DEBENHAMS UK & IRELAND –
SCALING PROFITABILITY & EFFICIENCY ONLINE

Debenhams is a British multinational retailer operating department stores in the United
Kingdom and Denmark, with franchise stores in other countries.

OBJECTIVE(S) & TARGETS

  • Expanding all accounts across all product categories covered by Debenhams.
  • Generating a growth in revenue of almost £4 million over the 3 month period October to December 2020, compared to the previous year, while maintaining efficiency.
  • Streamlining reporting & communications to simplify the day-to-day management of digital marketing operations.
  • Expansion into Bing, and Irish market.

26% Increase in Click Through Rate

18% Increase in Conversion Rate

22% Increase in Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)

BUDGETS

We had an initial budget of £3.5 million across the period of 3 months, which was then increased to £4 million in November.

TARGET AUDIENCE & STRATEGY

  • Our target audience covered a broad scope and differed across product categories from online shoppers into fashion & beauty, to homeware & electrical appliances, to gifts & toys.
  • In terms of our product categories these included Womenswear, Menswear, Kids wear, Beauty, Home, Electricals, and Gifts & Toys.
  • We inherited rather messy accounts with a combination of several builds from previous agencies. One key task was to reorganize account structure towards the best performing existing build.
  • There were highly inefficient processes when it came to relaying weekly promotional ad copy changes. The second key task was to streamline communication processes.
  • Implementation of promotional changes was extremely manual historically, meaning implementation times were relatively slow. By automating this process, we minimized overhead and improved responsivity.
  • We also focused on general growth opportunities. Our strategy included geo expansion, engine expansion, rigorous keyword testing for current products, and the roll out of automated bid strategies across all categories.

IMPLEMENTATION & CREATIVITY

  • There were a number of accounts that were broken up by category (i.e. Core Brand, Beauty, Womenswear, Electricals, etc.). The reorganization of these accounts in terms of campaigns, keywords, product advertised, and appropriate tracking parameters was one of the largest tasks that we undertook.
  • We focused on aligning the structure between the Google & Microsoft ad accounts to ensure both engines received an equal amount of care. This involved setting up daily imports in Microsoft Ads to ensure all core structural changes on Google Ads were replicated in Microsoft Ads. We then focused on culling historically poor performing keywords and shifted budgets to campaigns with the strongest performance. To ensure all on-site activity was being captured and reported relative to the correct campaigns, we updated the URL parameters to ensure they were as accurate possible.
  • Automating daily reports & streamlining communications when it came to promotions was the other major change we implemented. These two processes used to be highly inefficient. By way of example, daily reports used to be manual and promotional changes always needed two layers of approval (client & trade team). To streamline processes, we created a shared live document that rolled over week on week for the trade team to populate. This was finalized mid-week directly with the client instead of working on offline excel documents and communicating back and forward via email. This allowed us to implement promotional changes more effectively across accounts without delay. From a reporting perspective, a highly detailed Data Studio dashboard was developed, gathering data from Google Ads, Microsoft Ads & Google Analytics. This gave us virtually real-time granular performance of both accounts. This additional information proved extremely important for optimisation during key trading periods, such as Black Friday, where platforms such as Search Ads 360 quite often have large reporting delays.
  • Budgets fluctuated heavily on a weekly basis due to promotions or sale events from the business side. Due to this, we adopted a semi-automated approach when it came to budget management across accounts. Top performing campaigns would use individual budgets to allow us to quickly adapt to fluctuations in weekly budgets, but also to scale or pull back efficiently. The remaining campaigns used a shared budget to avoid overspend. We were also flexible on the categorisation of top performing campaigns. If certain campaigns improved in performance, they were moved out of shared budgets and over to individual budgets.
  • Standardizing bid strategies across Google & Bing per product category was one of the major success factors for improved performance across the board, especially during Black Friday. Due to the varying ROAS/COS targets across each website category, we opted for a bid strategy per category. This led to greater efficiency (COS % down 18% overall) and facilitated additional revenue of just under £4 million.
  • Expansion of Google accounts into Bing starting with the top revenue accounts allowed us to capture additional traffic and sales. Looking at period 3 (Oct 25-Nov 28), this expansion contributed to additional £1,756,623 in revenue.
  • With the successes of Bing expansion, we did a partial geo expansion, adopting a similar rollout approach focusing on top accounts to test in Ireland during Black Friday. These accounts delivered an additional EUR 371,803 in revenue during that period.
  • At the start of October, we commenced with a full build covering all product categories for the UK market on Google and partially on Bing. By the end of November, we had a full Bing build for UK, and a partial build for Google Ireland. This shows that we massively increased our geographical and keyword coverage.
  • Rigorous ad copy management and quick implementation of promotions across search & shopping allowed us to drive incremental sales as we were always capitalizing on the best offer for the user across each product category. This was especially true for short-lived promotions for 24-48 hours only such as a ‘Flash Sale’ or ‘24h Free Delivery Codes’. To implement rapid changes in copy, we opted for a semi-automated approach, with the use of ad copy customisers pulling data from a custom Business Data sheet, which was imported from Google Sheets.
  • When promotional changes were required, we simply had to update the promotional text in a single sheet (per category) rather than updating tens of thousands of ads across the account. With the use of ad customisers, those ads were automatically updated when the updated business data sheet was uploaded

Results

  • 6% Increase in revenue
  • 26% Increase in Click Through Rate
  • 18% Increased Conversion Rate
  • 22% Increased Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
  • 18% Decrease in Cost of Sale
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