Marks & Spencer’s online sales grew 18% in the first half of the year, despite its continuing profit decline, as a Nielsen report suggests three-quarters of UK consumers buy groceries online.
M&S’ profit before tax fell to £290m for the half-year to September 29, compared to £321m in the same period the previous year, with total UK revenue for the period dropping 1.4%, according to its most recent financial filing.
However, online, or ‘multichannel’ sales grew consistently throughout the period, (see chart in gallery above), as M&S CEO Marc Bolland reaches the midway point of his transition strategy, which began in 2010 and is scheduled for completion in 2013.
“Eighteen months in, we are making strong progress in our plan to transform M&S into an international multichannel retailer… And is delivering strong growth,” he said.
Weekly traffic to M&S’ online outlets is now on average 3.4m visitors per week, with the retailer also reporting “very good rates of conversion” over a third of dresses and one-in-five suits now purchased online.
This year has also seen significant updates in M&S’ mobile strategy with the retailer refreshing its mobile site in May and launching its first iOS app in July, (see gallery above), as well as installing iPad sales outlets in a select number of its stores (nma.co.uk 4 Sep 2012).
“Sales from the mobile site increased by 77% over the first half. Our first transactional iPhone app went live in July with over 340,000 downloads to reach the top position in iTunes Free UK Lifestyle Apps,” read the filing.
Also revealed were its plans to launch its Outlet online store and shopping app along with four localised websites for European markets later this month.
Meanwhile, a report also released today found that three-quarters (74%) of UK consumers use the internet for grocery shopping with 47% of Britons researching grocery purchases online research, and 21% of these doing so daily.
The findings came in the 2012 Nielsen global survey of digital’s influence on grocery shopping which surveyed more than 28,000 internet consumers in 56 countries.
In the UK, respondents claimed that saving money is a major reason why they shop online for groceries with 48% looking for deals on grocers’ websites.
Meanwhile, 30% go to couponing websites to make online purchases and 25% comparing prices before buying things online. Among those looking for grocery coupons, 26% do so on a daily basis, according to Nielsen.
Nielsen also found that 27% of online Britons intend to buy groceries in the coming months with such items the third-most popular category behind travel (30%) and books/publications (28%).
Mike Watkins, Nielsen UK head of retailer insight, advised ecommerce giants, including Sainsbury’s and Tesco, to be aware of the popularity of discount shopping among online shoppers concerned with rising food prices.
“It shows just how aware supermarkets and brands need to be about how it impacts their bottom line – not just in what products people buy, but the prices they pay and where they get them from,” he said.
“One in every 10 Brits online uses the web for grocery shopping research every day, while 8% visit a coupon site daily for grocery deals.
“The growth in smartphones and apps makes this easier than ever. Retailers cannot ignore trends such as that,” added Watkins.