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I’ve written two posts already about Marks & Spencer's new website. It’s not a love-in, in fact both posts have generated some good debate.
Should it be so editorially led? Could the navigation be slicker? Should there be a guest checkout? Despite these issues, I’m a fan of the new look and aside from the intricacies, the new site is about finally aligning the brand's image with top quality high street fashion.
But it’s about more than just a new website, M&S is investing across the multichannel customer journey, in the knowledge that a multichannel customer can be worth four times as much as one that only shops either on- or offline.
Here are 11 ways Marks & Spencer is enriching its multichannel business, aside from its new desktop and mobile sites and revamped apps.
Next day collect-in-store
Marks & Spencer has been offering next day collect-in-store for a few months now. Customers have come to expect this flexibility of delivery. In 2013, an Econsultancy survey showed 63% of consumers had bought a product online and collected in-store. Here are some more reasons why click and collect is so important for retailers.
Of course, getting customers into store more often is a sure fire way to increase physical sales.
Checkout defaults to collect-in-store
Showing how committed M&S is to this new method of delivery, the new website checkout defaults to collect in-store. The dynamic store finder works very well on desktop and mobile.
Browse and order hubs in store
These hubs debuted in Marks & Spencer’s Cheshire Oaks stores in 2012 and are rolling out across more UK stores.
They allow users to browse the catalogue or scan barcodes on items and explore product information. Customers can choose to order on the device and collect at a later date or have the product delivered.
Familiarising offline customers with the M&S catalogue online is a smart move as M&S has 6m customers that have never used its website.
An all singing, all dancing version of the browse and order hub, the virtual rail has only demoed in Amsterdam so far, but I had the pleasure of using one at M&S HQ. Suprisingly, it works very very well for an outsized piece of tech. The floor to head height screen is touch-enabled and one can swipe through the catalogue looking for outfit inspiration.
Videos play on the rail, too, and it will recommend matches to items you have scanned or selected. It’s sort of like an incredibly sophisticated Mr Potato Head.
Much like John Lewis, M&S gives credit to physical stores and online sales when looking at sales in catchment areas. This commitment from within the business to think of all sales, on- or off-line as essentially part of the same goal is an important step to getting staff committed to multichannel.
iPads in store
M&S is investing in training staff across its new platforms. Staff in store will be familiar with the M&S website and so able to assist on the browsing hubs, but will also be carrying iPads (1,500 across the UK) to act as assisted sellers.
New research M&S has carried out into how its stores are merchandised is being implemented in one of its Oxford Street stores. As the brand modernises online, its image is changing in-store too.
Having a distinctive brand in-store and online will help to impress on multichannel customers that everything is joined up.
24/7 social media
The M&S Twitter account, as an example, is very good. M&S has refocused its social media efforts. Not only is the Twitter account great at broadcasting, lots of imagery, videos and detailing of offers, it’s also very reactive to customer contact.
This is another area where multichannel customers expect service and reassurance.
Watch the story behind our latest Best Of British collection, coming soon > http://t.co/YdEB5Vs7RJ— M&S (@marksandspencer) February 17, 2014
@KingOfWrong We'll send a gift card to cover the credit amount + goodwill as a sorry for this. We're working on a fix asap for the web issue— M&S (@marksandspencer) February 21, 2014
Accurate stock levels
Helping to reduce customer service issues, M&S’s new platform online updates stock levels every 15 minutes and lets customers know on product pages what’s available. Once added to bag, the stock is committed to the customer.
Dedicated ecommerce distribution centre
In May 2013 M&S’s Castle Donington distribution centre opened, dedicated to ecommerce.
Customer service contact centre
M&S has revamped its contact centre, emphasising its focus on making sure each prong of its multichannel strategy is well served with support, both for online and in-store buyers.