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Big Content Index: A Closer Look at Our Favorite Department Stores

May 16th, 2016

The role of content in retail has always been critical. Strong retail content enables brands to effectively connect with shoppers, build trust and loyalty and ultimately improve the bottom line. The face of retail content has changed significantly in recent years, however, and today’s retailers are faced with a complicated content landscape and a significant content challenge. Amplience’s Big Content Index (BCI) scores and compares leading brands on their use of digital content performance. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing a series of blogs that tap into our BCI findings and look at some of the challenges and opportunities facing the industry today. To kick things off, let’s take a look at how some of the world’s leading department stores are utilizing content.

Content Across Continents

The Big Content Index assessed ten North American department stores (Barney’s, Belk, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Dillards, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue) and ten European department stores (Brown Thomas, Debenhams, Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Liberty, Marks & Spencer, Selfridges). In looking at these brands, Amplience considered how well the companies did across five dimensions: their use of editorial content, rich media, social media, user generated content (UGC) and guided selling. The final BCI score for each brand is a combination of results across all five areas.

Assessing Performance

The department store scores broken down according to the five main dimensions are set out below.


Amazingly, only five of these top brands received a BCI score of more than 50 percent. Lord & Taylor is the content winner with a score of 63 percent. Clearly, there is significant room for improvement! Most brands assessed did well in the areas of editorial content. All of the department stores assessed in the report had some piece of editorial content on their websites. Historically, department stores published regular catalogs; today they are mixing ecommerce with editorial and putting their online content front and center for the consumer.

Social media proved to be a strong area for the brands as well. Scores crept into the 80s and 90s, and three brands – Bergdorf Goodman, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis – even scored 100% in the social category. This indicates that many brands are using social smartly – linking to their channels from the website, posting a good mix of content, making content shoppable, etc.

This success is great to see, but unfortunately scores were not consistently high across categories. Many brands struggled in certain areas, like rich media and UGC, where average scores were a mere 38 percent and 22 percent respectively. Most department stores in the Amplience sample scored well below 50 percent in rich media – only Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman received scores above 50 percent. Saks in particular has done well to incorporate video on many of its product pages, which is great for driving engagement. UGC was another area where stores struggled – Lord & Taylor was the only brand to score above 50 percent in this area. Many brands scored zero in this category. UGC remains a relatively new form for content, but it holds great potential for brands working to better engage with users and expand their brand presence across geographies without heavy content investments.

What’s the big takeaway from our BCI assessment of department stores? These brands face significant content challenges. They are battling a complex and competitive marketplace as well as an increasingly distracted consumer. Few of these brands – if any – have overcome the big content challenge, but savvy retailers know that future success depends on the delivery of high quality, diversified content. Many brands are making significant investments in improving their use of content, and as the space continues to develop we expect to see continued adoption of all five content areas as well as growing content sophistication.

To learn more, check out the Amplience Big Content Index, and get in touch to see how we can help your brand.

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