John Lewis Partnership E-commerce writers’ training

Industry: Retail
Size: National
Challenge: Compete against Amazon

10x writers’ output

Can e-commerce writer training help you 10x your writers’ output with no loss of quality?

The John Lewis Partnership (JLP) is one of the UK’s most famous and best-loved retailers, with a reputation for offering informed advice, good service and fair prices.
How, then, can its e-commerce site compete commercially against pure e-commerce sites, who offer low prices while offering almost no service and little product insight?
This was the question posed to us as a tone of voice agency, by the manager of JLP’s writing team. In particular, what could we do to support the step-change in writers’ output that they needed? E-commerce writer training seemed to be the answer, but life’s not that simple…

More products, same quality, less time…

Over the last 4 years, the number of products carried by JLP’s online site had expanded radically, which meant that the writers had been asked to radically increase their output. As JLP’s omni-channel strategy became embedded, the demands on the writers continued to grow. They would sometimes have 30-50 products to write copy for, and load onto the system, each day. If E-commerce writer training was going to help, it needed to be able to keep up with their busy schedules and ever-growing workloads

A mix of E-commerce writer training and 1:1 coaching

What became clear was that this wasn’t a case of upskilling the writers.  You would have to go a long way to find a more informed, invested and intelligent team of writers than JLP’s e-commerce team. They are a mix of grads and people who’d spent their early careers on the shop floor and all of them were determined to maintain the high standards of the brand voice and service that JLP is known (and valued) for.

Instead, the challenge was to create copywriter training courses which would give the copywriters the tools that’d allow them to maintain their focus and energy levels when writing copy for multiple items, many of them similar.

Copywriting training on its own is useful, provided you intend to do more than just inform people – you have to help them change certain ingrained behaviours. In this case, we saw the need for supporting behaviour changes with 1:1 coaching for the e-commerce writing team.

By looking to an external, deeply experienced writer to offer the coaching, JLP gave their writers the psychological safety to address what they felt each of their unique challenges were. This was good for the writers, and of course, it made the training much more effective subsequently.

Scooby Doo Vs President Trump
We interviewed several of the e-commerce writing team’s managers to understand their wants and the commercial needs, and we talked to the writers themselves to understand what they wanted.

Together we constructed a carefully integrated program of training, which would be far more effective than a series of topic-based sessions which wouldn’t progressively build the skillsets.

We created a foundation for the training program by starting with the work of the external agency who’d done the overall re-brand of JLP.  We focused on a narrow set of the most useful brand voice values and ran training sessions.

In one, for example, we looked at how the e-commerce writers could turn up or down ‘Confidence’, one of the key elements in the JLP brand tone of voice.  We set people the challenge – as an exercise – to rewrite a piece of copy in the voice of Rex from Toy Story (“I’m going for fearsome here, but I just don’t feel it.”); Piglet from Winnie the Pooh (“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”), Velma from Scooby Doo; all the way up to  President Trump.

We also ran a hugely innovative session on how writers can manage their energy and enthusiasm levels on difficult days. This was rated more than 4.7/5 by attendees -and was also a lot of fun, including looking at the relative recuperative effects of looking at social media for 10 minutes compared to headbanging to Status Quo for 3 minutes!

E-commerce Writer Coaching
Interspersed with the training program, we ran multiple 1:1 coaching sessions with the e-commerce writers and their managers. These focused on what each person was finding particularly challenging and creating strategies for how they could deal with them. We received universally positive feedback for this work and have continued offering advice to writers long after the official 1:1 writer coaching program has ended.
Better than we can say it:
“Thought provoking and engaging content”.

“Really engaging”.

“Plenty to think about and take away”.

“Easy to follow, inspiring, fun”.

“Useful for the way we think about working, writing and ourselves in general”.

“I love how personalised the session was based on our 1-to-1 feedback”.

“Cannot fault – refreshing new and easily digestible”.

“Another great session…please can we do this more often”.

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