of customer joy were driven by fans’ overwhelming excitement about Rihanna’s new Fenty Beauty collection, which tailors to women of all skin tones. The make-up range is exclusive to Harvey Nichols and it has sent the internet into overdrive.

As shocking as this sounds, for many years high street make-up brands had overlooked the vast diversity in UK skin tones with their foundation and powder offerings. These Fenty Beauty customers who now feel that their unique beauty needs have been valued and met will likely remain customers for life. Harvey Nichols have made a smart move in partnering with Fenty Beauty and this should continue to drive positive customer-brand interactions online for quite some time.


House of Fraser came in with a middle-of-the-road Adorescore of 50, taking third place. High levels of trust are driven by mentions of ‘fab customer service’. Twitter followers were quick to comment on both the professionalism and the helpfulness of House of Fraser staff in stores across the UK.

However, House of Fraser’s customer experience score took a bit of a hit from increased levels of sadness, driven by mentions of ‘slow delivery’. Not only were fans left underwhelmed by the speed of item delivery, they weren’t impressed by the quality of the courier service either. This reminds us that good customer experience can be decimated by a poor delivery service – so it’s vitally important brands get this right.

John Lewis and Debenhams were ranked joint fourth in the analysis, with overall Adorescores of 44. It’s important to point out that these are still very good scores – but there’s definitely room for improvement. Let’s start by looking at the results for John Lewis. Increased levels of sadness and disgust were driven by mentions of ‘poor service’ and poor reviews of the company’s pet insurance service. Customers who perceive brands as failing to uphold their promises will likely jump ship and start shopping with their nearest competitor.

High levels of sadness were reported from Debenhams customers due to problems with sizing and style. Male customers were left frustrated, unable to purchase shoes in larger sizes. Female shoppers, by contrast, were left feeling perplexed by too many items geared towards a young, slim audience.

It remains vital for all department stores to cater for as broad a consumer base as possible. The undisputed success of the Fenty Beauty collection is due to precisely that: everyone’s individual needs are taken into consideration.

In summary, exceptional customer service, inclusive product offerings and well-trained and helpful staff can enhance the customer experience. By contrast, poor delivery, lacklustre customer service and issues with sizing and styling are sure-fire ways to turn customers off.

At Adoreboard, our emotion analysis software Emotics allows us to measure the emotional intensity around customer experience. It unearths the underlying themes driving emotional response and provides detailed customer insights to improve customer experience.

If you’d like to find out more about our products, sign up here for our next webinar and discover how leading agencies are using Emotion AI to win new business.


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