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Shop Direct

Multi-Billion Pound Pureplay Retailer Relies on Akamai mPulse to Improve Online Performance and Grow Revenue

With Akamai mPulse, we can pinpoint performance degradations and substantiate the value of performance improvements to optimize the customer experience and, in turn, our revenues.

Stuart Gray, Frontend Site Performance, Shop Direct

Maintaining an Industry-Leading Position

When you are a leading digital retailer, you need to exceed customer expectations at every turn in order to remain at the top. While many aspects go into a stellar customer experience, in the world of online retail, site performance ranks highly. Understanding its impact on revenues – and optimising that impact – is key.

That was the situation facing Shop Direct, the UK’s largest integrated pureplay digital retailer and financial services provider, with annual sales of £1.96 billion in 2018. Its websites host over 1.4 million visitors every day and 74% of its sales are through mobile devices. Through the retailer’s digital stores and five-star rated apps representing the Littlewoods and Very brands, it sells over 1,800 famous brands and delivers 49 million products to 4 million customers annually.

Bogged Down by Site Changes

Shop Direct exists to make good things easily accessible to more people. With its range of famous brands across a wealth of categories, market-leading technology and data capabilities, and unique financial services products offering flexible ways to pay, it’s well positioned to deliver on that promise.

On a daily basis, Shop Direct makes non-functional changes to its sites, such as updating content or adding images. Its developers regularly release new site functionality. Despite their best intentions and thorough testing, the changes occasionally impact performance. Gareth Naser, the iDevelopment Manager at Shop Direct, was tasked with looking at new ways to maintain site performance.

Shop Direct initially turned to an Application Performance Management (APM) solution. However, it was not easy to export data from the APM solution and it did not show the impact of site performance on revenue.

Gaining Real Insight into Site Performance

The company then selected Akamai mPulse. Stuart Gray, responsible for frontend site performance for Shop Direct, assumed responsibility for driving performance.

“mPulse is best in class,” Stuart explains. “It includes the features we need, such as the ability to easily access, analyse, and export data. Plus, it’s backed by experienced professionals who can help us move further through our journey in performance management.”

As a Real User Monitoring (RUM) solution, mPulse complements the synthetic monitoring tool Shop Direct uses, called CatchPoint. mPulse shows how actual shoppers are interacting with its sites, enables the e-retailer to benchmark its performance, and keeps Shop Direct informed about its performance . CatchPoint helps the digital retailer pinpoint the reasons pages are performing as they are.

Using Evidence-Based Decision-Making to Create a Performance Culture

Today, Stuart takes advantage of the one source of truth provided by mPulse to understand the impact of performance on Shop Direct’s business. “mPulse made it possible to understand how shoppers interact with our sites, which is key,” he explains.

He is using mPulse data to drive a performance culture with the company’s new Agile, squad-based teams comprising designers, developers, business analysts, and data analysts. Through mPulse dashboards, Stuart illustrates the impact of performance.

Stuart is also using mPulse to educate the teams and keep performance top of mind so they make smarter decisions. “mPulse gives us the evidence we need to understand and prove the impact of making changes, such as reducing bounce rate. In that way, it empowers me to drive the right activities aligned with targets like conversions and customer retention,” he explains.

Going forwaard, Stuart expects more of the team members to create their own mPulse dashboards so they take increasing ownership over performance. “We want our teams to think about performance from the start and, with mPulse, they can make decisions guided by facts rather than intuition or best guesses,” Stuart concludes.

About Shop Direct

As the UK’s largest integrated pureplay digital retailer and financial services provider, Shop Direct has annual sales of £1.96 billion. Our brands are, and We receive an average of more than 1.4 million website visits every day, with 74% of online sales completed on mobile devices.

We exist to make good things easily accessible to more people. With our multi-category range of famous brands, market-leading technology and data capabilities and unique financial services products offering flexible ways to pay, we’re well placed to deliver on that promise.

We sell more than 1,800 famous brands, including big name labels and our own exclusive brands. We have four million customers and deliver 49 million products every year. Our free click-and-collect service, CollectPlus, delivers to 7,000 stores across the country, increasing ease and convenience for customers.

For more information on Shop Direct, visit or follow us on Twitter at @ShopDirect.

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