EXL creates $23M impact for shop direct


Shop Direct began as a catalog retailer more than 80 years ago, with the goal of “making good things more easily accessible to more people.” For decades, the arrival of this U.K. company’s catalog was a much-anticipated event, giving more than 30 million recipients the opportunity to shop for everything from shoes to sofas from the comfort of their homes—as well as flexible ways to pay for the goods.

In 2014, Shop Direct began a radical, three-year transformation, moving from a print catalog to a pure-play digital retailer. To succeed, the company had to engage its customers in a very personal, very compelling way—replacing the experience of receiving a physical catalog with an online shopping interaction that was second-to-none.

To accomplish that goal, Shop Direct had to find a way to turn its data into insight.
“Over the years, we had amassed a phenomenal amount of customer data,” explained Jennifer Day, customer management director at Shop Direct. “That’s where our partnership with EXL comes in. We wanted to use that wealth of data to create customer interactions that added value.”

The goal was to build a digital platform that supported email marketing, drove all online customer interactions and ultimately, delivered a substantial increase in online sales.


EXL has proven expertise in transforming data into insight that improves customer engagement, retention and sales. While it’s true that we have deep domain experience in retail and one of the largest award-winning teams of advanced analytics professionals anywhere, we also differentiate by how we help our clients transform.

Instead of a big bang, we take an iterative approach to transformation - one that minimizes disruption and delivers value with every step. We create the analytic strategy, but, we also execute. Instead of working in a vacuum, our data analytics team blends with the customer’s team, so we operate as a single entity, all fully focused on fulfilling the same objective.

This client-centric focus, in combination with our proven analytic acumen and industry knowledge, made EXL the ideal fit for this ambitious engagement.


The scope of the project included everything from setting up a digital and analytics platform to developing targeted direct-response email strategies. An embedded team of EXL analytics experts and data engineers worked onsite with Shop Direct’s staff, supported by retail thought leaders in New York and India.


In 2015, Shop Direct printed the last of its catalogs. Today, it is the second largest online retailer in the UK, averaging more than 1.3 million web site visits a day and delivering 49 million products to four million customers annually.

“The consequence of our partnership with EXL Is that we are delivering incremental sales to the business to the tune of $23M,” Day explained. “Due to the great work we’ve done with EXL over the course of the last three years, I’m pleased to say that we have won an award together. We were named a finalist for the 2017 Digital Transformation Pioneer Award at Retail Week Tech, which is a very prestigious event within the retail sector.”

In just three years, Shop Direct moved from a decades-old catalog retailer to one of the most successful pureplay online retailers in the U.K. By maximizing the use of its existing customer data, EXL helped this legendary company better connect with its buyers and increase sales—without a physical catalog coming into their homes.

The most impressive part? This success story is only beginning. By harnessing the power of Shop Direct’s data, and continually strengthening the connection between customer and company, there can only be greater things to come.

For more information on how EXL can help online retailers transform customer insight into targeted communications and interactions that drive loyalty and sales, contact us.


Client Challenge

  • Successfully move from established print catalog to pure-play digital e-tailer, and increase market share.
  • Find a way to personalize customer communications, now that a physical catalog was no longer coming to their homes.
  • Make better use of existing customer data to customize offers and show products that specific customers were most likely to buy.
  • Enhance the online customer journey.
  • Set up a means of ongoing data analysis to continually improve sales, loyalty and the customer experience.


  • Deep domain expertise in the retail and e-tail sector.
  • Large, award winning team of analytics experts and data engineers.
  • Partnership approach in which EXL and client team work together toward common goals.
  • Access to a global network of retail and analytic experts for additional insight. 
  • Iterative, non-disruptive approach to digital transformation, delivering incremental gains with every step.


  • Created a digital platform to analyze web site performance, sales and the customer journey to identify areas for improvement.
  • Applied dynamic analytics, machine learning and propensity models to existing customer data to craft targeted messaging for each customer segment.
  • Set up experiments, at scale, to identify messaging that delivered the greatest value.
  • Developed customized abandon cart messaging to entice shoppers to complete the purchase transaction.
  • Improved CRM by identifying optimum message timing, frequency and channel.
  • Created a continuous loop of data aggregation, analysis and improvement.


  • Increased sales by $23M.
  • Helped propel Shop Direct into the second largest online retailer in the U.K.
  • Enhanced the customer experience.
  • Continually increased customer insight and understanding through ongoing analysis.
  • Earned industry recognition for digital innovation.
  • 40+ tests on personalization and optimization landed across the programmatic customer journey.
  • Personalized campaigns by understanding customer interests, preferences and latent needs coupled with product consideration periods and sales cycles.
  • 1B+ contacts managed programmatically.
  • Shop Direct generated an ROI of 25X on their investment with EXL.