Sentiment of the Week: Annoyance with UK Department Stores

By: Clarabridge Team

May 19, 2015

Customer Engagement
customer experience
customer experience management
Sentiment Analysis
text analytics

UK department stores make up an £18 billion industry, and despite strong competition from online-only retailers and extensive discounting, department stores are expected to see further growth throughout 2015. As consumer confidence rebounds and economic conditions improve, how can UK department stores keep their customers coming back?

To better understand what keeps customers loyal and happy with their shopping experience, we examined Facebook comments from 4 leading department stores in the UK – Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser. We used the Clarabridge sentiment score, a measure of positivity or negativity on an 11 point scale from -5 to +5, 0 being neutral, to examine customer sentiment, analyse trends, and understand how brands can better meet customer needs.



Marks and Spencer is the most-liked overall in terms of positive comments and sentiment score, receiving the highest sentiment scores across Pricing, Online Experience, Quality of Service, and Product Quality categories. The other 3 competitors all vary in sentiment scores across the 4 categories, with John Lewis slightly outpacing Debenhams and House of Fraser.

Marks and Spencer comes out the clear winner, but even winners have room for growth.

Make the online check-out process easy to navigate

For UK customers, poor order processing and order fulfillment are the key drivers of low sentiment scores in the online shopping experience and website usability. Retailers need to make sure that once shoppers select their items online, the rest of the purchasing journey is seamless.

Customers don’t want to find out that items they’ve already selected are out of stock once they start the check-out process; give your customers all the information they need up front in order to make their purchasing decisions. Keep them informed of stock availability and make sure to keep your online inventory up-to-date. Customers become exasperated to find items consistently listed as out-of-stock for long periods of time.

These improvements in order fulfillment and website usability are particularly important as online shopping and Click & Collect options become more important to customers.

Example comments:

  • It is only since the new website that if I order, say, 6 items, when I get to checkout half of them are no longer available.
  • Ridiculous online ordering system !
  • Just tried to order online & the new site is dreadful – old site was great – why change it? 🙁
  • In short, do not order anything fragile online from HoF as you will have to sort it all out if it arrives broken.
  • The dress I want is out of stock and has been since it appeared on the website!
  • Why are dresses that are out of stock still on the website?

Offer a refund policy that customers find fair

In order to keep customers loyal, retailers need to remember that their customers are human. And humans change their minds. Regardless of why your customer may want to return an item, make it easy for them to do so. Refunds are a major sore point for UK shoppers; many want money back, not vouchers or store credit. In fact, according to a study conducted by market research firm Mintel, 79% of UK shoppers claim a company’s return policy influences their shopping.

Sample comments:

  • How can they take money from your debit card and refund with evouchers
  • this company is a joke when it comes to getting your money back

Cater for a variety of body types and sizes

Product quality is a critical juncture for customer satisfaction. When discussing product quality, customers were most frustrated by size and fit of the clothes. Shoppers want retailers to make clothes that suit all body types. Plus-size ranges, in particular, offer room for improvement; customers are disappointed to find such variation in the style and colour of clothes available across the different size ranges. Customers want to feel like their body types are valued and catered for. Retailers may choose to quell customer frustration around size and fit by offering premium services, where shoppers can request items to be shortened or customised.

Sample comments:

  • I note that you have varying skirts lengths, but they are mainly short ie 24, or long 33 35, why not offer more styles that are 27 29, these are more fashionable and flattering.
  • Not everyone is stick thin and 6ft 2!
  • Got excited when I saw these, then I looked to see if they were in your plus size range, how disappointing, its full of dowdy old fashioned clothes, that even my gran would not have worn, get real, just because we are fat does not mean to say we do not like bright clothes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Trend for Convenience

Providing a high-quality customer experience is critical to improving the bottom line. This transcends across all channels, whether your customer chooses to make their purchase on-line, in-store, or in some cases, through both channels. Shoppers are increasingly favouring convenience, and department stores need to make sure online check-out, refund policies, and Click & Collect services are easy to navigate and customer-friendly.


Serina Aswani is Manager of Content Marketing and EMEA Marketing at Clarabridge. As part of her responsibilities, Serina serves as the voice of Clarabridge’s customers, highlighting customer stories and sharing proven best practices for implementing successful Customer Experience Management programs. Serina also oversees content marketing strategy and PR for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. She is responsible for establishing Clarabridge’s position as an industry thought leader across EMEA. Serina holds a M.S. in Commerce, specializing in Marketing and Management, as well as a B.A in French and Studio Arts, from the University of Virginia. Read more from Serina on Twitter at @SerinaAswani