The new Marks & Spencer website, two years in the making, is a feast for the eyes. As a replatform, it cost a lot of money and accompanies other changes such as an upgraded contact centre and new in-store tech and merchandising.
In this first look at the site, I'll be pointing out the most obvious changes and discussing why it's a step change and effectively gives the impression of 'luxe high street' online.
What stands out is the focus on visuals, a curated experience with magazine-style editorial, and a user experience that’s particularly impressive on tablet. This isn’t a surprising approach given that 44% of Christmas traffic to the website was from tablets and the brand is moving to a ‘lean back’ experience online for those that want it.
I’ll be following this post with more discussion of the new site and its various features that could be set to revitalise the brand across devices (the M&S mobile site and its apps have been updated, too).
On navigating to the site on desktop, one is served a big, crisp and lovely dissolving image declaring ‘The New Look’. It’s a good indicator of what’s to come in the site – a focus on ‘looks’ and imagery, with a curated feel.
Perhaps the most radical part of the homepage is the long scrollable pane below the fold for ‘Editor’s Pick’. It’s clearly optimised for tablet, allowing the user to casually swipe across to view these lifestyle-led features. It’s also a diary, with a new featured and dated panel appearing each day. Users can opt to receive editor’s picks by email daily, too.
What stands out with these features is how they include outfits or interiors in the same way higher end fashion does, which makes sense given the price point and quality of M&S clothing. The focus is not on a particular SKU but on a lifestyle or a look. There’s an ‘M&S and London Fashion Week’ panel held at the front of this pane at the moment.
This editorial has been at full tilt for four months now, but in beta, getting the content vehicle going before the site was ready for launch. That’s why you can go back along the timeline and check out older content.
It’s a very effective feature and feels like it could go a long way towards revitalising the brand, at least online. Publishing is a big focus for M&S with staff such as Nicola Copping leading the charge.
A slight negative of this scrollable pane is found on desktop, however, where although the pane moves slightly on rollover, to show the user they can scroll it, it isn’t that obvious that there’s a scrollbar to be clicked and dragged at the bottom of the pane. A minor quibble.
Traffic from tablets for this kind of ecommerce site is large enough to make this type of scrolling an easier decision than it used to be.
On the mobile site this scrollable feature isn’t included but the Editor’s Pick is still clearly promoted in the ‘shop our departments’ part of the homepage.
Selecting it takes you to a page with header images and dates, again very visual, and one can click in and explore from here.
Clicking through to one of these stories from desktop, or using the menu to go to the ‘Life and Style’ section, it’s remarkable how much the content resembles a glossy magazine.
There are simpler ‘Editor’s Picks’ but also sections such as ‘In the Moment’ and ‘Trend Spotlight’ which have much more editorial, including sumptuous and shoppable video (done with Adjust Your Set). Of course, wherever products are shown one can select ‘shop now’ in any part of this feature.
The individual Editor’s Pick sections, too, have a curated feel with a big visual, some text and an incentive to ‘shop now’.
There’s even a journo style headshot of the M&S.com Editor, which works nicely.
It also looks nice on mobile and I can imagine it’ll increase time on-site for many in ‘lean back’ mode.
David Walmsley, Director of M&S.com, told me that one intention with the product listings and outfits is to make sure there are no dead-ends in the user journey. The user continues to be presented with alternative outfits and products.
40% of M&S website shoppers are looking for outfits, not single items, so this is an obvious opportunity.
Crucially, the products here are not dynamic and personalised, rather they are curated by the web team. This continues the magazine feel of eclecticism.
This shot shows that ‘New In’ and ‘Latest Looks’ are prominent in the navigation. Selecting looks I’m given outfits by trend and occasion, as well as a personal shopper option.
The looks are themed around events such as ‘Country Weekend', ‘The Working Week’ and ‘Evening Out’. You can see from the top page that there’s plenty of white space. Most pages have a much more refined palette and typography than the old M&S website.
Within a look, other options are presented at the bottom of the page, to continue the customer journey.
Each product in the look also has a ‘quick look’ option, displayed below, allowing the user to stay in one place and browse, clicking to get more in-depth information.
These outfits have accompanying photographs but also some video, often from the catwalk.
'More information, less returns' is a general rule, so let’s look at the category and product pages.
Product page listings
The category pages have a few nice features. Firstly they look great. Lots of white space, high quality cut-out imagery.
One can select whether to view the product on a model or in isolation and this is then initiated site wide. The category pages default to sort by ‘new in’, which is another way to emphasise the pedigree of the stock.
It should be easy for someone to navigate to a particular product they want, using search or the faceted navigation, and this has been tested heavily (300 one-to-one tests). But primarily the category pages also need to feel like a curated experience, too.
The ‘quick looks’ are used here, too.
More from the faceted navigation.
On the product pages themselves, the photography is extensive and of very high definition.
M&S has been photographing new inventory at this standard for the past year. The photos are 50% bigger than previously.
Let’s look at bras to see the product pages at their best.
Don’t get me wrong, they just give the best demonstration of the new sizing charts M&S has included.
Best features include a handy sizing grid giving stock level information. Stock levels are updated every 15 minutes and once added to the basket, the stock is committed to a customer.
There are handy suggestions for other parts of an outfit, in this case the matching ‘bottoms’.
Again, many big photos and a video included.
Comparing the old site against the new, one can see just how much classier the new look feels across category and product pages.
Well, that’s it for this review. Just enough to bring you the main changes of the new site.
I’ll be back to look at mobile and new developments in-store soon.