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How do you fit a department store in your pocket? Just ask John Lewis

Digital transformation

At the start of the pandemic, as lockdowns hit, millions of us turned to tech to connect with the brands we trust. Almost overnight, as shops stood empty in the UK, high-street giants like John Lewis had a huge influx of online shoppers.

John Lewis has been serving customers for over 100 years. As you’d expect, its online presence was good, and evolving in line with digital shopping trends.

But few high-street retailers were prepared for such sudden online demand, so it set a new ambition: to transform quickly, using tech, and reinvent the department store for the digital era.

Just over two years later, we’re proud to have supported John Lewis on a transformation that’s given its customers more choice than ever before, strengthening its profit and purpose along the way.

Shopping habits were changing quickly in early 2020. And yet, some important things remained the same. Customers still wanted to shop at John Lewis, and John Lewis wanted to serve them, just as it always had.

Along with the rest of the high street, it was faced with what Chair Dame Sharon White later described as a “decade-worth of shopping habits concertinaed into one year.” 

At the time, a team from Deloitte was working with John Lewis on a project to evolve its offer for online shoppers. So together, we got to work on a project that would speed up and amplify the digital transformation underway.

“All of us in Deloitte who work with John Lewis’ in-house teams understand how important it is to secure the company for future generations of customers and partners,” says Deloitte Digital partner Duncan Barnes.

“Supporting its plans to reinvent the department store digitally is about more than shopping. It’s about cementing its place in the ‘new normal’, so it can keep delivering on its purpose for years to come.”

The challenge

In practice, this meant supporting John Lewis to become ‘mobile first’ - prioritising the app as a way of shopping by:

  • launching a revitalised app design and brand that would clearly demonstrate a new direction for customers, with John Lewis as a premium mobile shopping destination; and
  • adopting new tech and ways of working to support the app.

“Once we agreed what needed to be delivered, we put together a team with a range of skills, across experience design and software engineering,” says Deloitte partner Emil Salonen, “that would work as a fully integrated part of John Lewis’ mobile team.”

Hand in glove collaboration

Delivering the new mobile experience and app at speed required all parties to collaborate more closely and more flexibly than ever – with new, more efficient ways of working focused on delivering the right product.

We quickly helped to grow and reshape systems and skills across many of John Lewis’ digital teams, embedding creative, technical and operational experts from Deloitte Digital alongside its people.

This helped to create stronger, blended teams in which members better understood each other, so could solve problems more quickly.

And by bringing our software engineers together with experts from Apple, Google and Adobe, we were able to plan and create a better mobile experience for shoppers and reduce running costs.

Stronger IT foundations

The collaboration resulted in stronger IT foundations for the company – and John Lewis launched its new app before the end of 2021.

“The end result was tech that can support much more traffic than before,” says Tom Astill, director in Deloitte Digital who worked on the project.“Crucially, to thrive in such a fast-moving market, retailers need a flexible system that can accommodate any new features customers may expect – like new payment methods, new delivery options or faster searches,” Tom continues.“Now John Lewis’ system could support thousands of changes like this in a year.”

The impact

Today, the transformation can be felt across John Lewis.

Between 2020 and 2022, its app revenue grew by 186 per cent, contributing to an overall growth in profits of 38 per cent – and helping to secure a 3 per cent bonus for all of its people or, in John Lewis' terms, its Partners.

And John Lewis’ success is paving the way for further innovation and investment in its purpose.

It’s set up guilds and communities to support its growing number of digital specialists as they develop and thrive. Other inspiring actions making a positive impact in society include building 10,000 rental homes.

  • +186 per cent app revenue
  • +20 per cent mobile share
  • +38 per cent profit

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