Multi-channel is the future for experimental Marks & Spencer
Presenting at the recent World Retail Congress 2012 in London Laura Wade-Gery, executive director of multi-channel and e-commerce at Marks & Spencer, highlighted some of the changes taking place within the business.
"Multi-channel is a huge opportunity. There are plenty of places in the UK where a full-line clothing offer [in an M&S store] is not around the corner," she says, adding that changes in customer behaviour will drive online growth well into the future.
It is around 9% today but Wade-Gery suggests it could be 20-25% by 2020 and “might even be more” as retailers improve their online capabilities, varied delivery options become available, and new technologies such as tablets and augmented reality gain a footing.
Despite M&S having a core shopper aged 55-plus years old Wade-Gery says this is not affecting online sales as 85% of this grouping is today online. Tempting this group online are the unique products of M&S. "What we sell is only available at M&S. We don’t sell commodity products. This is a unique differentiator for us," she explains.
With a true multi-channel spirit Wade-Gery says the online offer is providing the opportunity to “get the stores to work harder and to give a better experience to customers”. Part of this was the launch of Click & Collect in 2009, which has been extraordinarily popular for many retailers.
For M&S 40% of online orders are regularly collected in-store, which helps drive further sales from this footfall. "We’ve worked hard at bringing online and in-store together," says Wade-Gery.
This has also involved using kiosks to provide "inspiration" for the company’s home category and for its fashion ranges via its ‘Style Online’ initiative that has been rolled out to 13 stores. This aims to inject some ‘fashionability’ into its smaller stores.
"As our stores get smaller we take out more fashionable products and resort to staples. But we lose excitement. Style Online is the answer. We’ve brought in digital screens, samples and trained staff with iPads to create a style boutique. Small local stores become a more fashionable experience," explains Wade-Gery.
Free wi-fi is also being rolled out – again because she believes it will bring more value to the in-store shopping experience. This follows M&S’ early belief in the power of mobile when it became the first high street retailer to launch a mobile-optimised site.
But it is not only in the UK where the company is targeting growth as Wade-Gery says its multi-channel strategy is extending into other territories. For France the future is a combination of a few stores and a transactional website. And from the end of the year M&S will be transactional online in a total of 10 countries.
This all combines to provide challenging times for M&S and other retailers embarking on their multi-channel journeys. "It’s not easy stuff. We’re making big investments including a big distribution centre. We’re experimenting as we don’t know what will work," she says.
Don't miss the Retail Bulletin's 4th Multichannel Retailing Summit, 6th February 2013. The day's theme is 'Connecting everything in the new omni-channel world retailing environment: 360° loyalty solutions to maximise sales effectiveness at every customer touchpoint.
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